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by Archaeology Newsroom

The Significance of the Palm Tree in the Creto-Mynoan Religion: A New Approach

The palm tree has a special significance in the religious iconography of the Creto-Mycenean world. Its representation next to an altar, suggests the sacred environment in which the rites honoring the deity take place (sacrifices, bloodless offerings, dances), the watering of the palm tree, performed by the Demons, is an invocation for land fertility, a ritual of sympathetic magic purposed to cause rain. The dance in a palm tree grove, resembling that of Artemis, is also an invocation for the women at the borderline between childhood and coming to age for marriage, the virgin deity being their protector. The relation of the palm tree to the dead is very close: it embellishes the Palatial amphorae, which are funeral offerings, it is represented on urns and prochooi and it decorates an hydria that had been used for libation, before it was deposited as a funeral offering into a grave. The choice of the palm tree or Tree of Life as a fertility and bearing symbol is based on its botanical qualities, which relate the plant with the water, an indispensable element to the libation rituals aiming at the fruitfulness of earth and women and to funerary libations as well. The functions of fertility and bearing and that of the relation to the Under World are interconnected and are all present in the persona of Persephone, the classical version of their incarnation.