Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

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Minoan Ecstatic Postures: The Realm of the Dead

A couple of weeks ago I started exploring some of the ritual postures we find in Minoan art, mostly in the form of bronze and terracotta figurines. I began with the famous Minoan Salute and then had a look at the posture I call Shading the Eyes (and no, that’s not an ancient Minoan Weeping Angel, I promise! LOL).

This week I’ve done some experimentation with a posture that’s most common in Cycladic art, one that appears to link the user to the Realm of the Dead. You can see an example of it in the photo at the top of this post. These figurines, usually made of marble, show a person (most often a woman) with their arms across their abdomen, the left arm above the right.

These little statues have been found in graves all over the Cyclades, including Crete. I explored this pose a while back by doing it standing up, as Belinda Gore suggests in her book Ecstatic Body Postures. But since then I’ve learned a few things about these figurines that made me question the way she uses the pose.

Ms. Gore describes the pose as being done standing up, probably because that’s the way these figurines are usually displayed in museums so that’s how they look in photos. The thing is, most archaeologists believe they were actually designed to lie down, not stand up. They’re generally found lying down in the graves when they’re discovered. And if you look at the feet (there are a bunch of different examples on my Cycladic art Pinterest board) you can see that in most cases, the feet are angled so the figurine wouldn’t be able to stand up by itself.

When I worked with this posture standing up, I did indeed journey to the Realm of the Dead, just like Ms. Gore’s book said would happen. The thing is, I couldn’t do anything there. I couldn’t contact the Ancestors; I couldn’t interact with anyone or anything. All I could do was just be present there, but even that became uncomfortable after I had been there a while, as I began to feel that the Dead were drawing me to them and wanted me to stay. No thanks! I had to ask one of my guides to help me leave.

A big part of what we modern (and slightly crazy) folks are doing with these ritual postures is experimentation to figure out how they were used all those centuries or millennia ago. That way we can add them to our modern spiritual toolkit and use them safely and effectively. So I figured, if these statues were originally designed to lie down, then I’d try the pose that way as well. Bingo!

I didn’t fall asleep, which is often a problem for me when I try to meditate lying down. Instead, I journeyed quickly and smoothly to the place in the Otherworld that’s my ‘working spot’ as a psychopomp. Of course, there was no one there because there’s no one in my ‘tribe’ who needs help crossing over right now. But this position took me to the right place with far less effort and concentration than I usually need.

In Ecstatic Body Postures, Ms. Gore identifies this posture as the Realm of the Dead pose and calls a different one the Psychopomp posture. I think she has mis-identified this one because she didn’t understand how the figurines were supposed to be positioned. If you do psychopomp work, you might try this pose and see if it helps your process.

As a side note, I also tried the variation of this pose that Ms. Gore describes as being depicted “in a catalogue from a Mexican art exhibit in Venice, Italy” (no further details, unfortunately). The arm position is the same as the image above but the person sits upright in a modified Lotus position, with the left leg crossed in front of the right. This pose led me quickly into one of the deeply misty, get-lost-quick parts of the Realm of the Dead. I got a very bad feeling right away and had to have help from one of my guides to get out. I don’t recommend experimentation with this variation unless you’re very experienced at safeguarding yourself in other realms.

But I do recommend you try the original pose, which I’m calling the Cycladic Psychopomp. Even if you aren’t planning on doing any soul-guiding, it can be reassuring to know the way to the crossover point for when your own time comes—which I hope is many long years hence! And it's a good place to go to call on your own dearly departed for advice and support in your life.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen! 

 

One year ago on the Minoan Path blog: Minos the Moon God? http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/the-minoan-path/minos-the-moon-god.html

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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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