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?

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Dining with the Ancestors: A Modern Minoan Rite

We're approaching Samhain here in the northern hemisphere, so my thoughts naturally turn toward the Ancestors. The Minoans didn't celebrate Samhain - it's a Celtic festival from a time many centuries after the fall of Minoan civilization and a place a great distance away from Crete. But the Minoans did honor the Ancestors and the spirits of the dead. In fact, as far as we can tell, that's something all ancient cultures did in one way or another.

The Minoans appear to have performed dining rites, something along the lines of a Dumb Supper, a meal where the spirits of the dead are invited as honored guests. The image at the top of this blog post is a fascinating terracotta model from the Minoan tholos tomb at Kamilari. It depicts four people in a dining shrine, seated with little tables in front of them. Two of the tables hold what appear to be loaves of bread. In front of the tables, two human-like figures are rising up out of the floor: the spirits of the dead.

There's a bench shrine among the Minoan ruins at Hagia Triada (it's the top image on this page) that looks very much like it could have housed this kind of dining rite. There's also a chamber called a hypostyle crypt at Malia, not actually a part of the temple complex but right next to it, alongside the west plaza. You can see the benches that ring the room in the image toward the bottom of this page titled "Polythyron and Crypt" - it's the room at the very back, through the doorway. Archaeologists have suggested that this was some kind of "town council" meeting room, but shared gnosis suggests it's more likely a dining shrine.

There's only so much of ancient Minoan religion that we can reproduce in modern Pagan practice. Most of us don't have the resources to put on big rituals or mystery plays. But a dining rite to honor the Ancestors and the spirits of the dead - that's something everyone can do. I included a formal Minoan-themed dining rite in my book Ariadne's Thread, but you can always create your own. Cook a meal, set out a place for your "honored guests," and share your time with them. You could choose to honor your physical ancestors (the ones whose DNA you carry, whether or not you know exactly who they were) and/or your spiritual ancestors - the people who inspire you in your spiritual life. For me, that includes the Minoans, among others.

For so much of human history (and prehistory) the Ancestors were a major part of people's spiritual practice. I'm heartened to see more and more people from all spiritual paths honoring their ancestors. If you want to take things a step further, you could perform an ancestral healing rite. It's a lovely way to connect with those who have gone before us and help heal humanity across time and space. Every little bit helps.

Whether or not Samhain is coming in your neck of the woods, I hope you can find a connection with your ancestors, both physical and spiritual, that fills your life with joy.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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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.

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