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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Equality for Minoan Men!

It can be hard for us modern folks who have always lived in a patriarchal society to envision any other kind of culture. As Riane Eisler perceptively noted in her book The Chalice and the Blade, we come from a dominance hierarchy type society, so we tend to assume that any other kind of society from history or prehistory must be similar.

In other words, if the men aren’t in charge and disproportionately powerful compared to the women in a culture, then the reverse must be true: the women must hold all the power while the men are largely powerless and oppressed.

This unfortunate bias has spilled over into our interpretation of Minoan society. I can’t count how many times people have told me, “Oh, those Minoans, their art is all women. You don’t see men anywhere, so the women must have held all the power.” I've written before about the subject of men versus women in Minoan art and society, but I feel I need to expand on those ideas.

I’d like to dispel the myth that the alternative to patriarchy is "domination by women" - for myth it is, and it’s totally inaccurate.

It’s based on the idea that all societies must be dominance hierarchies, and it fails to consider another type of society: the egalitarian culture, which is what the Minoans appear to have had. That’s a society in which women and men are equals and all adults have the same standing regardless of gender.

The myth that the Minoans must have been "dominated by women" is also based on a careful selection of Minoan art that in no way represents the enormous and beautiful collection we have from this ancient civilization. So let’s explore the accuracy (or lack thereof) of the women-in-charge myth by actually looking at the art of the ancient Minoans.

There's a popular misconception that Minoan art contains almost exclusively images of women, but this isn’t true.

The narrow-waisted, bare-breasted female figures in statuary and frescoes certainly caught the eye of the Victorian-era men who ran the archaeological digs back in the days the culture of ancient Crete was rediscovered, but they are far from the only type of human images to be found.

As I wrote before, women and men are represented in roughly equal numbers in the artwork we've found so far. But of course, voluptuous topless priestesses get more publicity.

Let’s examine the artwork in Nanno Marinatos’ excellent book Minoan Religion: Ritual, Image and Symbol. It’s considered one of the classics in the field, and it offers 246 images for our perusal.

Let’s look at how the images in Dr. Marinatos’ book break down.

Many of the illustrations in her book are of Minoan buildings or religious items that don’t depict people. But a large number of them, from seal impressions to frescoes to figurines, show Minoan people in a wide range of poses and settings.

The count? 68 images of women alone, 62 of just men, and 27 that include both male and female figures. Also, seven pictures of ancient Minoan items that have human figures on them, but we can’t tell for sure whether they’re male or female.

Dr. Marinatos’ book offers an accurate, broad representation of the finds we have from ancient Crete. Note that the numbers of men and women in the art are roughly the same. There’s no great disparity between them.

Just as women are depicted in ritual settings, so are men. We can see young male figures in loincloths and older, bearded ones in long robes. Men make toasts and ritual gestures. Boys participate in puberty rites.

To say that men aren't represented in Minoan art, or are poorly represented compared to women, is incorrect. Some of my favorite images from Minoan art include the beautiful gold seal rings showing men and women participating in ritual together.

I can understand the tendency to assume that one sex was dominant over the other in ancient Crete since that’s our modern paradigm.

Maybe it's time to start thinking outside this rather narrow box we're in so we can better understand other kinds of cultures.

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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.


  • Thesseli
    Thesseli Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    This article makes me think of this story -- -- an in particular this part: "We just heard a fascinating and disturbing study, where they looked at the ratio of men and women in groups. And they found that if there's 17 percent women, the men in the group think it's 50-50. And if there's 33 percent women, the men perceive that as there being more women in the room than men." In our society, we are so used to seeing so little female representation that anything even approaching equality seems dangerously skewed in favor of women. The "Smurfette Principle" (or the "Territorial Smurfette", if there are two women present) is taken as normal. Women make up half the human race but lots of people just can't see it.

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Wednesday, 01 April 2015

    That's kind of disturbing, but I guess it's a reminder that what we think we see isn't necessarily the same as what's really there.

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