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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Minoan Birds: Goddess on the Wing

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Birds of all kinds are a common theme in Minoan art. We find them in natural settings and in ritual art. Some of them probably belong to the iconography of specific Minoan deities. But some of them may point back to the Neolithic Bird Goddess who was worshiped in Anatolia back in the time and place that the Minoans' ancestors came from.

In many cases, the artist depicted the birds with naturalistic realism, to the point that we can identify the specific species. These images include a wild rock dove (upper left), swallows (upper right and lower left) and red-legged partridges:


Realistic Birds in Minoan Art


There are many other birds that aren't shown in natural settings, but in the context of rituals and sacred settings. Here, for instance, some birds of unknown species are sitting on top of the labryses in a funeral rite depicted on the Hagia Triada sarcophagus.


Hagia Triada sarcophagus detail


And these lovely doves are perched on top of columns in a similar way:


Doves on Pillars


In addition to these realistic-looking birds, the Minoans produced some very imaginative ones. For centuries on the island of Thera (modern name: Santorini), in the city of Akrotiri and nearby, artisans produced jugs and pitchers that had eyes painted on them so the spouts became beaks and the jugs became birds. These are called, appropriately enough, beaked pitchers:


Bird shaped jugs from Thera


This combination of bird imagery with a vessel from which liquids are poured is interesting, especially since libations were such a big part of Minoan spiritual practice.

In ancient Crete, libation pitchers often included breast symbolism, suggesting a connection with the Mother Goddess and her ability to nurture and nourish her children. That makes this particular rhyton all the more interesting, since it has both wings and a beaked face but also breasts from which the liquid pours:

Breast rhyton with bird characteristics


Pitchers and rhytons like these suggest a more general Bird Goddess, like the one from back in Neolithic Anatolia, rather than a particular species of bird that might be associated with a specific deity.

Who was this Bird Goddess? What was her name? Why did her worship apparently continue alongside newer, more specific goddesses? These are questions we may never be able to satisfactorily answer, but we can certainly explore these images and do our best to connect with her through meditations and spirit journeys.

We can't go back in time, but I'm pretty sure the deities can come forward with us. How will you seek the Minoan Bird Goddess, and what will she tell you when you find her?

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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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