An exquisite white bull emerged from the sea—a gift from Poseidon to King Minos of Crete. It was a sign of favor but this gift came with strings attached. Minos was expected to sacrifice this bull to Poseidon. The bull was too beautiful: Minos couldn’t bring himself to part with it and so a lesser bull was offered to the sea lord instead.
Angered, Poseidon took his revenge on Minos’ wife Pasiphae. She was cursed with an obsessive sexual desire for the white bull. Pasiphae persuaded the master craftsman Daedalus to craft a wooden cow that she could hide within in order to indulge her lust for the beautiful bull. In this manner, she conceived the Minotaur.
Pasiphae is most famous in Greek mythology as the wife of Minos and the mother of their many famous children. Pasiphae’s genealogy, however, indicates that she was no mere mortal queen. Her parents are Helios the sun and Perse, eldest of the Oceanid sisters. Pasiphae’s sisters include witch goddesses Circe and Hekate. Pasiphae’s niece is Medea.
Pasiphae is an ancient Minoan moon goddess who is as skilled in magic as her sisters. One legend suggests that she was raised in Colchis, Hekate’s hometown. The myth of Pasiphae hiding inside a wooden cow in order to have sex with a bull may have been intended to humiliate and degrade a powerful and popular goddess, to make her appear grotesque by conquerors who sought to impose a new pantheon on the Minoans. Alternatively, it may have been told by newcomers to Crete who gazed at Minoan sacred images but did not understand them.
The Minoans were bull worshippers. The origins of her Greek myth may recall the mystic marriage and sacred union of a high priestess and a deity, possibly similar to the myth of Zeus and Europa. One theory is that Minos’ white bull was really Poseidon in disguise. Alternatively, the myth may commemorate the sacred union of a goddess and her high priest: the “bull” may originally have been a masked high priest.
Pasiphae is a mistress of magic. Another myth records the fidelity spell she cast over her husband causing him to ejaculate venomous snakes and scorpions that killed any of his mortal lovers. Only Pasiphae, as an immortal (or theoretically any other goddess) was immune.
Pasiphae was venerated outside Crete, too. She was worshipped alongside Helios in Thalamae, Sparta. Their shrine featured two bronze sculptures of the goddess. The sculpture in the courtyard was accessible to all but the one within the shrine was allegedly difficult to see because of the quantity of flower garlands bedecking it.
Pasiphae is a lunar goddess of witchcraft and magic. Invoke her if you seek respect, need to restore your reputation, or to help tame your cheating spouse.
Beautiful Pasiphae has the golden glint in her eyes that characterizes the children of Helios.
Pasiphae has long inspired artists. A Greek vase painting from the fourth century BCE, now in Paris’ Bibliothèque Nationale, depicts Pasiphae with the Minotaur lovingly seated on her lap.
Helios, Circe, Hekate, Medea, and Angitia
Goose or swan
Moon; Pasiphae is also the name given to one of Jupiter’s moons.
Pasiphae presided over an oracular shrine in Thalamae. Devotees slept in this shrine hoping to receive prophetic dreams.
Flower garlands, spring water, images of bulls and snakes
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.