Ariadne's Tribe: Minoan Spirituality for the Modern World

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan family of deities. Ariadne's Tribe is an independent spiritual tradition that brings the deities 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 Ariadne's Tribe at We're an inclusive, welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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Myth-information: Minoan facts, rumors, and wild tales

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The Internet is a great source of information, but it turns out that it's also a repository of out-of-date and incorrect ideas that keep getting passed around again and again simply because they're floating around in cyberspace. Believe it or not, the Minoans are the subject of quite a few of these bits of misinformation.

In the interest of efficiency, here's the list of Minoan-related concepts that I find myself having to explain most often. Don't panic; I believed many of them myself at one time. But it's a good idea to set the record straight. Plus, this way I have a link to point people to instead of having to constantly repeat myself. :-)

Linear A has not been translated. Linear A is the script the Minoans used to write their native language. We simply don't have enough texts to do a decipherment. It's not a matter of inspiration, but simple math: deciphering requires a minimum amount of text. A computer can't magically decipher a language with less text; all a computer does is the same thing humans do, only faster. Some people get Linear A confused with Linear B; they do have very similar, painfully unimaginative names. Linear B is a script that was adapted from Linear A in much the same way that the Greek alphabet was adapted to create the Glagolitic/Cyrillic script. Linear B was used to write Mycenaean, an early form of Greek, and was deciphered in the mid-20th century. We still don't know what language Linear A recorded, except that it's the one the Minoans spoke. If you want to see some good work based on our current best guesses with Linear A, check out John Younger's website at the University of Kansas or the SigLA paleographic database. But these are not translations, just some work in that direction.

The Phaistos disc hasn't been deciphered either. Just like with Linear A, every few years someone pops up and insists that they have somehow magically "translated" the symbols on the disc. Again, it's a simple matter of math: it's not possible to do a decipherment of a script unless we have a certain amount of text. Lots of the supposed decipherments out there are kind of inspiring, but I promise you, none of them are factual. The only reason we were able to translate Linear B was that we have so many texts in that script. I'm still holding out hope that we'll find more discs and more Linear A tablets so one day we can do a decipherment of both. Minoan archaeology is ongoing, so that kind of discovery is not out of the question.

There is still no real evidence that the Minoans had any kind of military or monarchy. Just like with the decipherments, every few years someone pops up with some ideas that purport to "prove" that the Minoans had at least a navy, if not a full-blown land-based military, and of course a king. The reason we never hear from these people again is that there is no real basis for their theories. I think the need to find a military within Minoan society says more about modern people than it does about the Minoans. It's certainly possible that they had something like a merchant marine (I think they probably did) but there's not really even any solid evidence of that. Both of these notions, the the Minoans had a military and a monarchy, come from Sir Arthur Evans, the British archaeologist who did the majority of the early excavations at Knossos. He was a big supporter of the British Empire and thought it was the height of civilization. So when he found what he termed a "high civilization" in the ruins of ancient Crete, he assumed it must have the same characteristics as the British Empire, including a monarchy and a military. Neither of these ideas is taken seriously anymore.

The story of Theseus and the labyrinth is Greek, not Minoan. We don't actually have any surviving "whole" Minoan myths. Everything we know about Minoan mythology has come down to us in fragmentary form via the Mycenaeans and later Greeks, none of whom were positively disposed toward the Minoans. Ariadne and Minos were originally Minoan deities, not mortals. The Minotaur was likewise originally a god, not a monster. And Theseus? He's a Greek culture hero, not a part of Minoan mythology. He doesn't appear until centuries after the end of Minoan civilization, and the Minotaur-and-labyrinth story wasn't added to his corpus of myths until a full millennium after the fall of the last Minoan city. It's a normal process as cultures collide for the "conquering" culture to demote and demonize the gods of the "conquered" culture, and that's exactly what happened to the Minoan pantheon at the hands of the Greeks. So we have to do our best to put the Minoan myths back together from the purposely altered fragments the Greeks have left us with.

Horns don't make it a bull. If it's a bovine creature and it has horns, you can't automatically assume it's a bull, even though that's exactly what all the citified Victorian and Edwardian archaeologists did because they didn't know any better. Until very recently, all cattle, both cows and bulls, had horns. Check out some details of this subject in this blog post. Both cows and bulls appear in Minoan art.

There are no actual labyrinths at Knossos. Yes, yes, I know the labyrinth is iconic of Minoan civilization. But nowhere at any Minoan site have we found an actual labyrinth on the ground. There are lots of partial maze-like designs in Minoan art (that's probably where the later "Greek key" style border comes from) and exactly one squared-off labyrinth scratched onto the back of a Linear B tablet from Pylos (in mainland Greece - not even on Crete). It's possible that the Minoans considered the labyrinth to be too sacred to commit to any kind of permanent form. Its association with the Crane Dance suggests that the labyrinth design may have been the form of a dance, kind of like a spiral dance. The design may even have been temporarily marked on floors for rituals. But nothing of that sort has survived. Now, mind you, the labyrinth plays a part in Ariadne's Tribe. Many of us walk labyrinths as part of our spiritual practice. But sadly, there are none from ancient Minoan times.

The Thera eruption did not end Minoan civilization. For a long time, people thought the eruption of Thera destroyed the cities of Crete and ended Minoan civilization. This idea eventually linked Crete and the Minoans with the legendary city of Atlantis. But further work by archaeologists has shown that the Minoans rebuilt after the Thera eruption, which happened around 1600 BCE, and kept on doing their thing for at least two centuries afterward. The eruption certainly disrupted their lives, and it probably weakened them economically, allowing the Mycenaeans to gain a foothold and eventually attempt to occupy the whole island. But when the cities (except Knossos) finally fell in about 1450 BCE, it was due to systematic looting and burning by humans (probably Mycenaeans) and not due to natural disaster. Knossos fell 50 to 100 years later, also looted and burned, probably by Minoans who had had enough. Even after that, people still lived on the island, though after the fall of Knossos, the culture changed and we can't really call it Minoan anymore.

Let's keep exploring and enjoying the reflection of ancient Minoan culture in the modern world. We can listen to the gods and even use our imaginations. But let's at least start from a basis that we know is pretty well factual, OK?

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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She's the founder and Temple Mom of Ariadne's Tribe, an inclusive Minoan spiritual tradition. 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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