Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, loving goddess of ancient Crete who lives on in the hearts and minds of the modern world. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a purely reconstructionist tradition, but a journey in relationship with Minoan deities in the contemporary world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

To join the discussion about ancient Minoan civilization and Modern Minoan Paganism, head on over to our welcoming community at Ariadne's Tribe on Facebook.

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Laura Perry

Laura Perry

I'm an artist, writer, and lover of all things ancient and mysterious. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a particular passion of mine since a fateful art history class introduced me to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. My first book was published in 2001; one of my most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. I've also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When I'm not busy drawing and writing, I enjoy gardening and giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.
The Minoan Seal Ring Project: Sacred Art

In addition to being a writer, I'm also an artist, and I find myself inspired by the works of the ancient Minoans. One of the unique traditions the Minoans had was creating gold seal rings with ritual scenes on them. I've created my own modern art versions of these seal rings as a way of bringing the scenes alive.

Up top you can see my version of the gold seal ring found in the Isopata tomb at Knossos. Here's the original:

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Posidajea: The Minoans' Grandmother Ocean

If you live on an island, even a big one like Crete, the ocean is a constant presence. And if you spend a lot of time in boats and ships, like the Minoans did when they went fishing or traveled across the waves to trade, the ocean becomes a powerful focus for your safety and livelihood. So it's no surprise that the Minoans had a goddess of the sea, the sacred embodiment of the womb-ocean that their island rises up out of. Her name is Posidaeja.

Posidaeja's name shows up in the Linear B tablets, which record the Mycenaean Greek language. We don't know for sure that Posidaeja is what the Minoans called her, but when we use the name, she answers, so at the very least she's agreeable to it. Many of us who practice Modern Minoan Paganism simply call her Grandmother Ocean.

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A Modern Minoan Pagan Author: Why I do what I do

A lot of people ask me how I got into Modern Minoan Paganism and why I'm inspired to write the books and create the art that goes along with that spiritual path. If I'm honest, the Minoan gods and goddesses have been stalking me since I was a teenager and it just took me a while to pick up on their intent - sometimes I'm slow that way. But once I finally got started, all enthusiastic and rarin' to go, I hit a roadblock: There were virtually no resources out there.

Bear in mind, I'm old enough that when I first started researching the Minoans, I had to resort to actual ink-and-paper encyclopedias and history books. And none of those ever had more than a paragraph or two about the Minoans, usually as a sort of side note before the text started talking about the Greeks.

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Is Modern Minoan Paganism true for its time?

Joseph Campbell said that all religions are true for their time. Of course, the religion the ancient Minoans practiced had meaning and value in Bronze Age Crete. But what about the spiritual path we're creating with Modern Minoan Paganism? How can we be sure it's true for our time?

First, I should point out that we're not trying to reconstruct ancient Minoan religion - really, we couldn't do a proper reconstruction even if we wanted to because we can't read what the Minoans wrote and we're missing a lot of the original mythology. And even if we did manage to reconstruct it all, it probably wouldn't fit well in our modern world: We have a different lifestyle, value set, and worldview than the Minoans did, even if we're Pagans.

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Summer Solstice: Celebrating Modern Minoan Paganism

Here in the northern hemisphere, we're coming up to Summer Solstice, the height of the Sun's power over the yearly solar cycle, a time to celebrate the Minoan Sun goddess Therasia and the solar year-king Dionysus. In the Mediterranean, where the ancient Minoans lived on the island of Crete, this was (and still is) an incredibly hot, dry time of year - the Sun's power is overwhelming.

As modern Pagans, we have multiple options for what to focus on and how to celebrate this special point in the year. Most of us probably don't have the resources to put on a huge Midsummer mystery play the way the ancient Minoans probably did at their big temples. But we can celebrate with modern-style ritual that focuses on the Minoan deities who are associated with this time of year.

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The Minoan Goddess: Double? Triple?

The Maiden/Mother/Crone configuration of goddesses is popular in modern Paganism. It resonates with a lot of us, but there's no evidence the Minoans viewed their goddesses this way. In fact, the Maiden/Mother/Crone triplicity was invented by Robert Graves in the mid-20th century. Yes, it works, but it's not historically accurate so we shouldn't apply it to the Minoans. If you're interested in Graves' process and teasing out which of his ideas are historic and which are purely poetic, I recommend Mark Carter's excellent book Stalking the Goddess.

But back to the Minoans.

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Music among the Minoans

Like every culture, the Minoans had their music. We can see that in their art and artifacts. The image at the top of this post is of a group of terracotta figurines from Palaikastro. There are three women holding hands and dancing in a semicircle around a fourth woman who is playing the lyre. We don't know what the occasion was here: a celebration? A ritual? One of the famous harvest dances on a circular threshing floor? (There was a circular piece found with these figurines that might have been a model threshing floor.)

It could even have been a funeral; there's a lyre-player on the "death" side of the Hagia Triada sarcophagus.

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