Cretan Musings

A column by GA! editor Cheryl Straffon who spends part of her time each year at her base in Crete, researching and celebrating the Minoan Goddess there. In this contribution she writes about: Seeing the Goddess in the land of Crete.

Hamezi is a village to the west of Sitia in eastern Crete. To the west of the village there is a Minoan hilltop building, dating from the MM1A Prepalatial period (c2000 BCE). The site is magnificent, on top of a conical hill with panoramic views of the Piskokephalo valley, and the remains of the building there are intriguing. They consist of a building roughly oval in shape, which was superimposed on some even earlier houses. This is interesting in itself as it is the only Minoan building so far discovered that is roughly oval in plan. The building consisted of a paved entrance (top of picture) with rooms set around a small paved courtyard, with a deep well in the centre. There a large room containing a shrine (on the left of picture), in which were found fragments of a clay altar and three Goddess figurines (now in Heraklion Museum). Because of the situation of the hilltop area and the sacred space included in the building, as well as its shape, it has been suggested that it may possibly have been a variation of the Minoan Peak Sanctuaries, though this is disputed by some scholars.

View of the Goddess ridge between the two breast-shaped hills when seen from the Hamezi site

View of the Goddess ridge between the two breast-shaped

hills when seen from the Hamezi site

However, what has not hitherto been noticed is the view from the building to the surrounding hills. When I stood in the building and looked towards the distant hill range, I saw very clearly two breast-shaped hills, between which was perfectly outlined the unmistakeable shape of a ‘sleeping Goddess’ on her back, with her hair, head, body and legs distinctly outlined by the shape of the hills. It is very similar in shape and profile to the ‘Sleeping Lady’ hill on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland, and although the two cultures – Neolithic/Bronze Age in Scotland and Minoan in Greece – probably had little contact with each other, nevertheless both were Goddess-celebrating and situated their sacred sites in relationship to significant landscape features.

The ‘Sleeping Goddess’ at Hamezi was certainly a breathtaking site, and her revelation to me the major highspot of my visit last year. As soon as one leaves the site to walk back downhill, the vista changes and She disappears from view. Hamezi must have been an amazing place for the Minoan peoples.