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 an independent polytheist spiritual tradition that brings the gods and goddesses 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 Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: https://ariadnestribe.wordpress.com/. We're a welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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Modern Minoan Paganism: The Full Pantheon

Over the past six years, what began as a tiny collection of people in a FB group has evolved into a full-fledged pagan tradition: Modern Minoan Paganism (MMP). Yes, I'm as astounded as you are. One aspect of that evolution is that we've spent quite a lot of time researching and developing relationships with different deities, some of whom we didn't even realize existed until very recently. Today, I'm sharing with you the full pantheon. Beginning next week, I'll focus on one deity per week, sharing their iconography that we find in Minoan art.

MMP is a revivalist tradition. We're not attempting to reconstruct either the pantheon or the religious practices of the ancient Minoans - that's probably not possible anyway, since we can't read their writing in Linear A. But just be aware that this is the pantheon we use as modern Pagans. We honestly can't say whether or not this is how the Minoans interacted with the deities, but it's pretty clearly the way the gods and goddesses want us to interact with them now.

Please note that the Minoan deities don't fit neatly into a human-style family tree the way the Greek and Roman gods do. In fact, though we do have mother and daughter/son deities, overall the pantheon behaves a lot more like a carnival funhouse full of mirrors than a family tree, with some deities being twins or aspects of others, sometimes in multiple layers. Don't tell me I didn't warn you!

In MMP, our primary deities are a trio of mother goddesses who represent the realms of land, sky, and sea. The rest of the pantheon unfolds from the Three:

Rhea: She's the Minoan Earth mother goddess, the land of Crete itself. Rhea is the name most people know her by, but some of us call her Ida (pronounced ee-DAH), another of her ancient names, as well as the Mountain Mother - there are several mountain peaks on Crete that are sacred to her. You can find out more about her here

Therasia: The very ancient but new-to-us Minoan Sun goddess. She represents the sky portion of the great triplicity and was probably the original harbinger of the seasons and apportioner of the solar year. Find out more about her here

Posidaeja: Grandmother Ocean, out of whose waters the beautiful island of Crete rises. She was very important to the Minoans, who relied on the Mediterranean Sea both for food and as a means of travel and trade. More about her here and here.

The Three Mothers have children, of course. First, they have daughters and sons in triplets, just like the triplicity of the Mothers. But ultimately, all the Minoan gods and goddesses are their children - and so, in a sense, are all of us who have relationships with them. First, the three daughters:

Ariadne: Who hasn't heard of Ariadne and her ball of thread? But the Greeks got her story wrong (probably on purpose). She wasn't a human girl, but a goddess. Her Labyrinth wasn't a cage for a monster, but a sacred ritual dance and path for spiritual growth along with the Minotaur, who turns out to have been a god after all (he's on this list a little farther down, among his fellow Horned Ones). She also plays a major role in the Minoan version of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Instead of Demeter and Persephone, the Minoan version tells the story of Rhea and Ariadne, with no abduction involved. So yes, Ariadne is Rhea's daughter.

Arachne: This Spinner of Fate was "demoted" to the status of mere mortal in the tale the Greeks told, but we know her as a fate goddess, daughter of our Sun goddess Therasia. As you might guess, the ancient skills of spinning and weaving are sacred to her. It's probably her thread that Ariadne famously uses in the Labyrinth. Dyeing cloth is a related activity whose patron goddess we call Potnia Chromaton, Lady of the Colors. She is closely tied to both Arachne and Arachne's mother, Therasia.

Antheia: The Star of the Sea is Posidaeja's daughter as well as the Minoan face of Aphrodite, an ancient goddess who pre-dates the Greeks. Though Aphrodite herself hails from Cyprus, she appears to have been imported to Crete in Minoan times. She's not a pin-up, but a goddess of beauty and love in an inclusive sense.

In addition to daughters, the Three Mothers have sons as well:

Tauros Asterion: The starry bull is an ancient god, son of the Earth Mother. We connect him with the constellation Taurus. Zagreus and the Minotaur are two of his faces from Minoan times, but we approach him as Tauros Asterion when we want to build a relationship with this earthy-starry being who embodies "as above, so below."

Korydallos: The Lark, son of the Sun goddess, was a surprise discovery via research into the folk dances of the ancient Mediterranean. He's a joyous god with a sense of humor, sometimes a rather trickstery one. We associate him with culture, craftsmanship, and word play - and also with Daedalus (see below). Find out more about him here.

