The gypsum slabs used at Knosos for floors and walls are significant because of their colour, white. The white floors and walls could be thought to represent the heavens and the brilliance of the upper air.
White floors were chosen not only at Knosos but also elsewhere. The courtyard of the palace at Mari on the Euphrates was paved with gypsum slabs. The white dress of a priestess at Knosos was not only to indicate purity and ritual cleanliness. It shows that she represents a divine personage, the Cretan goddess in one of her manifestations.
It is probable that priestesses appeared in openings, as they are said to have done at Ephesus, imitating a goddess so as to impress those present. Perhaps a goddess was lowered, as if in a Greek play, to indicate descent from heaven. The name Piptuna, one of the names of the goddess, suggests the Greek pipto, fall.
Epiphanies are also reported by Hebrew prophets. Amos, IX: 1, describes his vision of the Lord standing upon the altar.
Zechariah, III: 1, writes that the Lord and Satan appeared together.
Ezekiel, VIII: 2, mentions an appearance of fire, and amber colouring. Amber is in Greek elektron, god out of the seat. In Hebrew it is chashmal, a word which in modern Hebrew means electricity.
One of the most colourful references is from Isaiah, VIII: 19: "... wizards that peep and mutter..." When Homer describes the dance at the court of king Alkinous, Odysseus marvels at the twinkling of the feet of the dancers, marmaruge. It means the play of light; amaruge is the twinkling of stars. Marmaros is stone. Amaruge hippou occurs in Aristophanes, Birds, l. 925, where it may mean the twinkling movements of hooves, and perhaps sparks, as in the Latin phrase ignipedes equi, fiery-footed horses.
White clothing, the pharos, is worn by girls at the dance portrayed on the shield of Achilles. It is also worn by corpses prepared for funeral rites, as at the funeral of Patroclus, Iliad XVIII: 353.
The columns at Hawara were white, of marble. There was a theatre area in both Hawara and Knosos. It has been suggested that the maze design may have been a pattern on the ground for a dance.
Perhaps there was a confrontation between two opponents, hero and Minotaur. The latter would be a man wearing a mask that resembled a bull's head, with horns. There were probably a dance and battle that symbolised the apparent movements of objects in the sky, and it is possible that we have here the origin of Greek drama.
There is a clear link between threshing-floors, theatres, and the sacred and magical. It is easy enough to say that the link is fertility rites, aimed at ensuring good corn or grape harvests, but there is another factor, the nature of the site. The favoured base for not only threshing -floors but altars was rock. Stones could be brought to supplement the living rock of a 'high place', or as a substitute. The Old Testament contains many references to rock; the ark functioned best on rock.
Genesis LV: 11 mentions the threshing-floor of Atad, or Abel. When the people of Beth Shemesh looked into the ark, there was a disaster: over 50,000 people were killed by the Lord [I Samuel VI: 18ff.]. The ark had been put on the "great stone of Abel". During war between the Israelites and the Midianites, Gideon, who was threshing wheat under an oak, was visited by an angel of the Lord. In Judges VI: 20 the angel tells him to lay food "upon this rock, and pour out the broth". In verse 21 the angel touches the food with his staff; fire rises out of the rock and consumes the flesh and the cakes.
Gideon's reaction was fear because he had seen an angel of the Lord face to face. "And the Lord said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die." Gideon built an altar there, and called it Jehovah-shalom.
For an example of the sensitivity of an animal to a divine presence, see Numbers XXII: 23. Balaam's ass refuses to go forward when the angel of the Lord stands in his way.
There is mention of a threshing-floor on Mount Moriah. It was associated with Araunah, and with Ornan the Jebusite: "and the angel of the Lord was by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite."
This became the site of the altar of burnt offerings in the temple in Jerusalem.
The temple built by Solomon was destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B. C. When it was rebuilt by Zerubbabel, it was said that five things were missing: the ark, the holy fire, the Shekhinah, the spirit of prophecy, the Urim and the Thummim.
The Samaritans sacrificed at the rock on the top of Mount Gerizim, the Holy of Holies of the Samaritan temple.
The site of the temple of Solomon is now a mosque. In the Dome of the Rock, as it is now called, a piece of living rock projects through the floor. Its name in Arabic is Es Sakhra. [Es is a form of the definite article in Arabic] It was from this stone that Muhammad took off for heaven on his horse El Baruq.
The Hebrew baraq means lightning. Muhammad is not the only person of whom it was said that he ascended to heaven in a miraculous way. The prophet Elijah was taken up to heaven in a whirlwind. Romulus was said to have disappeared during a storm, accompanied by thunder and lightning, when he was holding a meeting with the people on the Goat's Fen.
It is possible that we have a clue to these occurrences in the Etruscan word prezu, Greek prester, tornado. A tornado is associated with turbulent electrical conditions in a severe storm.
There may also be a link with stories about the world tree, Yggdrasil.
The Latin stirps, root and trunk of a tree, uses the same consonants as the Greek astrape, lightning. Tree, in Arabic, is shazhara. The Slavonic root zhar means fire.
The importance of thresholds, especially brazen ones, is to be
attributed to electrical factors. Temples and, later, Christian
churches, were often situated in places associated with
anomalous electrical conditions, due either to splits in rock or to
a special attraction for lightning [Zeus Enelysios, Zeus who has
descended to be in a certain spot]. For example, in the Oedipus
at Colonus of Sophocles, Oedipus, warned by the god that he is
about to die, goes to a place where there are split rocks, the
Brazen Threshold. Theseus and Peirithous had been temporarily
paralysed here, prisoners in stone seats. His death was heralded
by thunder and by sounds suggestive of a sine wave.