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Poem: "The Snake Goddess" - The Wordsmith's Forge — LiveJournal
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
Poem: "The Snake Goddess"
This poem is kind of an "extra" from the September Poetry Fishbowl. It wasn't written during the fishbowl proper; I got it while I was out browsing historical websites because browngirl got me thinking about Minoans again. I went looking for images of the Snake Goddess, and found more than just the one I remembered. When I mentioned writing the poem, browngirl decided to sponsor it, so here it is for your enjoyment.

The Snake Goddess

Forgotten in museums,
She hides behind the glass.
She stands on bald green velvet
That does not look like grass.

Yet something in her bearing
Speaks of an iron will –
Her breasts, her crown, her serpents
Are mighty symbols still.

Was this the inspiration
From which Medusa sprang?
Was this what women twisted
With tongue and scale and fang?

Was this, the pride of Knossos,
Its peril in disguise?
Was this what drained the storehouse
Before the hungry eyes?

Was this what men once dreaded,
And sought to bind and tie –
The Goddess in Her courage,
The curling snakes held high?

Was this what made them shudder
And turned their hearts to stone –
The priestess in her headdress,
Whose power was her own?

Was this the grain of truth, then,
From which the Gorgon grew?
Athena in her envy
Gave patriarchs their coup.

The daughters of the present
Search history for clues,
But gnosis keeps its secrets.
The Goddess keeps Her dues.

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Current Mood: accomplished accomplished

9 comments or Leave a comment
dakiwiboid From: dakiwiboid Date: September 22nd, 2008 05:44 pm (UTC) (Link)

A book I strongly recommend

to anyone who's interested in images of the Snake Goddess is Kenneth Lapatin's Mysteries of the Snake Goddess. It turns out that a number of the most famous "Minoan" images are forgeries were cranked out especially to feed the hunger of Sir Arthur Evans and his compatriots for Minoan artifacts. Evans was particularly vulnerable because of his drive to reconstruct Knossos come hell, high water, or lack of authenticity. He was cursed by a version of the same obsession that led Schleimann to dig right through and destroy one stratum after another of the Hill of Hissarlik in pursuit of evidence that would match his dream of Troy. In the process, he probably destroyed a big chunk of the city that actually stood at the time of something very like the Trojan War.

Does the fact that a lot of these statues turn out to be forgeries mean that they aren't valid as religious inspiration? Not necessarily. There are many other authentic Snake Goddess statues.

I think we do need to distinguish between originals, honest copies, reproductions, and out-and-out frauds when we grant our reverence, however. I have a particular interest in forgeries, since an "Etruscan" terra cotta statue of Diana in the St. Louis Art Museum, to which I had a certain devotion as a child, turned out not only to be fake, but to be the work of a very famous forger. Alceo Dossena's Diana the Huntress was beautiful and introduced me to the idea that Diana's worship was more ancient I'd thought, but it was a sham.

I don't think that the Snake Goddess is all that forgotten by scholars, at least. Mainstream religion may try to keep her down, but art historians, students of ancient sculpture, and even literature students find her again and again.

Edited at 2008-09-22 05:45 pm (UTC)
From: browngirl Date: September 23rd, 2008 12:32 pm (UTC) (Link)
*beam* Thank you. :)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: September 24th, 2008 05:11 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm so glad you like it!
the_vulture From: the_vulture Date: August 23rd, 2010 08:15 am (UTC) (Link)
I really did enjoy the Minoan segment of the pre-modern art history courses I took.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: August 24th, 2010 04:46 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm happy to hear that. Sounds like a fun set of courses, too.
baranduin From: baranduin Date: July 24th, 2012 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
These are wonderful, all three of them. They give a "feeling". Bless that browngirl for inspiring you.
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: July 24th, 2012 03:56 am (UTC) (Link)

Thank you!

This was one of the first series where a single person made a major impact. It's still almost the only one with a single person behind it -- most of them pick up more prompters and sponsors as they grow. But when there's only one, the focus can be tighter. It's amazing how much difference a single person can make, and this remains one of my favorite examples for that in crowdfunding. Let there be Minoan poetry, and there was.
fayanora From: fayanora Date: November 28th, 2013 03:44 am (UTC) (Link)
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: November 28th, 2013 04:07 am (UTC) (Link)


I'm glad you liked this. There are a couple others in this set, listed under Glimpses of Minoa on the Serial Poetry page. The others deal with the bull imagery.
9 comments or Leave a comment