Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

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Journeying to the Realm of the Dead

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Ancient Minoan civilization was part of a widespread Bronze Age cultural group that encompassed much of the Mediterranean. This included the Cyclades, a large group of islands off the southeast coast of Greece, just north of Crete. At the center of the Cyclades is the island of Delos, which was sacred to a number of the Aegean Bronze Age societies, including the Minoans. In fact, it figures prominently in the Theseus-and-Ariadne myth.

The Cyclades had their own culture that included a unique art style: small figurines carved out of white marble, with a simplistic style that looks almost post-modern. The photo above shows the most widespread type of figurine, a female figure with her arms crossed over her abdomen, the left above the right. Some male carvings in a similar posture have been found, but by far the majority are female. The interesting thing is, they all come from Cycladic graves.

I recently reviewed a fascinating book, Ecstatic Body Postures by Belinda Gore. The author presents the idea that many of the figurines we find from ancient cultures depict postures that were used for shamanic rituals. Each pose has a particular function and meaning. I've been working with these positions for several months now, and I have to say I agree with the author: They are a kind of shamanic technology.

I recently used the posture from the Cycladic figurines to do some journeying. Ms. Gore calls this pose the Realm of the Dead Posture and states that it has been found not just in the Cyclades but also in the form of a figurine from fifth century BCE Germany. I can tell you, this posture does indeed help with journeys to the Realm of the Dead, and that suggests ways in which it might have been used by the living - and reasons why these little figurines might have been included in the Cycladic graves.

One thing spiritworkers (shamans) do is to help the dying find their way from this life to the next. This function, of helping a soul journey to the Realm of the Dead, is performed by the psychopomp. Many deities, including Ariadne and Dionysus, have been labeled as psychopomps in their respective mythologies. But in ordinary life, this function was carried out (and still is, in some groups and societies) by a human being.

I think that, by placing these little figurines in the graves of their loved ones, the ancient people of the Cyclades were assuring them that the proper shamanic rituals were being done to make sure their souls reached the Realm of the Dead swiftly and safely. What a loving way to send a soul to the Ancestors.

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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