Crete and the Places of the Gods and Goddesses

Why is a journey to Crete filled with adventure and touched by the divine? How does 4,000 years of history and legend survive? Here we look at how the stories of the gods and goddesses are linked to specific places, surrounding Crete in mythical magic!

This travel experience will be profoundly satisfying as you connect with the gods and goddesses of ancient Crete and feel the energy from their sacred sites. You’ll learn so much from your time with the local people, local cuisine, and local tour leaders, and return touched by the place that emanates the history of the place and the power of its gods and goddesses.

In April 2019, we invite you to join bestselling author and filmmaker Phil Cousineau, and veteran local guide and organic olive farmer Georgios Spiradakis, as they guide you for the transformative travel experience of a lifetime through the mythological places of magic in Crete.

On this journey, Phil and Georgios will lead you on an adventure through a mythological and spiritual culture that still thrives much as it did 4,000 years ago. Enjoy ancient Cretan cuisine, hike to a mountaintop to pay your respects to the Gaian Goddesses. You will ponder archaeological mysteries and discoveries, and immerse yourself in the work of local artists and performers. In daily discussions of the myths, art, literature, and crafts of Greece’s largest island you will become a cultural time traveller on a rare sacred journey.

Crete has a rich 4,000 years of history and spirituality that is kept alive by the pervasiveness of the legends so deeply intertwined in the physical geography of Crete. A distinctive and sophisticated culture on Crete existed before much of Greece could compete. Even after Greece gained supremacy in the Mediterranean, Crete was able to retain much of its distinctive culture. Mount Ida and the Palace of Knossos are but two of the sublime places on the island that continue to exude the history and power of the gods and goddesses by providing evidence of one of the essential Greek philosophical and mythological questions: How did it all begin?

Mount Ida: And the Birth of Zeus

As the highest mountain on the Isle of Crete, Mount Ida has been the site of several holy places. This makes it one of the sacred places in Crete for both gods and goddesses.

Although many people can place the Minotaur myth on Crete, many people forget that Crete, and specifically Mount Ida is the birthplace of Zeus. He remained there until he grew up and overthrew his father Kronos and the other Titans and brought about the reign of the Gods.

Mount Ida, also known as Psiloritis is 2,456 m and is the highest mountain on Crete.

Before Zeus was born, his father Kronos swallowed his older brothers and sisters because of a prophecy. It foretold that Kronos would be overthrown by one of his own children.  Rhea, Kronos’ wife watched Kronos repeatedly swallow her children when they were born and devised a plan to stop him. Immediately after Zeus was born she tricked Kronos and wrapped a stone in baby’s garb and let him swallow the rock instead of Zeus. She hid the baby Zeus in a cave on Mount Ida. According to the Greek myth, Rhea entrusted the babe to the nymph Amalthea.  In one telling of the myth, Amalthea had a hard time hiding the infant god from Kronos. Kronos ruled over the Earth, the sky and the sea, all of which reported what they saw and heard to him. In order to hide Zeus, Amalthea suspended him from a tree just above the ground, so that he was not on Earth, in the sky, or in the sea, protecting him from Kronos’ spies.

The cave on Mount Ida where Zeus was born.

Leaving Crete: And Taking on his Father

When Zeus grew up he left the Isle of Crete and became the cupbearer to Kronos.  Once Kronos trusted him, Zeus poured an elixir he was given by the Titan Metis into Kronos’ cup. The elixir caused him to regurgitate Zeus’ still alive and now fully-grown brothers and sisters. This was the start of Titanomachy, a ten-year war that was eventually won by the gods. The war ended when the gods imprisoned most of the Titans in Tartarus. The fate of Kronos is unclear as there are contradicting texts. However, several agree that the gods allowed him to become a king of sorts in Tartarus under the oversight of Hades, one of Zeus’ older brothers.

