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 sharedl 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.

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Another Knotty Problem

In my last post I explored the Minoan sacral knot, a religious symbol from ancient Crete that consisted of a length of fabric knotted together with a loop at the top. But the sacral knot isn’t the only instance of knotwork in Minoan religious iconography. And while the sacral knot may be related to the Egyptian tyet (Isis’ symbol), these other knots are more closely allied with snakes.

When Sir Arthur Evans excavated Knossos more than a century ago, one of the objects he found was a figurine of a woman covered in snakes (photo at the top of this post). They twine around her hat, down her chest and arms, and around her belly. The snakes that cross her belly form a large knot that’s a prominent feature on the figurine. Evans was intrigued by this knot, even going as far as researching whether snakes in the wild ever tie themselves into knots. For the record, blindworms do, but they’re not true snakes, though the Minoans might not have been able to tell the difference.

Evans also pointed out that snake-like knots in general are common in Minoan art. This statue of a woman making the ‘Minoan salute’ gesture shows her hair arranged in snake-like loops and coils on her head and down her back.

 

Female figure making Minoan salute gesture

 

But what intrigues me even more is this figurine of a woman making the Minoan salute gesture. Her clothing is arranged so a belt or scarf-like item wraps around her belly in a way similar to the snakes on the ‘snake goddess’ figurine.

 

Woman making Minoan salute gesture

 

We also find knots on the skirts of the female figures in the Akrotiri frescoes. These beautiful paintings come from a building in ancient Akrotiri (on the island of Santorini) that appears to have been used for coming-of-age rites for adolescent girls and boys. The girls and women in the frescoes all wear the same style of clothing, including tiered skirts that have cords or ties wrapped around the top, just below the waist. These ties loop around each other across the belly in much the same way as the other images I’ve shared here. Since the artist went to the trouble of depicting the ties in great detail, I have to think they have some kind of meaning.

 

Akrotiri fresco priestess

 

From such a great cultural and temporal distance, it’s often hard for us to tell what any of these images and symbols meant to the Minoans. But I have a few ideas, gleaned from a combination of dreamwork and meditation. First of all, I think the location of the ‘snake knot’ is important. It focuses the eye on the abdomen, the location of the female reproductive tract. While I hesitate to use the term ‘fertility cult,’ considering the fact that the Victorians who coined the phrase thought reproduction was all women were good for, I do have a strong sense that the Minoans found pregnancy and birth to be magical. So I’ll go as far as a little speculation about this kind of ‘snake knot.’

We’re pretty sure the butterfly and labrys both represented the human soul in Minoan art. But I’ve also seen opinions that the butterfly symbolized the female soul while the snake stood for the male soul. What portion of Minoan mythology involves an important male soul being born? Dionysos’ birth from Rhea, of course, at the Winter Solstice. What if the snake knot is ‘shorthand’ for the birth-of-Dionysos story that was so important to the ancient Minoans? That would mean that any woman wearing the snake knot represents Rhea, and might give us some insight into the kinds of gestures and rituals the Minoans used to invoke Rhea in her aspect as mother-of-god.

Whether this is the actual meaning the ancient Minoans understood for these symbols, there’s no way to tell. The key here is to work with the symbols and images in a sacred context and let them teach us. What do you think or feel about the snake knot? What does it say to you?

 

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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.

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