Britomartis, the Goddess Who Ran

I had spent the past several days working on this week’s PBP entry on the Cretan goddess Britomartis. It was a nice post, starting with a lot of background on her origins, functions, and myth before diving into UPG waters. I made it as far as the sentence “Running is what I do; I have memories that span incarnation in which I run”. And then I promptly said to a friend I was chatting with at the time that I cannot handle this.

It took me a good thirty seconds to realize that I had essentially just run from writing about running.

And so, with that, I threw out the previous post and am writing this version instead. Besides, if you do not know who I am, you can read the About Me page, and for much more detailed information, pick up an encyclopedia or do a quick Google search on my name.

But here is a brief primer: Cretan myths are terribly fragmented, since the Linear A script is still undeciphered. So what we have are versions that travelled from the Minoans, through the Mycenaeans, to the Greeks. What is left in lore of my story is essentially Britomartis trying to run and escape from Minos for nine months so he cannot have his way with her, and her chastity can be preserved. He corners her, and she jumps off a cliff into the sea rather than be with him. She is typically saved in a fishing net, although in some versions she drowns.

What the fragments fail to capture are the feelings. Trying to see through wild brown hair rife with twigs and forest debris as the wind whips it everywhere, along with tattered clothing that tangles around scathed legs. Coarse dirt and stone under foot. The sinking feeling in your gut when you suddenly realize you are running straight towards a cliff and the spray in the air is not rain mist, but from the ocean looming wine-dark below. The feeling of breath being completely stolen from your lungs as you slowly turn to face the one who has been chasing you. You have nowhere else to go. Trapped.

And then an idea. Choice. There is always a choice. The look in your pursuer’s eyes as he realizes in that same moment what you just realized. Fear tightening every muscle in your body before everything goes numb and still. Movement. Slow at first, then quicker. Running again, right to the edge. A split second hesitation, then nothing but air all around you.

Everything feels suspended and weightless. And then comes the glass, shattering around your skin, bruising and cold and burning every inch of you, all at once, as you break through the surface. Instant cold, then wet enveloping you as you sink into the depths of the water. Everything is blurry and quiet and breathless.

Then suddenly, just as you were starting to fade, your weight returns. Netting folds your limbs closer into your body, and through the hair that is now adhered onto your face from the motion of being pulled upwards, you see the light of the sun growing larger. Air rushing back into your lungs and panic as you break the surface again. Hands on your body, pulling you in.

In the surviving myth, it was a sailor who pulled Britomartis to safety. In my memory, I just remember Zagreus, the great god of hunting who caught his prey live in nets to bring their ends later. In my memory, Minos, the one who was chasing me, was also somehow Zagreus.

The one salvageable line from my original post holds true: running is what I do.  I am the goddess of running. I ran from my people, long ago. I ran from my family after betraying them. I ran from the god I was oathed to and to whom I belong. I ran from my duties as his priestess. I am wounded. I am terrified. And I am ashamed.

To this day, I still run. I still run from the great hunter, and he still chases after me, and he still finds me every time. The running has gotten less. I ran from him last week. I left him instructions of where I ran to so he could find me when he wanted to, and when I thought he was taking too long, I almost went to find him instead.

He was the first one I remember coming after me. When I was a child, I would run away from my family and hide in closets, waiting for them to come find me. I fell asleep once, waiting, and woke up in exactly the same place, alone. That is what I am used to. Running and nobody knowing that inside I desperately wanted to be hunted down and found.

But he knows. He knows that my struggling and fighting upon being caught will soon give way to utter surrender. And he knows that I do not truly want to run, but running is just what I do. He uses nets to catch me, but I am the one who invented the net.

Someday, this will change. The duration of my escape attempts shortens every single day, as I learn to know better. I will know fully to run to him, run towards Necessity, and Wyrd, and Fate. But until then, I am still a goddess who runs.

About Reconstructing the Labyrinth

Hello! My name is Bri, and I run the blog Reconstructing the Labyrinth. I am a pagan who works primarily with the Minoan pantheon, of which I believe myself to be an incarnate member. I am also genderqueer, pansexual, and demisexual. I have a wonderful, loving partner. I am a mixed-media artist and writer with a great fondness for plaid and amaretto-flavored coffee.
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