The Minoan Path: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

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Possession in the Pillar Crypt

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Up to now my blog posts here have been mostly about research I've done - information about Minoan deities and spiritual practices, with a few notes from my own practice thrown in for good measure. Today I'm sharing something very different with you. Something very personal.

I've spent a lot of time meditating and doing shamanic journeywork to piece together what I can of Minoan religious practice. Usually I get a few glimpses of something they might have done in the big temples or at the little shrines in their homes. A few days ago I got something I hadn't bargained for - a full-blown vision of an oracular priestess doing her thing. It has taken me some time to process this experience and reach the point that I can comfortably share it with you.

Of course, this vision is the famed Unverified Personal Gnosis. But over at Ariadne's Tribe, we're working to construct a modern Minoan spiritual practice and we're incorporating personal gnosis where it works for everyone, particularly in terms of corroborated gnosis - a number of people experiencing the same thing. So if this vision rings your chimes in some way (or if it doesn't) then please let me know. Every little bit of insight helps.

I've long believed I lived in the town of Malia on Crete toward the end of the Minoan empire. This vision came to me in the first person, so it may be a past life memory. Then again, it may simply be a depiction of a typical Minoan spiritual practice - the gods aren't always terribly clear when they pass on information to us mere mortals. Regardless, I think it has merit, so I'm sharing it here today.

The vision:

We’re in a pillar crypt on the lower level of the temple-palace at Malia. It’s dark. It could be nighttime or could just be dark because it’s a lower level; I can’t tell whether there are light wells in this room or not. There are lamps lit on several tables around the room, and I think there’s a torch on one wall.

I’m a priestess. I’m dressed in thin linen gauze in a bleached white color, a simple ankle-length tunic that overlaps in the front but leaves my breasts bare, with another piece of fabric – the same gauze but dyed a bright yellow – wrapped around my hips and tied in the front. I’m barefoot. There are several other people in the room but no more than half a dozen total.

There is a calf tied and apparently drugged on a largish table. In my mind I hear that it’s a ‘newborn calf,’ as if that’s the specification for the ritual, but my experience on my grandparents’ farm tells me it could be up to a week or so old. I’m also drugged – I drank some honeyed wine which had poppyseeds boiled in it – and a mixture that I’m pretty sure includes opium is wafting around the room from incense burners.

There is rhythmic rattling, like from a sistrum, in the background, but I can’t see who is doing it. The sound makes me think of a snake hissing. When I’m ready, I pick up the knife – it looks like one of those fancy bronze daggers the Minoans were so famous for – and slit the calf’s throat. It twitches a little but doesn’t fight, and in moments it is dead. The blood pours out and is caught in some sort of basin. I dip the first two fingers of my right hand in the blood and mark my breasts with it, then I pick up a pitcher of wine and pour some of that on my chest as well. I dip some of the calf’s blood from the basin and add it to the pitcher of wine.

It feels like I have trouble breathing, like my chest is tight or there is great pressure, a great weight, on me. Then it feels like I take a step back from myself, as if I’m watching myself do everything now rather than experiencing it firsthand.

I walk (stagger, more like) over to the pillar. It rises out of a small depression in the floor. I lean forward and embrace the pillar, pressing my body against it, and one of the other people in the room pours the rest of the wine-and-blood mixture over my head. It soaks my clothing and trickles down my body, into the ‘sink’ at the base of the pillar. I wait there until the spirits (gods? ancestors?) rise up from the Underworld, through the column, and enter into me. Then I let go of the column. I can barely stand at this point. Two people take hold of my arms and guide me to a seat. I sit there and prophesy, answering the main question that is the reason we are all gathered there, and telling them other things besides.

I’m pretty sure this is a one-off, not a regular festival or other point on the sacred calendar. I think this kind of thing was done every now and then when important information was needed. I’m not sure if the same priestess was always consulted or if they took turns, or had specialty subjects or something of that sort.

After the questions are over, two of the people in the room help me get up from my seat and move over to the pillar again. At this point I can’t walk by myself and can hardly stand. I cling to the pillar, the sistrum hisses once again and the spirits that were within me slip back into the Underworld. I let go of the pillar, take a deep breath and everything goes black.

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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.

Comments

  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch Thursday, 02 October 2014

    Powerful stuff, Laura. At very least, one can say that it's consistent with the archaeology and cultural data. Further than that we cannot go.

    It certainly sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant experience, which is fitting. Surely one must expect to pay a certain price to achieve exceptional/non-ordinary states like prophetic trance.

    Unrelated question (I don't do F-book): what do you make of the "Minoan salute"? Do you use it? How? When? Thumb in? Thumb up?

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Thursday, 02 October 2014

    Hi Steven,

    I do find it interesting that we often have so much trouble separating from our normal/mundane state that we have to be shocked or frightened into it, either at the time or in the training, or both. I guess that's the human psyche for you.

    No, I don't use the Minoan salute in any of its forms. On several occasions I've worked with the variations of it - thumb up, thumb down, other hand by the side, other hand on the belly or shoulder - and it always feels wrong. I can't quite articulate why, except for the possibility that I'm a priestess and it's not a gesture a priestess ever uses. That's just my gut response, that the gesture is made by lay people approaching an altar or other sacred setting (such as a priest/ess receiving offerings at a shrine or temple) and not by the clergy themselves.

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Friday, 05 December 2014

    Further work with this vision suggests that after I passed out, my clothing was removed and saved for some sort of reverence. It was considered to be no longer 'normal' and not safe to wear again. This may be related to the images of clothing being hung up on poles and sort of worshiped because it has been worn by the gods or the Ancestors.

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