Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan pantheon. Modern Minoan Paganism is an independent polytheist spiritual tradition that brings the gods and goddesses of the ancient Minoans alive in the modern world. We're a revivalist tradition, not a reconstructionist one; we rely heavily on shared gnosis and the practical realities of Paganism in the modern world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

Find out all about Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: https://ariadnestribe.wordpress.com/. We're a welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

All the Harvests: The Mediterranean and the Minoan Calendar

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

It's autumn where I live in the southeastern US, which means harvest time. Here, the concept of harvest is simple: From late summer through the autumn, all the harvests happen together - fields of grain, vineyards full of grapes, fruit in the orchards, vegetables in the garden. That's because I live in the northern temperate zone, with the four-season setup so many of us learned about in elementary school: spring, summer, autumn, winter.

But in the Mediterranean, it's different.

The Mediterranean climate really only has two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season in the summer is the "dead time" all around the Mediterranean, the time when nothing grows, at least not easily. The rainy season, which runs from autumn through spring, is the growing season for field crops: grain, vegetables, anything you might think of as growing in a garden.

Over the long, hot summer on Crete, the ground dries and hardens. Rivers become shallow and sluggish; some creeks dry up entirely. Plants turn crispy-brown from the heat and lack of rain. Obviously, this is not a good time to try to plow up the rock-hard soil and plant wheat or beans.

But when the rains begin in the autumn, the soil softens, so farmers can plow the land and plant their crops. The grain and vegetables grow throughout the mild, rainy winter and are harvested in the spring - timing that's completely opposite to what I grew up with in the northern temperate zone.

The springtime grain harvest appears to have been the Minoans' major harvest festival, the one that looked the most like what we think of as "harvest time," with shared community work (including stomping on the circular threshing floors that eventually evolved into circle dances to celebrate the harvest), the grinding of the first grain and baking of the first bread from the new grain, and rituals to honor the ancestors who had gifted the people with such bounty.

But field crops aren't the only kind of harvest. Today, just like in Minoan times, there are other harvests that happen at other points during the year all around the Mediterranean. Why is that? It's an "annuals vs. perennials" thing.

You see, field crops like wheat and beans are annuals - they sprout, grow, and die all in the same year, so they have to be planted during a time when they can grow quickly and easily. In the Mediterranean, that's the rainy season (autumn through spring). But grapevines and orchard trees are perennials; they live for many years. And their life cycles are governed more by the amount of sunlight they get at any given time of year than by the amount of rain that's falling. So no matter how scorching the summer is, or how mild and rainy the winter might be, fruit trees and grapevines blossom and grow their fruit as the days lengthen from spring into summer, and that fruit becomes ripe and ready to pick as the days shorten in late summer and autumn.

How do grapevines and fruit trees survive the hot, dry summers in the Mediterranean? We have fancy modern irrigation these days, but back in the Bronze Age, the Minoans dug canals to bring water to their orchards and vineyards. Archaeologists continue to discover more and more of the extensive canal networks the Minoans used to bring snow melt-water from the mountains, and local water from rivers, to their farms.

So there is actually a succession of fruit harvests in the Mediterranean that run from late summer to late autumn, even into early winter in some years (exact harvest dates vary from year to year depending on weather and rainfall). Each of these probably had its own individual festival in Bronze Age Crete, dedicated to the deity or deities associated with the specific type of fruit. The earliest fruit harvest is typically the grapes, from late August to early September. In the MMP sacred calendar, we celebrate this as the Feast of Grapes, dedicated to Dionysus.

Next come the tree fruits in September and October: dates, figs, quinces, and pomegranates. Apples hadn't yet reached the Mediterranean back in Minoan times, but today, the apple harvest falls in among the other tree fruits. Dates are sacred to the Sun goddess Therasia, and we think the Minoans associated figs with the goddess Amalthea. Pomegranates are the stereotypical Underworld fruit, so they could belong to any number of deities as well as the ancestors and spirits of the dead. Quinces... we think they may be connected with Eileithyia, but we're not sure.

Last of all come the olives. Though the rains typically start in September, it takes weeks for the olive trees to absorb the water and plump up the fruit. So the olive harvest doesn't usually take place until November, and some years it's even as late as early December, depending on the weather and the condition of the olives themselves.

So really, instead of a single harvest, there are lots of them in Mediterranean climates. But you could group them into two main phases: orchard harvests in the autumn and field harvests in the spring.

Wherever you live, and whenever the harvest happens near your home, I wish you abundance and blessings.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen!

Last modified on
Laura Perry is an artist, writer, and the founder and facilitator of Modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a passion of hers since a fateful art history class introduced her to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. Her first book was published in 2001; one of her most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. She has also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When she's not busy drawing and writing, you can find her in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

Comments

Additional information