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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Modern Minoan Paganism: no rules to break

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

A while back, I wrote a blog post about how there isn't really a rule book in Modern Minoan Paganism in terms of how people have to practice their spirituality. Unlike some named traditions, Modern Minoan Paganism is more a wide pathway than a strict method.

Yes, we have our pantheon full of all kinds of deities, and we do interpret them in specific ways. And we have our preferred activities and focal points: altarslabyrinth walking, offerings and libations, even ecstatic body postures. These are things we all share, though not everyone gets into everything equally.

But beyond that? The most important thing a practitioner of Modern Minoan Paganism can do is listen. Listen to their own intuition and to the divine as it speaks to them, and then act accordingly. That's why we call this a spirit-led tradition.

Here's the thing: In ancient Crete, formal religion was an institutionalized affair, just like it was everywhere else during the Bronze Age. There were big temples that served as the religious and administrative centers for the land. There were mountaintop and cave shrines with professional priests and priestesses staffing them. Sure, people had home altars and shrines just like modern Pagans do, but the big temples were still there, looming over the cities, telling people how and when to worship. They were the cathedrals of their day (or maybe the cathedrals are the temples of their day...)

As much as we might like to think Minoan society was a completely loving, open, hippie-like free-for-all, the fact is, their religious institutions were formally structured and probably hierarchical. There were surey rules about who could join and what they were allowed to do, or required to do, once they were a part of the temple. There were probably rules about who could or couldn't serve certain deities and who could or couldn't hold certain positions within each temple. There were people who could give you permission, or deny your request, or maybe let you bend the rules. Some of the required activities in the temples involved animal sacrifice and maybe even human sacrifice.

Not something I care to bring back, if you see what I mean.

We can't reconstruct ancient Minoan religion down to the details. But even if we could, I wouldn't want to. The world is a different place now than it was 3500+ years ago. Some stuff simply wouldn't fit, and I'm not just talking about the sacrifice bit.

So instead, we take the parts of Minoan religion that have meaning for us as modern Pagans, and we use them to develop relationships with the Minoan deities in the modern world. Each of us reveres whichever gods and/or goddesses we feel called to. We build our altars and say our devotionals and if we're lucky, we together with other folks and walk labyrinths and have rituals.

When I say "we" do all these things, I mean the folks in Ariadne's Tribe, the online group where we share our spiritual adventures and drool over Minoan artifacts and hash out what each deity and practice really means to us in modern Pagan practice.

I'm the facilitator of the group but I'm not the dictator (or even the High Priestess). If anything, I'm the one who collates all the information and ideas we come up with into a coherent form that we can then use in our spiritual practice.

A dear friend once said she thought I had done a good job of developing a group that acts like a real Round Table, where everyone genuinely has a say. That's one of the greatest compliments I think I've ever gotten.

I do occasionally get someone in the group asking, "Is it OK if I do [INSERT SPIRITUAL ACTIVITY HERE]?" Well, of course it is. It's your spiritual path. You might want to check with others and see if they've done the same thing and find out whether they had any trouble with it (the Minoan deities love some offerings and dislike others, for instance). But it's up to you. We don't have a big temple with a hierarchy and formal rules and prohibitions. If your activity turns out to be a fulfilling one, it's great to share that so others can try it as well. But that's up to you.

If you're used to a spiritual practice that tells you what to do - gives you a set of step-by-step instructions right out of the box, so to speak - then it can be quite daunting to be told, "Just listen to what the gods say and follow their lead." It's not the kind of thing most people are used to. And it does take practice to learn to hear that inner voice, that intuition that tells you what needs to go on your altar, which deities you should connect with, how you should make offerings. It's easier to just follow a set of instructions, and yes, there is power in rituals that have been repeated exactly the same way over and over.

But we don't have access to the exact rites the ancient Minoans performed. So when we practice, we're working with Bronze Age deities in a silicon-age world. That's its very own unique thing, and it works best when each of us listens deeply and follows the lead of the gods and our own intuition. And shares with others, when we feel comfortable doing so.

Ultimately, each of us has to bear the responsibility for our own spiritual practice, just like we have to bear the responsibility for the consequences of all our other actions. So I'm not going to tell anyone what they can or can't do; that's between them and the gods.

Though, of course, I will try to dissuade them from the human sacrifice thing. Probably. ;-)

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

 

Image: The Ring of Minos, modern art interpretation of a (possibly forged) Minoan gold seal ring by Laura Perry

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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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