Early Crete had an elaborate and wealthy culture and based it's worship on the female principal of nature. When patriarchy overran the island, the theology of this culture was distorted and goddesses were demoted to heroines and their legends were grafted to those of the Greek heroes. Britomartis (sweet girl) is one who has survived in this manner but some scholars suspect she may well be the greatest goddess of Minoan Crete.
She is traditionally depicted as a young, lithe and strong hunter, often carrying arrows. This image was merged, as a spoil of war, with the image of Artemis and has remained as Her image to this day.
Britomartis had as her companions, a suckling babe and a snake, two powerful symbols of the generative force.
Minos of Crete intended to rape the virginal goddess and chased her for nine months through forested land and she eluded capture by throwing herself off a high cliff into the ocean. There she was miraculously saved, caught in the fishnets that she herself crafted and gave to humanity. After this, in the western lands, she was called Dictynna (netted one), while retaining the name Britomartis in the East.
The story that joins the two, with pursuit lasting nine months, the length of a human pregnancy, and a rebirth from the sea, suggests that this Goddess symbolizes the integrity of the feminine soul and rebirth.
The New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, Patricia Monaghan