Poppy goddess

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The poppy goddess in the middle. Heraklion Archaeological Museum

The name poppy goddess was given to a large female figurine which is believed to represent a Minoan goddess, discovered in a sanctuary of the Post-palace period (LM III, 1400–1100 BC) at Gazi, Crete, and now in the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. The terracotta figurine has raised hands and seeds of opium poppies on her head. [1]

In this period, Mycenean influence particularly on art was strong over the island, showing that Crete was now little more than a province of the Mycenean world after the Mycenean invasion in 1450 BC. Minoan pottery figurines were found in public sanctuaries, not only in palace-sanctuaries as is usual in earlier periods.[1] Clay idols with raised hands were also found in the shrine of double axes in Knossos, in Gournia, in Myrtos,[2] and also in the sanctuaries of Gortys and Prinias.[1] On the heads of the figures there are various religious symbols, such as horns of consecration, diadems, birds and the seeds of opium poppies. The female figure known as the poppy goddess is perhaps a representation of the goddess as the bringer of sleep or death.[1]

The figures found at Gazi, which are larger than any previously produced on Minoan Crete, are rendered in an extremely stylized manner. The bodies are lifeless, the skirts simple cylinders, and the poses stereotyped.

Religious significance[edit]

The raised hands of the idol indicate that it is a deity who gazes toward the visitor, and the gesture of the two upraised hands with open palms is the epiphany gesture of the goddess.[2] It is possible that the goddess is giving a greeting, or a blessing, or is praying, or it may symbolize her appearance in earth in human form.[1]

Poppies were used in Greco-Roman myths as offerings to the dead.[3][better source needed] Robert Graves believed that a second meaning of the depiction and use of poppies in the Greco-Roman myths is the symbolism of the bright scarlet colour as signifying the promise of resurrection after death [4] and that the poppy was the emblem of the goddess Demeter. According to Theocritus for the Greeks Demeter was still a poppy goddess bearing sheaves and poppies in both hands (Idyll vii 157). [5]

Karl Kerenyi asserted that poppies were connected with a Cretan cult which was transmitted to the Eleusinian mysteries in Classical Greece: "It seems probable that the Great Mother Goddess who bore the names Rhea and Demeter, brought the poppy with her from her Cretan cult to Eleusis and it is almost certain that in the Cretan cult sphere opium was prepared from poppies."[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e J.A. Sakellarakis. Herakleion Museum. Illustrated guide to the Museum. Ekdotike Athinon. Athens 1987. p. 91
  2. ^ a b Walter Burkert (1985). Greek religion, Harvard University Press. pp. 23, 30
  3. ^ L. Frank Baum. The Annotated wizard of Oz. p 173 ISBN 0-517-50086-8
  4. ^ Robert Graves. The Greek myths. 24.15, p 96 ISBN 0-14-001026-2
  5. ^ Kerenyi, 1976 p.23
  6. ^ Karl Kerenyi. Dionysos. Archetypal image of Indestructible life. part I iii. The Cretan core of Dionysos myth. Princeton University Press. 1976 p. 25

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