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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Christmas with Dionysus

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

You’ve probably seen those memes that depict the many deities whose birthdays supposedly coincide with Christmas and whose attributes are startlingly similar to Jesus’. No, those memes aren't particularly accurate. But there's one deity in particular whose Midwinter story might interest you.

Please understand, I have no quarrel with Jesus, though I could do without some of his followers. He's one of a long line of deities who remind us that there's light within the darkness, that all cycles turn and renew, and that mindfulness and compassion go a long way toward curing the ills of this world.

But he’s not the only one with those attributes, and in fact, he’s not the only one celebrated at this time of year, either, as you might have guessed.

Let me introduce you to another god who is born at Midwinter; perhaps you'll enjoy his company as much as I do. He has much to teach, for those who have the patience to listen.

When you hear the name Dionysus, you probably think of an adult male figure (well-muscled, a bit hairy) cavorting with nymphs and getting everyone around him drunk and stoned. Yes, one of his aspects involves wild behavior and intoxicants, but that’s not all there is to him.

He was once a tiny baby, born under very special circumstances. In fact, each year he becomes that tiny baby once again. Although a Thracian god was eventually imported into the Greek pantheon and combined with the Minoan deity to form a complex character called Dionysus, his aspect that we’re interested in began life on the island of Crete.

This Dionysus is a shamanic god, a walker-between-the-worlds, and is possibly the oldest example of a fatherless divine child born at Midwinter, in a cave, surrounded by animals.

You see, the Minoan Dionysus is a child of the Winter Solstice.

The Earth Mother Goddess Rhea, who has no consort, goes into labor in her cave on Mt. Dikte in Crete as the Sun goes down on Midwinter Eve, working through the night to bring her gift to the world. She gives birth to him as dawn breaks on Midwinter morning.

His birth is witnessed by Rhea’s sister and alter-ego Amalthea, the goat-goddess. When Rhea has to leave to attend to her responsibilities outside the cave, she gives her newborn son into Amalthea’s care, to nurse and protect him until it's safe for him to come out of hiding.

He emerges from the cave full-grown at Midsummer, but that’s a story for another time.

In the meantime, the goat-goddess cares for Dionysus and gives him the connection with goats that will follow him into adulthood as he cavorts with the satyrs and spends his time in the forest with the wild things.

In addition to the cave, Dionysus’ birth is also associated with the pine tree. I wrote earlier about the significance of trees at Winter Solstice and their connection with divine birth.

Dionysus’ pinecone-tipped wand, the thyrsus, hints at the nature of the sacred birth tree that grew outside Rhea’s cave. The pine tree is especially important to Dionysus because it’s an evergreen; it reminds us that even though Dionysus dies every year at the grape harvest, he is always born anew every Midwinter.

In fact, in some regions he was later known as Dionysus Dendrites – Dionysus of the Tree – and certain trees were worshiped as stand-ins for the god.

Of course, Dionysus’ tree is the pillar at the center of the universe, down which he comes into this world at Winter Solstice (no chimneys for him!) and up which he travels into the Otherworld as he teaches and leads the spiritworkers and clergy who are his followers.

Dionysus shows us the way when we practice scrying and other types of divination and reminds us that there is no end, only transformation.

So as you’re enjoying the Christmas trees that are such festive decorations this time of year, remember Dionysus in addition to the other deities the season conjures for you.

And if you’ve a mind to, sit down quietly in a darkened room with the tree’s lights aglow and picture yourself climbing up that tree to the star on top, which is the doorway to the Otherworld.

Ask Dionysus if he’ll let you see through that doorway to the wonders beyond. If he says yes, you’ll receive a marvelous gift indeed.

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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.


  • Deborah Blake
    Deborah Blake Saturday, 27 December 2014

    Fabulous! I loved reading this. I hadn't heard this story before. Thanks for sharing it.

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Sunday, 28 December 2014

    You're very welcome! Glad you enjoyed it.

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