Dionysus: So much more than just a party god, he is the source of sacred intoxication, the god of fermentation and other kinds of magical transformations. Later on the Minoan Dionysus was combined with a similar ecstatic god from Phrygia, but during Minoan times he was very much the god of the vine and, eventually, of the solar year. In MMP we consider him to be Posidaeja's son, the psychopomp for sailors and others who die at sea; the dolphin is his animal.

Now for the rest of the pantheon.

The Horned Ones: Three pairs of horned animal deities that were worshiped in different times and places in Minoan Crete. Though the cow/bull Horned Ones are the most famous, they're probably also the most recent. There was a time when there were no cattle on Crete. We think that the original Horned Ones from very early times were goat, deer, and ibex deities.

Minotaur: The Moon-Bull, the most famous of all the Minoan Horned Ones because the Greeks turned him into a monster in their stories. He does dwell in the Labyrinth, but not as a monster, I promise. He's one of Tauros Asterion's faces, and he and Europa are a pair.

Europa: The Moon-Cow; she and Pasiphaë are twins and may originally have been the same goddess. A spurt of her milk created the Milky Way (or maybe a spurt of Rhea's milk did it, or maybe Europa is an aspect of Rhea - remember what I said about the carnival fun house?).

Minocapros: The Moon-Goat who capers through Minoan art with long, curing horns and a mischievous nature. He's paired with the goddess Amalthea.

Amalthea: The goat-goddess who gave us the sacred cornucopia from which all good things flow. She fed the infant Dionysus with her sweet milk and is sometimes described as Rhea's sister or twin (kind of like Europa). Find out more about her here and find an abundance ritual that calls on her here.

Minelathos: The Moon-Stag found in Minoan frescoes and seal stone art, often in the form of a fallow deer stag. He's paired with the goddess Britomartis.

Britomartis/Diktynna: This deer goddess is both the huntress and the hunted. She is associated with the sacred Mt. Dikte in Crete. Her later connections with the sea are due to some linguistic confusion; she was originally a mountain and land/nature goddess.

The Serpent Mother: This enigmatic figure is an Underworld goddess, associated with both Ariadne and Ourania. The Snake Goddess figurines that we use to represent her are iconic of Minoan art and religion.

Zagreus: His name means something like "the dismembered one," which is pretty clearly a shamanic image - dismemberment is a common method of transformation in shamanic work. A face of Tauros Asterion, he's a bull-god who comes wreathed in flowers in the spring.

The Melissae: Ancestral bee-goddesses or spirits associated with the Underworld, the harvest, and ecstatic trance states. Ariadne is the Queen Bee, the head of the Melissae in her role as guardian of the spirits of the dead. More about them here.

Minos: Underworld judge of the dead, probably originally a lunar god. Like Ariadne and the Melissae, he protects the souls of the dead in the Underworld.

Eileithyia: Midwife goddess who protects women in labor and childbirth. She also delivers the soul of the newborn infant into its body. She is also Ariadne's torch-bearer during the time Ariadne resides in the Underworld, and we consider her to be the Underworld or dark face of our Sun goddess.

Daedalus: Inventor/smith god, creator of the Labyrinth and Ariadne's dancing floor. Some of us know him as Talos, and we connect him with Korydallos as well. The Minoans were a Bronze Age people so he would have been in charge of bronze smithing as well as the creation of metal objects of gold, silver, and copper. More about him and the Daktyls and Hekaterides here.

Daktyls and Hekaterides: Demi-gods and demi-goddesses who arose out of Rhea's finger-marks in the Earth. Because of their origin story, we call them Hands of Great Skill. The Daktyls are male and the Hekaterides are female. We associate the Daktyls with bronze-smithing and the Hekaterides with pottery-making. More about them and Daedalus here.

Ourania: Great Cosmic Mother-of-All. She is the starry night sky, the fabric of the universe itself. Some of use experience her as a great black vulture, perhaps going back as far as the home of the Minoans' ancestors in Neolithic Anatolia.

So there you have it, the MMP pantheon. Get to know them - they're all quite interesting.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen!

 

 

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Laura Perry is an artist, writer, and the founder and facilitator of Modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a passion of hers since a fateful art history class introduced her to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. Her first book was published in 2001; one of her most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. She has also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When she's not busy drawing and writing, you can find her in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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