Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, loving goddess of ancient Crete who lives on in the hearts and minds of the modern world. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a purely 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 Pottery: It's NOT all Greek to me

One of the more frustrating aspects of practicing Modern Minoan Paganism and studying ancient Minoan culture is that we can't read Linear A, the script the Minoans used to write their native language. So we have to rely on the fragments of Minoan myth and history that have trickled down to us via the Greeks (the Minoans weren't Greek - they were their very own independent Bronze Age culture).

This means we don't even know the words the Minoans used for ordinary objects like cups and bowls. The archaeologists who first excavated Minoan sites had backgrounds in Greek history, myth, and culture, so they simply used the Greek terms for the pottery they unearthed. That's why libation pitchers from ancient Crete are called rhytons (or rhyta, if you want to use the Greek plural); rhyton is the Greek word for this kind of container.

Those giant vases the Minoans used to store the sacred trinity of grain, wine, and oil? We call them pithoi (singular = pithos) because we don't know the word the Minoans used for them, but we know what the Greeks called them.

Every time the archaeologists dug up another kind of ceramic vessel, they matched it to the closest similar container from later Greek culture and gave it that name. This system worked really well until they came across a very popular type of cup from ancient Crete. You can see a few of them in the picture at the top of this blog. This particular shape didn't exist in Hellenic Greek culture, but it was very familiar to the Victorian and Edwardian-era archaeologists who found the first ones. So what did they call them? Teacups!

Now, the Minoans didn't have black tea, or coffee for that matter. We don't honestly know what they drank out of these loop-handled cups. They range in size from what we might call a demitasse cup all the way up to soup bowl size. They could have used them for water, milk, wine, beer, herbal tea - even soup.

But we still don't know what the Minoans called them. Maybe one day we will.

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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