By Martin Persson Nilsson
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Additional info for A History of Greek Religion
The tree-cult appears very prominently in the Minoan religion, although it is found all over the world and IS especially widespread in European and Teutonic folk-lore. WIth one exception, Homer has no gods in the form of animals: Athena, however, sometimes transforms herself, along with some other god, into a bird. and it is by this very transformatIon that the aged Ne,tor recognizes her. In Homer she appears in the form of birds of different kinds; in later times' the owl, which lives among the stones and crevices of the citadel, is her constant compamon.
This immediate continuity of the cult of the dead from Mycenaean down to classical times is essentially of the very greatest importance. The cults of the dead and of the heroes are carried on under the same forms: the latter must therefore have arisen from the former. The difference is only that the cult of the dead belongs to a certain family, whereas the cult of the heroes has broken away from the family and become the property of the people. Against this it has been objected that if the heroes' graves were opened no bones would be found in them, for the heroes, it is said, are originally not dead men but fallen deities.
All these circumstances may be explained If Ilithyia was a name of the Minoan Nature-goddess who protected the birth of men· and animals, but in the Greek religion survived only as the divine midwife. Nilsson, op. , PP. 426 et seq. BSA, xiv, 1908, pp. 108 et seq. 3 A. W. Persson, Der Ursprllng det eleusiniscllen Mysterkn, ARw, XXI, Ig:ZZ, pp. 287 et seq. t 2 Mi,Jtoan-Mycenaean Religio1~ 3! On the strength of the comparison with Magna Mater, at whose side her youthful lover Attis stands, it is generally believed that the Minoan Nature-goddess too had a youthful paramour.
A History of Greek Religion by Martin Persson Nilsson