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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Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?

When I mention the Minoans of ancient Crete, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is the famous Snake Goddess statues. For us modern folks, they're icons of this ancient civilization. But what, exactly, do they represent? If we're really honest, the answer to that question is, "We're not sure."

There are many theories, of course. I think that falls under the umbrella of "Everyone has an opinion." But we simply don't know for sure because we don't have any Minoan-era documents that tell us anything about these figurines, no art that shows them being used. Linear A, the script the ancient Minoans used to write their native language, has never been deciphered. And the few documents we have that are written in Linear B, the script that records Mycenaean Greek from the time toward the end of Minoan civilization, don't say anything about snakes.

But we can piece together a little information about these interesting figurines based on other Minoan archaeological finds. And we can use that information to incorporate the Snake Goddess into Minoan spirituality in the modern world.

Besides the obvious (the snakes), the first thing I notice about the Snake Goddess is that she has her arms raised out to her sides. This is a posture associated with priestesses, not worshipers, in Minoan cultures. Sacred postures were an important part of Minoan religion; they help us figure out what's going on in a given scene. Gestures with the hands upraised and/or forward indicate a priestess who is embodying the deity during ritual. Here's another 'snake goddess' in a similar pose:


Minoan terracotta Snake Goddess


So we can reasonably assume that these figurines are, indeed, goddesses (or priestesses being possessed by the goddess during ritual) and not worshipers. But exactly what do the snakes stand for?

Snakes have long been associated with the Underworld since they magically appear out of holes in the ground. Minoan religion had a major Underworld/ancestral component, so perhaps this is an Underworld goddess, maybe Ariadne herself in her guise as the Queen of the Melissae, the ancestral bee-goddesses. A lot of us who practice Tribe spirituality use the Snake Goddess figurines to represent Ariadne. But this figurine isn't holding bees; she's holding snakes.

The snakes may be the goddess' attributes, in the same way that lions are Rhea's animals. In that case, this may be the Serpent Mother.

Since ancient times, snakes have symbolized wisdom, especially divine wisdom. Though the snake (the famous evil serpent) has been vilified by the Abrahamic traditions, the serpent has a long and ancient history of representing the special wisdom of the Sacred Feminine.

Four millennia out, we only have fragmentary evidence to work with. But snakes were definitely a thing. Here's a figurine just covered with snakes:


Minoan Snake Goddess with tall headpiece 

We can pick apart the details of these lovely figurines and analyze them for hours, but the fact is, we can't be absolutely sure what they symbolize. So where does that leave us? With our own choices to make. What does the Snake Goddess mean to you? How does she speak to you? What place does she have in your spiritual practice?

Remember, even with images and deities whose official form and function we know in great detail, each of us has our own personal interpretation. No two people think alike or believe alike. What matters, ultimately, is that you're able to connect with the divine in a way that has meaning for you.

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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.


  • tehomet
    tehomet Tuesday, 22 March 2016

    I was lucky enough to visit Crete, many years ago. I got chatting to a local guy and he mentioned that the one thing he knew about my home country was that there were no snakes there. I said that was true and wondered if he and his fellow Cretans were very laid back about snakes, as they are used to them. He shook his head, and said that his people have a healthy respect for snakes and give them a wide berth. I asked if this was because the snakes might be poisonous? He said that wasn't the reason.

    'If you kill a snake,' he said, 'your house will fall down.'

  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry Wednesday, 23 March 2016

    Wow, how interesting! So the reverence for snakes has come all the way down to the present day, even if it doesn't look quite the same as it used to. Thanks so much for sharing!

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