Exploring the Myths of Minoan Bull Leaping

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Fletcher, History 111B

Minoan Bull Leaping

Throughout Ancient History, many different animals are glorified and made “sacred” by cultures, often for religious reasons. We see everything from the ritual burials of cats in Ancient Egypt to the worship of Ganesha, the Elephant goddess of wisdom in Hindu traditions. The Bull is one of these historically revered animals, its use as a sacred symbol seen as far back as the Stone Age. Because it is such a common and useful animal, it was seen again and again in everything from astrology to folklore. Eventually, historical texts show reverence of the Bull reaching into Minoa. The Minoans were fascinated by the Bull, and created myths, symbols and religious ritual to give the Bull praise. One of the ways they did this was through “Bull Leaping”, a ritual in which an individual would stand head to head against a charging bull and proceed to vault over the animal using its own strength against it (Figure 1). Many researchers have attempted to decipher what the ritual meant in context, but ultimately the rituals cultural significance has been lost to the ages. Assumptions have had to been made, and ultimately what is presented might be closer to hypothesized fantasies.

To begin with, it is important to know why the Minoans became interested with the Bull in the first place. At the time, the Bull had been a sacred symbol for some 2300 years, and there are several possible explanations why the Bull continued to be so revered. One theory developed after examining the ancient mythologies and histories presented by Diodorus. Diodorus hypothesized that some animal worship, including that of the Bull was a result of religious myth in which the gods, being threatened by giants, disguised themselves as animals. People then began to worship the animals that their god had transformed into, the Bull being one of these animals. Another theory deals with the religions of Minoa. The Minoans believed heavily in female goddesses, so...
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