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 sharedl 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

Sealed with a ... seal

When I was a kid my mom used to write my name in permanent marker on the tag inside my jacket so everyone would know it was mine. We monogram pillowcases and purses; we register the serial numbers of electronics with the manufacturer. We sign deeds to homes and titles to cars. There are many, many ways to identify things as 'ours' these days, but have you noticed that they all involve writing?

In ancient Crete, most people couldn't write. Sure, they had a writing system, the famous-but-still-undeciphered Linear A (and a hieroglyphic script to go along with it, also still undeciphered). But as was common in the ancient world, only the scribes and perhaps a few wealthy people knew how to write. Writing simply wasn't necessary for most people in their daily lives. But it was necessary for the big temple complexes - they had to keep track of all the donations people made, how much each plot of farmland and orchard produced every year, and so on. So they wrote things down on clay tablets and probably also on papyrus as well, though none of the perishable papyrus has survived as far as we know (I'm still hoping for a secret cache in a sealed jar somewhere). But the Minoans also did the ancient version of writing your name on your jacket tag: They used seals.

Seals, like the one at the top of this post, were a common object throughout the ancient world. Cast in gold or carved from stone, these little items were personal identifiers. When someone brought a basket of wheat or a jar of olive oil to a Minoan temple as a donation, they attached a small round of soft clay into which they pressed their seal. That showed who had made that donation. The people who worked in the temples - the scribes and administrators - also used their seals to show which work they had done, which items they had inventoried or organized.

Though many of these objects are called seal rings, they weren't actually worn as finger-rings; the loops on the back are too small. Instead, a cord was threaded through the loop and the seals were hung from the wrist like a bracelet (we see this depicted in Minoan art).

 

Minoan gold seal rings

 

The cast gold seals are probably the most famous (we do like shiny things, don't we?) but there are also many, many carved ones, made from agate and amethyst and other beautiful semiprecious stones. In fact, archaeologists have found over 300 seals [UPDATE: There are over 10,000 Minoan and Mycenaean seals, every one unique!] so far and every single one of them is unique. That's right, there are no two alike.

 

Minoan carved stone seal

 

These seals were the equivalent of people's signatures in ancient Crete: individual identifiers. They were so precious that they weren't passed down to the next generation; instead, each one was interred in the grave with its owner. Can you imagine being the goldsmith or stonecarver who made these and having to come up with a totally unique design for each customer?

If you'd like to explore more of these amazing works of art, the University of Cologne has set up an online database for just that purpose. Each seal's database entry includes photos of the seal, its impression in soft clay, and a line drawing for clarity since some of the seals are pretty damaged after all these centuries.

The next time you need to sign your name on a document, think about how someone might have done that in the ancient world. If you had a seal, what images would you want on it?

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen!

Last modified on
Tagged in: Crete knossos Minoan temple
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