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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Reviving Ancient Religion: How does shared gnosis work?

It takes a number of different approaches to build a revivalist spiritual tradition like Modern Minoan Paganism. We started with some of the usual reconstruction methods: ancient artifacts and art; archaeological information about cities, buildings, and homesites; astronomical building and tomb alignments; myth fragments recorded by later writers; dance ethnography; and comparative mythology. But even with all those methods stacked together, we still ended up with holes to fill in order to create a functional modern spiritual practice. In the case of Minoan religion, those holes are pretty big.

What do we use to fill those gaps? Shared gnosis.

A lot of people have asked how, exactly, that process works. We're not the only group that has used shared gnosis to create a modern spiritual practice inspired by ancient religion. A number of Druid and Norse groups, among others, have used shared gnosis successfully. But I don't know the details of the other groups' methods. So here, I'll share with you how we did it, and how we're still using shared gnosis to continue to work out our spiritual practices.

First, some definitions. Gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge. It's often used in the phrase "unverified personal gnosis," or UPG for short. UPG is commonly used to describe a situation in which a person has a dream, vision, or other experience of a deity that doesn't match up with known mythology. Some people prefer to just call it PG - personal gnosis. It simply means that each of us experiences the divine differently, through the lens of our own psyche.

If it works for you, go with it, even if it doesn't match up with what everyone else thinks. But what if you're trying to build a spiritual practice for a bunch of people and not just yourself? In that case, you can't rely on just one person's PG, because what they experience might not be right for other people. What you have to look for in that case is the way the particular god or goddess interacts with many people, not just one: how the deity wants to be in relationship with the community.

That's where shared gnosis comes in. Shared gnosis is PG from lots of different people who haven't discussed their experiences with each other beforehand (so they won't influence each other). If their PG all matches up, then we're on to something good.

Let me give you an example. We began with a goddess name from the Linear B tablets at Knossos: At*na Potnia. (I'm writing it with an asterisk instead of the letter A in the middle because the goddess has made it clear to us that she dislikes this name very strongly.) We didn't know who she was: An early face of Athena?  A city-protector goddess of Knossos? Something else entirely?

We all took that goddess name into our own separate sacred spaces and attempted to connect with the deity via meditation, ritual, spiritwork and the like. When we came back together to discuss our experiences, they were all very similar. Some of us got more of the "big picture" than others, but what we all got overlapped and reinforced each others' experiences. And what we got was this:

This was a Minoan goddess who was borrowed into the Mycenaean pantheon and altered to suit the Mycenaeans' desires and goals (this is a common process as cultures meet and exchange information). At*na Potnia is the name the Mycenaeans gave her, possibly because the Minoans refused to divulge her most sacred names to others. In the Minoan form that she showed us, she has to do with colors and dyeing, and is related to our Sun goddess Therasia and to the fate goddess Ananke, whom we consider to be Therasia's daughter. She is also related to Ariadne, whose thread (whatever color it might be dyed) winds through the Labyrinth. Because Minoan religion changed over time, it's possible that Ariadne's thread is actually borrowed from Ananke, who disappeared into the shadows while Ariadne's mythos remained fresh and visible. Some of us also feel that At*na Potnia is somehow related to Ourania. Lots of tangled threads here!

After much discussion and experimentation, we decided to come up with a new name for At*na Potnia. We may never know her Minoan name. Even if Linear A is eventually translated, it would be pure luck to find her name, out of the whole pantheon, on those clay tablets. So we went with a Greek name: Potnia Chromaton. Lady of the Colors.

We all separately approached her in sacred space and asked if that name was acceptable. And we all came back with a resoundingly positive answer. So Potnia Chromaton she is. She may be a face of Ananke: Potnia Chromaton's dyeworks are closely allied with Ananke's spinning and weaving. But we're still not clear on that. She may be a separate and distinct goddess who isn't directly a daughter of any of our mother goddesses. Unlike the Greek and Roman pantheons, which shuffle out neatly into human-style family trees, the Minoan pantheon looks more like a carnival fun house full of mirrors. We're still learning about Potnia Chromaton as we move forward in relationship with her.

But we have her in the pantheon now, and we have a relationship with her now because we were able to go beyond simple archaeological and linguistic studies to approach her in sacred space.

Using shared gnosis to develop a working spiritual tradition requires a number of people who are willing to put in the effort and share honestly what they find. Our shared gnosis work doesn't always turn out as neatly as the Potnia Chromaton episode did, and even it isn't exactly tidy and finished. Sometimes we hit a dead end, when people's experiences don't match. We have to take that into account and let go of preconceived notions, then move on.

But when shared gnosis works, it's a glorious thing. It's another tool in the toolbox that helps us build living spiritual traditions that connect modern Pagans with the ancient world. And that's what it's all about.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

Last modified on
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.

Comments

Additional information