The Titans imprisoned in Tartarus as depicted by The Fall of the Titans, Cornelis Cornelisz van Haarlem, 1596-1598

Mount Ida: And the Mothers of Zeus

Although Greek mythos demoted Amalthea to a nymph, Amalthea was originally a goddess in Crete. The Greeks often related foreign deities to their own pantheon to understand them. But this practice also helped the Greeks to absorb the foreign culture and people. The Cretans worshipped Amalthea and Rhea, Zeus’ mother, as motherly and nurturing goddesses. Some stories of Amalthea raising Zeus depict Amalthea as a goat suckling the infant god. This depiction although zoomorphic shows Amalthea as nurturing. This version of the myth also explains the origins of the cornucopia. Despite being a fledgeling god, Zeus was still a strong and powerful child. As he was playing with his goat of a foster-mother, Zeus accidentally broke off one of her horns. The broken horn possessed similar qualities to Amalthea and provided unending nourishment to whoever had it.

Rhea, also known as the Mother of Gods, like Amalthea was also originally worshipped in Crete. She was adopted into the larger Greek mythology when she bore Zeus. Her home, like Amalthea’s was on Mount Ida, but she was believed to have fled to Phrygia to escape Kronos. She is often associated with other mother goddesses in Greek and Roman mythology like Gaia, and Cybele.


Knossos: Zeus and Europa

As the seat of religion and political power in Crete, the history of the Palace of Knossos is deeply intertwined with myth. The Minoan people of Crete worshipped the power of the bull and depictions of the creature were seen everywhere. It is very interesting that many of the myths that surrounded Knossos and other Minoan cities contain varied forms of the animal as a main subject in their stories.

Giant bullhorn statue at the Palace of Knossos

In an age when the gods lusted after the humans they ruled, the relationships between gods and mortals brought about many heroes and kings in the time of ancient Greece and Rome. So even after he defeated the Titans and moved the hearthplace of the gods to Mount Olympus, Zeus was still an important figure in Crete because of his relationships with mortal men and women.  One of these relationships led to the birth of the famed King Minos, who you may recall from the Theseus and Minotaur myth.

Of his many human dalliances, the one Zeus had with Europa, the daughter of King Tyre, resulted in the child that would become King Minos. Zeus had a tendency when flirting with humans to transform himself into a beautiful white creature. For Europa, he morphed into a beautiful white bull. He approached Europa while she was near the beach, and although frightened at first, she trusted the bull and climbed onto its back. Once she was on his back Zeus ran into the water and swam away from Europa’s homeland to Crete. When they arrived Zeus revealed himself as a god and the two became lovers on the shore. Zeus hastily left Crete leaving Europa, but the meeting resulted in the birth of three sons: Minos, Rhadamanths, and Sarpedon.

Despite being left on Crete by herself, Europa was not forsaken and married King Asterion, the King of Crete. Asterion adopted all three of Zeus’ sons and left Crete to Minos after he died. Some of the stories say that Zeus would visit Minos every nine years and give counsel to his son.

The remains of the Palace of Knossos. The fresco that can be seen is of a bull which was sacred in Minoan culture.


King Minos and the Minotaur

As the story goes, Zeus was not the only god that maintained connections to Crete. Despite receiving counsel from his own godly father, King Minos sought favour with the other gods. Minos’ uncle Poseidon sent a majestic white bull to Minos. Poseidon expected Minos to sacrifice it in thanks to him for showing his favour. However, Minos was infatuated with the bull and kept it for its beauty.

Poseidon in retribution caused Minos’ wife to become obsessed with the bull. With the help of Daedalus, she became pregnant by the bull and bore the monster known as the Minotaur. The king locked the Minotaur in a labyrinth prison designed by Daedalus. Minos used this monster and the labyrinth to exert the superiority of Crete over Athens. Athens sent seven boys and seven girls to Crete every year to be thrown into the labyrinth and sacrificed to the beast. This continued until Theseus, son of Poseidon rose up and with the help of Minos’ own daughter killed the Minotaur and escaped the labyrinth, ending Crete’s superiority over Athens.

Athenian vase depicting the slaying of the Minotaur by Theseus on Crete

Do you want to immerse yourself in history and stand in the presence of the gods and goddesses in their holy sites?

Are you ready to step into this transformative travel experience? Which mythical place of Crete do you want to see most?

Mythic Crete with Phil Cousinea and Georgios Spiradakis April 9-18, 2019.

~ Sacred Earth Journeys