Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan pantheon. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a reconstructionist tradition, but a journey in relationship with Minoan deities in the contemporary 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 Ecstatic Postures: Saluting the Sacred

If you participate in ritual, you're probably familiar with the idea of sacred postures. Many modern Pagan traditions include gestures such as the "Osiris pose" (arms crossed over the chest with hands on the shoulders) or the "Goddess pose" (arms raised to the sides with hands up and palms facing forward). Ancient religions included sacred postures as well. One of the most famous is the Minoan salute, shown above, with the right arm raised and the loosely-curled fist placed with the back of the hand against the forehead (all images in this post are from Wikimedia Commons).

Those of us who practice modern Minoan Paganism have worked extensively with the Minoan salute. Like other sacred postures, if held for a while, it will induce a gently altered state of consciousness. Belinda Gore and the folks at the Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico have studied the effects and uses of ecstatic postures for years; I reviewed Belinda Gore's excellent book on ecstatic postures a while back. It turns out, the use of ritual postures goes back to the Stone Age and each one induces an altered state with a slightly different focus. And the Minoans had a whole collection of postures they used, not just the famous salute. Over in Ariadne's Tribe, we've been experimenting with these postures for a while and sharing our experiences so we can have an experiential window into ancient Minoan spirituality.

I should point out that all these postures were used by worshipers, not priests or priestesses. There are specific poses used by the priesthood in ancient Crete, and I'll do another post about them. But the postures I'm sharing today were used by ordinary people who were approaching the gods for worship or to ask a favor. In fact, we know about a lot of these postures because the figurines were left as offerings at cave and peak sanctuaries.

Here's one that depicts a woman with one hand on her forehead and the other on her shoulder:

Minoan figurine of praying woman

It's very similar to this posture, in which the woman has both hands loosely curled and placed on her forehead: 

Minoan figuring of woman in sacred posture

Of course, we don't know the exact circumstances in which these postures were used in Minoan times, but experimentation with these two poses suggests that they are postures of supplication - asking (indeed, almost begging) the gods for something and humbling yourself in order to do so. That makes sense in terms of the figurines being used as offerings at sacred sites, where people often made pilgrimages to ask for help from the gods.

Here are a couple more Minoan ritual postures, this time depicted in terracotta (all the previous ones are bronze figurines):

Minoan man and woman in ritual postures

These poses feel more like ritual postures that are meant to honor the gods and show respect for them, much like the Osiris pose and Goddess pose from modern Paganism. All the figurines I've shown here are from about the same period (1600-1500 BCE) so it's a good bet that all these different ritual postures were in use at the same time, during the height of Minoan civilization.

Have you used ritual or ecstatic postures in your spiritual practice? I encourage you to try these poses in meditation and ritual and see where they lead you.

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 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, you can find me in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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