I was perusing some myths recently and happened upon the ol’ yarn about King Minos and it struck me that there was something there that might be relevant to our current political situation. For those of you who may’ve forgotten, I’ll roughly re-cap:
Minos made an arrangement with Poseidon wherein Minos would become king and all he had to do was sacrifice a white bull, which Poseidon would provide, which was a pretty good deal for Minos. On the day of the coronation, the bull arrived, carried to shore on waves. Minos took a look at the bull, beautiful and powerful, as white as snow and utterly without blemish, and thought it’d be a crying shame to sacrifice such a magnificent creature. I mean, this bull was really great. Most folks nowadays have no appreciation for cattle, but the Greeks knew bulls. So Minos had the wonderful white bull added to his personal herd and sacrificed in its place another white bull, which was a fine animal, but not even in the same league as the bull provided by Poseidon.
So, what happened here is this – Minos was presented with an opportunity to live up to his agreement with Poseidon, to sacrifice the wonderful, snow-white bull, and to fully embrace his role as king. See, the king is supposed to be a personification of the people of the kingdom. That’s why kings and queens say “we” instead of “I”. They’re not supposed to have personal agendas. If Minos had sacrificed the bull, he would’ve been acting as per his arrangement with Poseidon and cementing his place in the god’s favor. Poseidon would’ve looked upon Minos as the right and good king of Crete and blessed his reign. But Minos acted selfishly, denying Poseidon his sacrifice and keeping the bull to enhance his own glory. That kinda shit don’t float. When you see that sorta behavior in a myth, somebody is gonna get a comeuppance.
Minos’ wife, Pasiphae, please forgive my omission of umlaut, also appreciated good cattle and when she saw the splendid bull which Poseidon had sent, she developed a hankering for same, that is to say, an unnatural desire for it. So, she called Daedalus, the royal handy man, and had him build a replica of a cow which was hollow and into which she could get. Daedalus did the job, the queen got into the cow which was placed in the bull’s paddock and the deed was accomplished. Pasiphae achieved her goal and conceived of the union, which shouldn’t’ve happened, but the bull was not a natural bull after all and Poseidon certainly had something to do with it. And besides, Pasiphae is here representing the shadow of Minos himself. She is the feminine/dark/emotional/unconscious counterpart to Minos, the masculine/light/intellectual/conscious king. Her actions with the bull are the inevitable result of Minos’ with same.
Pasiphae gave birth to a monster – the Minotaur, bull of Minos – which had a human body, but the head and tail of a bull. This creature was the embodiment of the sins of Minos/Pasiphae, the shameful secret which will always come out. Now presented with evidence of his guilt and painfully aware that destroying the monster would only bring about something even more awful, Minos called up Daedalus and had him construct a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur and keep it out of the public eye. Ya see how this whole sordid mess is getting more and more complicated? And to feed the beast, Minos demanded that the various conquered lands around Crete send as tribute some number of young people, males and female, I don’t remember how many, but say a dozen, which were put into the labyrinth to wander around and be gobbled up by the Minotaur. I don’t know why they didn’t just feed it grass or hay or something, but they didn’t. The youth of the lands, the flower and future of the realm were fed to the monster which was a personification of the king’s selfish sin. How ya like them apples?
The myth goes on, of course, to describe how Minos gets his just desserts, which is ruination and death, but I’m gonna stop right there because that’s where we are as of this writing. Our own land is being presided over by a modern-day Minos: selfish and constantly building or having built elaborate structures to conceal the results of his own wrong-doing, feeding his ego with that which should belong to the people and throwing the country’s future into the maw of his own wickedness. In case you aren’t catching my drift, I mean Donald Trump. Trump = Minos. That doesn’t exactly make Melania Pasiphae, but it could work out that way. We’ll have to wait and see.
Myths are not history. Myths are stories that represent aspects of the human experience that defy logical explication. Myths communicate concepts that are difficult to put into words. The story of Minos is a psychological treatise on selfishness, shame and the results of keeping secrets. Crete never had a ruler whose wife fucked a divine bull sent to be sacrificed by the god of the sea. The story of Minos, like all other myths can be interpreted in many ways – I’m going with the standard brain-shrink reading, but there are other ways of looking at it.
Myths are metaphors. And I want to be very clear on this point – metaphors represent things. So when I say myths are metaphors, I’m not saying that there are not Mysterious, Divine Forces at play in the world. There most certainly are. And it right and good that we recognize, honor and try to have relationships with those Mysterious, Divine Forces. Myths help us to do just that. And to see where we are in life’s journey and teach us where the dangers are, how to overcome them, and what joys we may hope to encounter along the way. (Word to the wise: always kiss ugly, old hags.)
There is much we can learn from the tale of Minos, about Trump and about ourselves, but we cannot learn anything about actual, historical events. We certainly cannot look forward to Poseidon rising up out of the Potomac to impale Trump on His trident, though that is a lovely mental picture.
I was gonna leave ya hanging with Minos, but then I decided not. Minos doesn’t die. Like Prince Humperdink, he is left to live with his shame. Theseus kills the Minotaur and becomes the good and proper king of Athens, putting aside his own wants to serve the people, which doesn’t really work with my Trump as Minos thing, but which is a very good ending nonetheless. Theseus was an Athenian, after all, so dealing with the king of Crete wasn’t his job. He had other things to think about – entering into the dark maze of the unconscious, slaying the monster within, in this case, the selfishness of one who would be king, and realizing in his own life his own kingship, which is what we’re all supposed to do. And maybe it does work because what we need is not Trump impaled on Poseidon’s trident, though that is fun to think about, but the collective will to change ourselves and our world so that we are no longer ruled over by megalomaniacal tyrants with shameful secrets who are all too willing to sacrifice our future for their own ends. Accomplishing that will take sincere effort. And we will need all the help the myths can give us. And if Araidne offers you a sword, take it.
Brown Hat the Espresso Shaman
The pun is always intended.