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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In sickness and in health: Plague thinking in Minoan Crete

The coronavirus pandemic seems to weasel its way into every conversation these days. So I've been thinking about how the ancient Minoans might have dealt with something like this. Communicable disease was a big problem in the ancient world, partly because they didn't have the drugs and medical care that we do, and partly because they didn't always understand how disease spread.

The Minoans were apparently well known for their medical knowledge. The London Medical Papyrus, an Egyptian document, includes two Minoan incantations against disease. These would have been combined with herbal or other therapy, since illness was considered to have a magical or spiritual component as well as a physical one.

I suspect that the advanced sanitation in the Minoan cities lowered their levels of some diseases compared to other cultures of their time. Water brought into cities from mountain springs via aqueducts, enclosed terracotta pipes to move water around in the cities, and enclosed sewers to remove waste must have limited the spread of illnesses like cholera, dysentery, and typhoid. That might have contributed to the Minoans' reputation as well, if they magically appeared not to succumb to these illnesses the way people in other regions did.

But what about diseases like measles or smallpox? Fancy sewers won't prevent the spread of those. In later times, people often thought illness was spread through "bad air" (that's literally what malaria means). But people also blamed certain ethnic groups for spreading disease, as if those groups were somehow dirty or tainted. During Tutankhamun's reign in Egypt, a plague of some sort (we don't know the exact disease) caused enough devastation that the pharaoh deported large numbers of "Asiatics" (people from the Levant) out of the Nile delta region.

I'd like to think the Minoans didn't do anything like that, but it's honestly impossible to tell. They were an island culture, so in a pinch they could simply close their ports. I have to wonder whether they ever did that. Surely at least some of the cities did so during widespread outbreaks of disease.

And they would have turned to their deities during times of illness. The Great Mothers - Rhea, Therasia, and Posidaeja - are the "high powers" within our modern Minoan pantheon. They're who I generally turn to in times of illness or distress. But we don't know who the ancient Minoans called to when disease ran rampant through their population. Maybe, like some other cultures, they thought disease rose up from the Underworld, like fumes from a volcanic chasm. In that case, they might have called on any of the deities who have power in the Underworld: Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Melissae, the Serpent Mother. Certainly, the current pandemic is bringing a lot of our shadows out into the daylight, so Underworld deities would be helpful in dealing with that energy.

Who do you call to when you need help and support in times of illness? I hope you also maintain a relationship with that deity when you're well and strong. Having long-term relationships with the gods and goddesses is what bolsters us and gives us their strength to lean on in times of crisis. They're bigger than we are, and that's a good thing.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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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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