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: What about the rules?

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Different people approach spiritual practice in different ways. Some people like detailed rules for how to set up their altar, prepare for ritual, perform ritual, and clean up afterward. Others prefer a more open approach, following general guidelines but allowing their intuition to guide them for much of what they do.

Some spiritual traditions fall squarely in that first category as well, practices such as Hellenic and Roman Paganism, simply because we have extensive texts from those cultures telling us exactly how those people practiced their religion: What was allowed, what was required, what was forbidden. But for many ancient religions, we have few to no written sources to tell us how it was done. The religion practiced by the Minoans of Bronze Age Crete is one of those.

First of all, we can't read Linear A, the script the Minoans used to record their native language. The closest we can come is Linear B, the script the Mycenaeans used for administrative records at Knossos and several sites in mainland Greece. The Linear B tablets are records of temple donations and offerings, which only tells us what people gave to the big religious institutions during the time the Mycenaeans were pretty much running Crete. So we have no written sources to tell us how the Minoans practiced their religion.

We do have a lot of art and artifacts: frescoes and seals showing ritual scenes; offering tables and libation pitchers; votive figurines left as offerings at peak sanctuaries and cave shrines; altar furnishings and incense burners. 

As modern Pagans, we can make some educated guesses about what went on in those ritual scenes and how many of those artifacts were used. In fact, we're probably better positioned to interpret those objects than most archaeologists are, since they have no experience of actual Pagan spiritual practice. But interpretation is the key word here. We're not ancient people with a Bronze Age worldview. We don't have written instructions so we have to try things out and see how they work. This is where things get uncomfortable for people who are used to having hard-and-fast rules to play by.

If you come from a background like eclectic Wicca or some of the African syncretic traditions, listening to the gods and goddesses and following their lead may be familiar to you. In our materialistic modern world, it can be difficult to learn to hear our own inner voices, much less the things the deities are trying to communicate to us. But in Modern Minoan Paganism, that's a big part of what we do. We listen, and then we experiment.

I don't guess what we do really counts as experimental archaeology, but it's kin to the practice in some ways. We take what we know about Minoan religion, listen to what we think the gods and goddesses are telling us, then go ahead and do the ritual and see what happens.

Sometimes it all goes smoothly and it feels like the gods are happy with what we've done. Sometimes something feels wrong, off-kilter, and we back up and try again. And sometimes we get strong messages that we've gone off the rails. I've had people repeatedly trip over thin air in ritual; I've had ritual tools knocked out of my hand by invisible forces, in full view of the entire group. When we get that tap on the shoulder, we back up and try again, listening more carefully via meditation, shamanic journeying, and similar methods. All the rituals in Labrys & Horns and Ariadne's Thread have been through this "vetting" process; some of them were trickier than others.

When we find practices that work for us, we share them and let others try them as well. When a bunch of us have success with a particular ritual or format, we add it to our collection.

But we can't assume that anything we do, even the powerfully successful rituals, is identical to the way the ancient Minoans practiced their religion. We're modern Pagans relating to the Minoan gods and goddesses in the modern world. I'm pretty sure the gods understand that the world changes over time. I'm just glad we're still able to connect, because my life would be much poorer without them.

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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