Pasiphae was born to Helios, the Titan of the sun, and the eldest of the Oceanids: Perse. Pasiphaë was given in marriage to King Minos of Crete. With Minos, she was the mother of Acacallis, Ariadne, Androgeus, Glaucus, Deucalion, Phaedra, Xenodice, and Catreus.
She was also the mother of the Minotaur, after a curse from Poseidon caused her to experience lust for and mate with a white bull sent by Poseidon. In order to actually copulate with the bull, she had the Athenian artificer Daedalus construct a portable wooden cow with a cowhide covering, within which she was able to satisfy her strong desire.
Pasiphaë, like her niece Medea, was a mistress of magical herbal arts. The Bibliotheke records the fidelity charm she placed upon Minos, who would ejaculate serpents and scorpions, killing any unlawful concubine; but Procris, with a protective herb, lay with Minos with impunity. In mainland Greece, Pasiphaë was worshipped as an oracular goddess at Thalamae, one of the original koine of Sparta. The geographer Pausanias describes the shrine as small, situated near a clear stream, and flanked by bronze statues of Helios and Pasiphaë. His account also equates Pasiphaë with Ino and the lunar goddess Selene.
Cicero writes in De Natura Deorum that the Spartan ephors would sleep at the shrine of Pasiphaë, seeking prophetic dreams to aid them in governance. According to Plutarch, Spartan society twice underwent major upheavals sparked by ephors' dreams at the shrine during the Hellenistic era. In one case, an ephor dreamed that some of his colleagues' chairs were removed from the agora, and that a voice called out "this is better for Sparta"; inspired by this, King Cleomenes acted to consolidate royal power. Again during the reign of King Agis, several ephors brought the people into revolt with oracles from Pasiphaë's shrine promising remission of debts and redistribution of land.
She wore an elegant sleeveless dress. She had long dark hair.