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Goddess of the Sea

by Dr Alena Trckova-Flamee, Ph.D.
The Goddess of the Sea or Mistress of the Fishes has a very old origin in the Greek tradition. She appears already in the iconography of the Minoan and Mycenaean art, sometimes called by the scholars the Goddess of the Navigation or the Mother and Mistress of the sea creatures, a counterpart of the Mistress of the Animals. The shrines dedicated to the Sea Goddess existed in the Minoan seashore, where her religious cult and the marine festivals were probably celebrated. There is also a suggestion about a sea-journeying goddess in the boat with a shrine, who was represented on the Minoan golden rings. According to some hypotheses this traveling goddess had to give a divine protection around the whole Creta island.

As we can suppose from some findings also the Mycenaeans were worshipping the Sea Goddess or Mistress of the Fishes, who could be similar with the Syrian fish goddess Atargatis. She is depicted, touching two big fishes or dolphins, on a seal-ring of cornelian and gold, found in the Mycenaean cemetery of Aidonia. The position and cloth of this figure were created under the Minoan influence, but her face and her hair were rendered in an unusual way. The other representation of the fish goddess came out from the Cult center of Mycenae. Between the terracotta statuettes discovered there, a female figurine exists with a clothe decorated by the fish-heads, which probably had to show a sphere of her protection and activity over the sea.

The Goddess of the Sea took a part on the creation of the world, due to an old belief, in which life began in the water. In some myths Eurynome, the creator-goddess of everything with her partner - the snake Ofion, represented such couple. But according to Homer the Mistress of the Sea was Tethys, the daughter of Uranus and Gaia, the wife of Oceanus. She was the mother of the three thousand daughters and three thousand sons of Oceanus, "the origin of the gods" and "the origin of everything." Eurynome was hold as one of their daughters, who created in Arcadia the first man of the world - Pelasgus. That is why she was also worshipped at Phigaleia in Arcadia, as Pausanias confirmed.

But there is another sea-deity - the daughter of Nereus, the wife of Peleus and Achilles' mother - Thetis with her cult on the cuttlefish cost in Thesally and in Sparta. Sometimes she is called the granddaughter of Tethys and Oceanus, but Kerenyi assumed, due to close relation between the names - Tethys and Thetis, that they could mean one and the same great Mistress of the Sea. I think, he is not far away from the truth, because the mythical stories and names were developing during the ages in different arias and they were a subject of changing too.

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