Ariadne's Tribe: Minoan Spirituality for the Modern World

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan family of deities. Ariadne's Tribe is an independent spiritual tradition that brings the deities 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?

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A toast to the Minoans!

It can be hard to figure out what kinds of rituals and traditions people of the past had, especially if we don't have any written records of them. But sometimes art can help.

The image up top is part of the Camp Stool fresco from Knossos, the largest of the ancient Minoan cities. It shows a banqueting scene that includes ritual toasting, a common activity in many societies from that time. Here's a reconstruction of the whole fresco, with two rows of people participating in toasts and possibly libations (poured offerings) as well:

Camp Stool fresco from Knossos

To us, this might look like a slightly stiff and formal party, but we have a couple of clues that let us know it's more than that.

First, the fresco was on one of the walls in the temple complex at Knossos. This was a huge building devoted to religion. The complex also involved the administration of the temple's farmland, workshops, and vineyards, but it was first and foremost a religious setting. So that's a clue.

We also know that ritual toasting occurred in other ancient cultures, including ones the Minoans traded with. For instance, here's a scene from the Standard of Ur, a work of art from Mesopotamia that dates to about the same time as the Early Minoan period:

Standard of Ur

You can see that the image has a similar feel: a row of people in sort of stiff positions, making the ritualized gesture of a toast. There's really no attempt to depict these people as individuals. Instead, they're performing roles in the ceremony.

We can't honestly say that we know the exact details of these ceremonies, which deities were honored, and what words were said. But we can be pretty sure the Minoans were drinking either wine or mead; the Sumerians may have been drinking beer.

The whole thing reminds me of the sumbel, a toasting ritual that modern Norse Pagans have revived based on the Norse and Anglo-Saxon literature. I suspect many cultures had similar ways of honoring their deities. After all, at a big party or wedding reception, isn't a toast the standard way to honor your special guest?

We even have examples of the footed, two-handled chalices the participants in the Camp Stool fresco are using for their toasts. Here's a photo of some of them from Knossos:

Minoan pedestal goblets

And here's a drawing of some others, also from Knossos:

Minoan pedestal goblets drawing

These pedestal goblets or stemmed goblets are the precursors to the Greek cup called a kylix that was often used for drinking wine and toasting in Mycenaean and later Hellenic Greek culture.

If I'm going to talk about the Camp Stool fresco, I'd better include its most famous face: La Parisienne. You can see her on the top row of the full fresco image above. Here's a close-up:

La Parisienne

She's called La Parisienne because Evans thought her fancy makeup and hairdo made her look like a prostitute - "La Parisienne" was British slang for a prostitute in Evans' day. Yes, though the name sounds fancy, it's actually a slur.

The Minoans did indeed use cosmetics, so her ruby red lips and black-lined eyes aren't actually out of place at all. But what's most important is her clothing, especially that wad of fabric on her shoulders. That's asacral scarf, which indicates not only that this is a ritual scene but that she's a priestess or maybe even a goddess.

There is some contention that La Parisienne is a forgery crafted by the artists in Émile Gilliéron's studio to support Sir Arthur Evans' theories about Minoan religion. Evans wanted a female figure to be central to all Minoan art in support of his monotheistic goddess theory.

La Parisienne doesn't fit easily into the fresco; she's a different scale than all the male figures. Visitors to the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, where the fresco is housed, regularly comment on that fact. Still, she's iconic, a well-recognized work of Minoan art, so I've chosen to include her here in case she is original to the fresco.

If you're looking for a simple ritual to perform in honor of the Minoan deities, I suggest this: Pour a libation to the deities first since that's the polite thing to do, then drink a toast to them.

If there are several of you celebrating together, pass the cup around and let each person offer a blessing or word of thanks to the deity before drinking. Savor the beverage and relish the fact that you can perform a ritual that connects you with the divine the same way people have been doing for millennia.

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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She's the founder and Temple Mom of Ariadne's Tribe, an inclusive Minoan spiritual tradition. When she's not busy drawing and writing, you can find her in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.


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