In additional to figurines of deities, which were the basic symbols of religious worship since they stressed fertility, a number of other objects have been regarded as symbols of the deity and the worship addressed to it.
Double horns or horns of consecration are the most common sacred symbol of Minoan religion. They were placed as crowning members on the top of sacred buildings or altars. Occasionally they were combined with the double axe. Some artistic representations show adorants standing reverently before them. We do not know what they symbolise, though they resemble bull’s horns, and they may have been a summary rendering of a bucranium.
The double axe or labrys is the most important sacred symbol in Minoan religion. It is regularly depicted between double horns or above a bucranium. Double axes were set on stepped bases and worshipped. Axes of this kind have been found in the megaron at Nirou. The double axe, combined with the sacral knot, was used as a decorative motif of vases. It is also engraved on the masonry of palaces, and on pillars. The symbolical significance of the double axe probably derives from its being used as an instrument in bull sacrifices. It is usually held by female figures (goddesses or priestesses).
The sacral knot is a strip of material tied in a knot at the center with the ends hanging free. It symbolizes protection and the magical blinding of the deity. In combination with the double axe it is depicted in a wall-painting from the megaron at Nirou, in the wall-painting of La Pariesienne from Knossos, and on vases. Faience and ivory models of sacral knots have been discovered at Knossos, Zakros, and Mycenae.
The sacred tree is depicted in a sacred enclosure next to an altar with other sacred symbols and was an object of worship. Sacred hammers have been found in sanctuaries and tombs. They had wooden handles and a spherical hammer-head at both ends. In artistic representations they are usually held by priests and they may have been sceptres, or were perhaps used as sacrificial implements, like double axes.
The bucranium, or head of the sacred bull, was a symbol of the bull.
The figure-eight shield is of unknown origins.
The cross occurs in various forms, as a star, swastika, or wheel, and symbolised the sun or god of the heavens, who is also depicted as a rosette.
Pendants were objects used as amulets by believers, the aim being to ward off evil and secure the support of the deity. One category of seals with a magical, apotropaic function are known as “talismanic” seals.
Dr Andonis Vasilakis