Sketchbook Page 28: Minotaur Burial

March 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

Minotaur burial, Crete

The Minotaur is surrounded by a complex mythology. Born of a divinely orchestrated union between Pasiphae, the wife of Minos and the snow-white Cretan Bull (his birth, in fact, being a punishment from the gods for Minos’ failure to sacrifice this beautiful animal), The Minotaur was nursed by his mother in his infancy but soon grew violent and dangerous. He was thus banished to the Cretan Labyrinth, an elaborate subterranean structure constructed by the architect Daedalus. Here he dealt out a horrid doom to those that were sent down into its light less tunnels, feasting on the flesh of his human victims until he was eventually killed by the Athenian hero Theseus.

A historical explanation of the myth refers to the time when Crete was the main political and cultural potency in the Aegean Sea. As the fledgling Athens was under tribute to Crete, it can be assumed that such tribute included young men and women for sacrifice. This ceremony was performed by a priest disguised with a bull head or mask, thus explaining the imagery of the Minotaur.

Some have also seen the Minotaur as an image arising from our concept of the mastery of mankind’s animal nature (that violent, disowned love-child, full of libidinous power, lurking deep below us in the shadows of the labyrinth), though this remains controversial …

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