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Ceto, Mother of Monsters which are Possibly Minoan Deities.

Ceto’s name comes from the Greek ‘κῆτoς’ which means any sea monster or large fish. It does not seem to have an Indo-European root.

Hesiod’s Theogony contains the most substantive reference to Ceto and it is one of the earliest. Mainly Hesiod includes her geneology and describes that she is the mother of Monsters. It has been said that she cannot be both beautiful and the mother of so many monsters. But her relation to the cultures of Greece may not have been considered. Artemis is called the ‘Mistress of the Animals’ by Homer. What if Ceto is similarly the mistress of the sea creatures? What we see in Hesiod is a matriarch surrounded by her children. There is a suspicion that the Minoan religion consisted of possibly a number of such matriarchs. An analysis of the names used by Hesiod in the part of the Theogony describing Ceto reveals few names that might have descended from the Indo-European Language. They could be names from the Minoan Culture on Crete. Michael Ventris proved the language of the Mycenaeans was a form of early Greek. Since Greek is an Indo-European language any names that do not have their roots in that language could be loan words from Minoan Crete, the Hittite culture, or they could even be from the Mideast. Ceto and her decendents could have been borrowed entirely from the Minoan or other culture. One argument that they are Minoan is that so many of the names relate to the sea. The Minoan culture had been in place perhaps 1000 years or more when the Indo-Europeans arrived and formed what is called the Mycenaean Culture. It is thought that the Mycenaens can be identified with the Achaeans of Homer.

There are other suggestions of Minoan Culture. In particular ‘Pemphredo’ is a kind of wasp and such insects are found illustrated in Minoan art. The name ‘Chrysaor’ is said to be derived from a semetic language such as Hebrew. This is consistent with the maritime nature of the Minoan Culture. The name is commonly translated as ‘golden sword’ but it may simply mean golden weapon. This may connect it to the comon image of the golden axe of the Minoan culture. A number of the monsters are snake-like and this corresponds to Minoan worship of snakes. That caves are mentioned is consistent with cave worship on Crete. Geryoneus has a similarity to the Minotaur

Another remarkable fact is that many of the children of Ceto can be located in the west or related to the Hesperides. The Hesperides are daughters of Hesperus. The name ‘Hesperus’ is derived from Indo-European ‘wespero-‘, ‘Evening, night’ and is not Minoan. So we might want to locate Ceto in the west as well.

Descendents of Phorkys and Ceto and an Interpretation of their Names

  • The Parents,
    • Φόρκυϊ — Phorkys –Of the Sea? Phorkys’ was probably associated with seals (phokes in Greek). But seals are local to Mediterranean and not found in Caucasus. ‘ph’ generally comes from ‘bh’ and there iare no Indo-European ‘bho’ sounds.
    • Κητὼ — Ceto — Keto’s name means the “whale” or “sea-monster” ‘κτoς’ means sea monster but it seems not to have an Indo-European root.
  • The Children in Hesiod,
    • Γραίας — Graiae –Grey-Ones, Old Women (graia) ‘grey ones’ from Indo-european ‘gher-4’, ‘To shine, glow, grey’ and ‘ya’, ‘To be arroused’. — beautiful cheeked old women, gray-haired from their birth.
    • Πεμφρηδώ — Pemphredo — “she who guides the way,”. ‘πεμφρηδών’ is a kind of wasp that builds in hollow oaks. This could easily be a name for a goddess pictured on one of the Minoan seals.
    • Ἐνυώ — Enyo –“the warlike”. ‘Goddess of War’. No Indo-European roots match this word.
    • Γοργούς — Gorgons –Grim, Fierce, Terrible (gorgos) A Greek root but No I-E roots
      • Σθεννώ — Sthenno — Strong (sthenos,σθένος ). May better relate to ‘stei-‘, ‘Stone’ or ‘sten-‘, ‘Narrow’
      • Εὐρυάλη — Euryale –Wide-Stepping (euryalê) , Euryale may also mean “of the wide briny sea” from eury-, hals, an appropriate name for a daughter of sea-gods.
      • Μέδουσά — Medusa — Medusa, from Greek medein, to rule (feminine participle medousa (*med-ont-ya). But the connection to Indo-European seems weak. The same deivation cannot work for Medea and Medusa yet the derivation is the same. Medea seems more likely derived from Greek medein, to rule as this meaning fits the myths of Medea.
        • Χρυσαωρ — Chrysaor –Golden blade (khrysos , aor). ‘chryso-‘, ‘gold or the color of gold’ from Greek ‘χρυσός’ which is from Semetic and related to the Hebrew word ‘haruz’, ‘gold’
        • Πήγασος — Pegasus — Of the Spring (pêgê) Spring Forth (pêgazô) Does not appear to be Indo-European as meanings do not match any of the similar sounds. (born beside waters, Hesiod Th 280)
    • ̓́Εχιδναν — Echidna — ‘snake’ from Indo-European “angwhi’, ‘Snake, eel’ — Hesiod, Th 295half a quick-eyed, beautiful nymph, but half monstrous snake, terrible and great, shimmering, eating raw flesh, under the hidden places of the earth. (now the name of a hedgehog
  • The Children in Homer
    • Θόωσα — Thoosa — ‘naked’ from Indo-European ‘bhoso-‘, ‘Naked’ — daughter of Phorcys
      • Πολύφημον — Polyphemus — ‘many burials’ from Indo European ‘pel-8’, and ”dembh-, To bury” — whose might is greatest among all the Cyclopes. and almost buried Odysseus and his men in his cave.


Keto on