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?

Find out all about Ariadne's Tribe at We're an inclusive, welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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Minoan Ecstasy: Filling the empty spaces

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

What's missing in modern life (and most modern western religion) that sends people in search of everything from Peruvian ayahuasca rituals to Native American sweat lodges and peyote ceremonies? Ecstasy.

I don't mean the street drug, but the state of consciousness that takes us out of the ordinary and transports us closer to the numinous, the divine.

A while back I wrote about how most of the modern world is ecstasy deprived. We're so steeped in the post-Enlightenment materialist mindset that we forget to look beyond the physical to see what else is around us. We also forget that each of us is more than just physical, that we have amazing abilities to transcend our "daily grind" state of consciousness.

The Minoans knew all about altered states of consciousness. They used opium, alcohol (mead/wine/beer), and probably ergot and mushrooms as well - in addition to rhythmic sound and movement (drumming, rattling, dancing) - to step out of the ordinary and into the sublime.

At the top of this post you can see a drawing of a Minoan seal ring from the Isopata cemetery near Knossos. On this ring, four women are dancing in ecstatic states in some kind of ritual. They have bells attached to their skirts to add to the rhythmic sound, and the goddess (the tiny floating epiphany figure) is descending to them. The wriggling snakes give us another clue that this is an ecstatic trance activity: Serpent-like shapes are the single most commonly reported visual effect of hallucinogens.

Ecstatic trance states were common in rituals throughout the ancient world and may go back millennia to Paleolithic times.

But what about us modern folks? How are we supposed to fill in the empty space that so many of us feel?

You could spend a lot of money to travel somewhere that hallucinogens are legal. But there are quite a few indigenous medicine people who really don't like us First World-ers showing up at their doorstep for ayahuasca ceremonies. And there's always the danger that whoever is serving the ayahuasca doesn't really know what they're doing; the almighty dollar is a powerful incentive to make stuff up as you go along.

So what's a modern Pagan to do? We actually have quite a few options, each of which will work pretty well by itself. But if you combine two or more of them, you'll get a much deeper experience.

To start, you might try rhythmic sound. You could play a drum or rattle yourself, join a drumming circle, or listen to a recording (there are plenty of good ones out there). Drumming entrains your brain activity and puts you in a mild trance state without your having to do anything except listen. I find I can solve problems that I'm "stuck" on if I allow my thoughts to wander during this kind of state.

You could use ecstatic postures. I've written about them here. This is an ancient practice (chaos magicians would call it a kind of "tech") that uses specific body positions to bring about altered states of consciousness. Ancient people depicted these postures in their sacred art, particularly in figurines, and we can use these to make our own journeys into the numinous.

If you're interested in this technique, I recommend Belinda Gore's excellent book Ecstatic Body Postures: An Alternate Reality Workbook. This method does take some practice; you need to be able to reach a meditative state before assuming the posture. Ms. Gore recommends simple breathing techniques and drumming, which have worked well for me.

What if you want to reach some kind of ecstatic or trance state in ritual, to commune with your deities or find healing and purpose? Again, rhythmic sound and movement are excellent methods. Your favorite drumming album plus a simple circle dance would be a great way to provide gentle trance entrainment for the participants in a ritual.

But remember, this isn't for recreation. You should always have a purpose defined ahead of time for this sort of activity. Are you seeking communion with a deity? Looking for the answer to a question? Hoping to find a new spirit helper? Decide ahead of time where you're going, so to speak, and you'll have a more fulfilling experience all round.

You can add certain (perfectly legal) herbs and resins to these activities to enhance the experience. Frankincense has a mild hallucinogenic effect, as do bay leaves, European sage, and mugwort. Burn any of these as incense to amplify the trance state (though obviously, not if you're allergic to any of them or have medical conditions that contraindicate their use - please use common sense here).

The Minoans, like many ancient people, had a long-practiced, codified set of methods for achieving deep trance states. Their clergy appear to have practiced trance possession, in which the deity comes into the body of the clergy and speaks through them.

This is a much more difficult activity than simply allowing yourself to slip into a mild ecstatic state. It requires patience, hard work, and more than a little self-discipline, and it isn't something you can do alone. If you're interested in working toward this kind of activity, I recommend two excellent books to get you started: Trance-Portation: Learning to Navigate the Inner World by Diana Paxson and Lifting the Veil: A Witches' Guide to Trance-Prophesy, Drawing Down the Moon, and Ecstatic Ritual by Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone. Take it seriously, do the work, and you can develop the skills for some really profound experiences.

There are ways to remedy our ecstasy deprivation, the lack of the numinous in the modern mundane world. I do them on a regular basis. So pick up your rattle or put on your favorite drumming album and let yourself be transported. You'll feel better for it, I promise.

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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.


  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham Wednesday, 08 February 2017

    Years ago I took my mother to a Maundy Thursday service at her church. I could feel the energy rising and I looked forward to a moving experience, and then the minister started to speak, and all the energy died. I don't know what he talked about, I know it wasn't the last supper or the garden of gethsemane, he just rambled on. Years latter I read in one of Orion Foxwood's books that the minister's job is to take the congregation to the spirit world and bring them back. If that's true than I'm afraid that most ministers are trained not to do so. I left that service with a deep feeling of frustration and disappointment.

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Thursday, 09 February 2017

    That kind of experience is all too common, especially among the Protestant traditions, where 'a bunch of people sitting around in a room listening to someone talk' is about the size of it. I have several relatives who are Protestant ministers, and from what I've heard them say, it's not so much that they're trained to avoid giving the congregation a transformational experience, but that issue isn't even raised during their seminary training, so only those ministers who have a natural knack for it can do it. I think that may be why the ecstatic Protestant sects like the Pentecostals and the African Methodist Episcopal church have such an appeal to so many people.

    When I was a teenager, I seriously considered becoming Catholic (my family was Protestant and, though I knew I was ultimately Pagan, I had no access to others of the same streak) just so I would have access to a deeper experience during worship. But during the time I was researching and taking classes, all the local Catholic churches switched from the traditional worship service, which is really quite powerful, to a more modern, casual one that totally lost that transformative sense of a sacred, ecstatic experience.

    Of course, this is an issue within the Pagan community as well. I've participated in ceremonies, and run some as well, that simply didn't take anyone anywhere. In addition to our own private efforts to reach these expanded states of consciousness, it would be great if there were resources available for Pagan leaders to learn how to use these skills with a group. Even after years of leading rituals, both small/private and large/public, I still find it to be somewhat hit-or-miss in terms of, as you say, taking the group to the spirit world and bringing them back.

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