Footnotes :  



266 As illustrated in Jacquetta Hawkes: “Dawn of the Gods: Minoan and Mycenaean Origins of Greece”, Random House, New York, 1968, pages 32 and 140 for doves on pillars and shrines, pages 50 and 274 for goddess statues with doves on her head, and page 228 for a golden naked lady from 16th century BCE Mycenae with one dove on her head and two in her hands.  





267 Nanno Marinatos: “Minoan Religion: Ritual, Image, and Symbol”, University of South Carolina Press, 1993, page 156 top left.  





268 Jan N. Bremmer: “Götter, Mythen, und Heiligtümer im antiken Griechenland”, Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt, 1996, pages 16 and 17.


   Solomon's Sky : The Religious Board Game on the Phaistos Disk  

       © 2014 Peter Aleff            Scroll 38


6.6.3. Initiation with dove at 31



The next time we see the zodiac-circle-and-sun-head pair, after its initial appearance in field 12, is in the "initiation" field 31 at the new beginning of the path on the other side of the Disk.

This corresponds again to the story of Jesus because after that first public manifestation in the Temple at age twelve, he disappeared from view until he began his ministry with his baptism by John the Baptist. This occurred when Jesus was "about thirty" (Luke 3:23). Luke probably meant, in the ancient way of counting, that Jesus had completed 30 years and was beginning his 31st, as shown on Disk field 31.

This is not a coincidence because 30 was the age when a man reached adulthood, both in ancient Egypt and among the biblical Hebrews. This number measured the count of days in a standard month as well as the first half of the all-encompassing sixty which was the Mesopotamian "Great One". Completing 30 had therefore a mythological value far greater than just the chronological meaning. The rebirth or initiation into the advanced part of life would therefore belong after that first half of the life-path, into field 31, and so matches a tradition as old as the Sumerians' sexagesimal system of counting and as the Egyptian calendar.

Accordingly, the age of 30 was a defining mark for many ancient careers reported in the Bible. Joseph the second-youngest son of the patriarch Jacob was said to have been 30 years old when he became pharaoh's vizier and right-hand man (Genesis 41:46); the prophet Ezekiel claimed to have seen his first vision of God in his 30th year (Ezekiel 1:1); Saul was reportedly 30 years old when he became king of Israel (1 Samuel 13:1), and David was anointed to that office at that same age (2 Samuel 5:4). And as we saw in chapters and 5.5.1,  the Egyptian Heb-Sed festival of royal renewal was meant to be celebrated after 30 years of the king's reign. It fits therefore this long established pattern that the sun head on the Disk got its renewal after the first 30 fields of its path.

We saw earlier that baptism was a form of initiation and renewal, and indeed, the rosette of rebirth is associated with this ritual in field 31. In addition, the scepter of command that identifies the so initiated as a ruler appears next to that rosette, together with the dove that prominently marked also the baptism of Jesus. Luke 3:22 describes that baptism:

“the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove, and there came a voice from heaven: ‘Thou art my Son, my Beloved; on thee my favor rests.’”

The signs in the Phaistos “initiation” field 31 suggests that the ancient initiation was the equivalent of that later baptism, and that the appearance of the dove in this context conveyed the same meaning of divine presence and acceptance into a higher realm. Doves as symbol of the renewal goddess

Doves were in Crete the defining attribute of at least one major goddess.

They perched on the heads of several female ritual statuettes, from before the time of the Disk to many centuries later. These include, for instance, the famous "younger snake goddess" shown below which was found in the Palace of Knossos in 1903. She holds a snake in each outstretched hand and features a dove on her head. Snakes were obvious symbols of renewal because of their ability to shed their old skin, so the goddess holding them expressed the same concept.

As we saw above for the Egyptian gods, such characteristic head gear was used to identify their divine wearers and to express their nature. Sometimes the doves were also substitutes for the goddess, as in a miniature shrine from the Old Palace of Knossos where three doves sit on three columns.

At other times, they seem to be her attendants, like the two doves in a gold ornament from the grave circle at Mycenae which flank a triple shrine with a horned altar266 and so confirm again the holy associations of that bird.

Nanno Marinatos, a noted scholar of religion on ancient Crete and Thera, says about those doves :

“It is generally agreed that the bird is the embodiment of the divinity. I, on the other hand, am more inclined to believe that the bird is one of the sacred animals of the goddess, her celestial messenger.”267

The details of this distinction may have been subject to variations in the judgment of individual worshipers, just as in the later theological disputes about whether the bread and wine in Christian Eucharist ceremonies are the flesh and blood of Christ or only represent it.

In either case, the dove in Phaistos 31 was a symbol firmly linked with a Cretan goddess involved in renewal.

The Disk itself confirms this association in field 16 which groups the dove together with the “lady”, the bough of “Life”, plus the “ear of grain” and the “fish” which looks like a mackerel, a diet staple for fishing folks.

The two signs "grain" and "fish" can both be read as symbols of life-sustaining fertility and renewal of the principal food sources, comparable to Jesus' miracle of feeding a multitude with two fish and five loaves of bread made from grain.

The “dove-woman’s” association with those signs, including the "bough of life", identifies her clearly again as a “Lady of Life”.

The Disk also illustrates the conciliatory Cretan approach to what would only much later become said theological dispute. In field 16, the dove appears together with the woman and probable goddess, so it is here her companion and thus functions as her symbol or sacred animal.

In field 31, however, the stand-alone dove seems to embody her presence which was required for the initiation, just as in the Gospel verse which specifies that the Spirit descended “in bodily form like a dove”.

It seems that the ancient Cretans had wisely solved the dispute between “is” or “represents” by flexibly accepting both meanings.

(The third occurrence of that dove, in field 53, is also likely to stand for a goddess representing the moon, as you will see in chapter 8.)

In any case, the presence of that life-renewing dove in field 31 fits again the proposed “initiation” and “new beginning” or baptism at this beginning of the second track with the mid-life “birth, death, rebirth” rosette.

It also fits the role of doves in later Classical Greece where they were sacred to Aphrodite268, the powerful but often capricious goddess of love and new life.

Aphrodite, by the way, was no stranger to the Game of the Goose because she rode sometimes on the back of a goose and remained associated with gambling and games.


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