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Author Topic: MYTHS OF CRETE & PRE-HELLENIC EUROPE  (Read 5646 times)
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« Reply #15 on: February 25, 2009, 11:14:51 pm »

deities and others of female deities from the earliest times. The fusion of the god and goddess cults in Egypt and Babylonia and elsewhere was probably one of the results of the fusion of peoples. In some countries, where patriarchal peoples formed military aristocracies, they may have ordered succession by the male line. But there is also evidence to show that they adopted the wiser method of marrying the heiresses of estates and thrones to win the allegiance of the masses. "Mother-right" prevailed in Egypt, for instance, until the end. The problem involved is too complex to be accounted for by a single hypothesis.

It would appear that the activities of the Cretan women were chiefly confined to indoor life. As in Egypt, they were depicted by painters with white skins, while the men were, with the exception of princes, given red skins. Women were also more elaborately attired and bejewelled than men.

In dealing with ancient civilizations it is of importance to take note of burial customs. There can be little doubt that these have been ever closely associated with religious beliefs. What are known to archæologists as "ceremonial burials" must have been performed, it is reasonable to suppose, with some degree of ceremony with purpose either to promote the welfare of the deceased or to secure the protection of the living. The Dynastic Egyptians, for instance, mummified their dead because they believed that the soul could not continue to exist in the Otherworld unless the body were preserved intact in the tomb. On the other hand, the Homeric Achæans burned their dead, so that the soul might be transferred by fire to Hades, from which it would never again return. 1 In pre-Dynastic Egypt the

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body was laid in a shallow grave in crouched position, with food-vessels, implements, and weapons beside it. A similar custom prevailed in Babylonia and throughout Europe in the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Dwellers on the northern sea-coast of Europe set their dead adrift in boats, as was Balder in the Eddic legend and Sceaf in the Beowulf poem. Others buried their dead in caves, threw them to wild beasts, or ate them.

In some cases it would appear that the beliefs connected with burial were suggested by local phenomena. In Upper Egypt bodies are naturally mummified in the hot dry sands. It is possible, therefore, that the custom of embalming the dead may have grown up among that section of the Egyptian people whose religious beliefs were formulated in the area where the corpse was naturally preserved. They may have been horrified to find that bodies did not remain intact in new districts to which they migrated. But the custom of burning the dead cannot be explained in this way.

Burial customs may not always afford us definite clues regarding religious beliefs. It does not follow that the pre-Dynastic Egyptians, the Babylonian Sumerians, and the Neolithic Europeans who favoured crouched burials had all the same ideas regarding the destiny of men, or the same beliefs regarding the Otherworld. Different conceptions might be prevalent in a single country. It is found that in Wales, for instance, ideas about the future state varied considerably. Folk-lore and mediæval poetry have references to an Underworld in which the dead continue to live in organized communities and work and fight as they were accustomed to do upon earth, to happy islands situated far out to sea, to fairy dwellings below rivers and lakes where souls exist like fairies, and to the woods of Caledonia where shades wander about as did

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