Pasiphae was the queen of Crete, a large Grecian island. Before she married King Minos of Crete, she lived in Colchis. The island of Colchis was an ancient region known for its wealth. Pasiphae was the daughter of the sun god Helios, who resided over Colchis. Her mother was an Oceanid nymph named Perse. Due to the powers of her parents, Pasiphae had magical powers and immortality. She was known as a practitioner of witchcraft, using herbs to cast spells and curses. Witchcraft was known as Pharmakeia in the Ancient Greek language.
Pasiphae’s sister, Circe, is also a well-known sorceress who lived on the island of Aeaea. Pasiphae had other siblings, two brothers named Aeetes and Perses.
When Pasiphae married King Minos, she ruled over the Cretans with him. She had many children with him, including Ariadne, Glaucus, Phaedra, Androgeus, Xenodice, and a few others. King Minos, however, was quite prideful. Despite being the son of Zeus, he wanted to prove to everyone that he was worthy of his throne. Approaching Poseidon, the god of the sea and one of the twelve Olympians, Minos asked for help. To prove Minos’ kingship, Poseidon gifted Minos a beautiful white bull, straight from the foam of the sea. However, it was on one condition: Minos had to sacrifice the white bull back to Poseidon. King Minos made a grave mistake by breaking his promise.
Instead of sacrificing the white bull, which would later be called the Cretan Bull, Minos used a regular brown bull. The attempt to trick the sea god failed. Once Poseidon found out, he wanted revenge. He thought the best way to do so was to target Minos’ wife Pasiphae. So Poseidon asked Aphrodite, the goddess of love, to enchant Pasiphae to have romantic feelings toward the white bull.
With her mind lost to the spell, Pasiphae wanted a deeper connection with the white bull. She approached Daedelus, the famous ancient Greek inventor and architect who worked for Minos. Daedalus agreed to create a way to deepen the love Pasiphae thought she had with the white bull. So he constructed a fake wooden cow that was hollow. He covered it with cow hide to make it seem real.
The plan was to have Pasiphae hide in the hollow cow. Then she would sit in wait in the middle of a meadow. When the white bull was lured by her disguise, and thinking her to be an actual cow, they shared a moment of passion.
The result of this was the birth of the Minotaur. Originally, Pasiphae named her son Asterion, which means “star-like.” His name is similar to Pasiphae’s name herself, which means “light for all.” The Minotaur was seen as a monster, with the head of a bull and a human’s body. Daedalus once again had to devise something strong enough to keep the strong, man-eating creature contained. Thus, the famous Labyrinth, an underground maze, was made.
Pasiphae’s son, the Minotaur, would later be important in the story of her daughter Ariadne. When Theseus from Athens goes to slay the Minotaur, Ariadne would help him.
Although King Minos was distraught over Pasiphae’s condition, Pasiphae knew he was not the best husband. Minos had a habit of sleeping with other women of Crete. In retaliation, Pasiphae created a potion to cast a curse on the king. The potion served to maintain marital fidelity. From then on, whenever Minos was with another woman and ejaculated, poisonous creatures like insects and snakes would come out instead of semen. Every woman he tried to sleep with died, unless it was the Queen.
Pasiphae is sometimes associated with the astrological constellation Taurus. With all of the star analogies, it makes sense. In some perspectives, Pasiphae is considered to be a moon goddess, much like Selene. Otherwise, Pasiphae is notable for her witchcraft and for being the mother of children who would be involved in many famous Ancient Greek myths.
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