Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, loving goddess of ancient Crete who lives on in the hearts and minds of the modern world. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a purely reconstructionist tradition, but a journey in relationship with Minoan deities in the contemporary world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

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The Minoan Pantheon: Gods and Goddesses Galore!

A while back I wrote up a list of the Minoan gods and goddesses we focus on in Modern Minoan Paganism. But since this is a living, evolving spiritual tradition, it turns out I need to update that list. We've discovered (rediscovered?) a new deity or two and have changed some other details of our practice. So here's the pantheon as we're experiencing it these days.

First of all, we consider the threefold division of Land/Sea/Sky to be fundamentally important. This triplicity is represented by three goddesses:

Rhea/Ida: She is the Minoan earth mother goddess, the land of Crete itself. Rhea is the name most people know her by, but some of us call her Ida (pronounced ee-DAH), another of her ancient names. You can find out more about her place in Modern Minoan Paganism here

Posidaeja: Grandmother Ocean, out of whose waters the beautiful island of Crete rises. She was very important to the Minoans, who relied on the Mediterranean Sea both for food and for a means of travel.

Therasia: The very ancient but new-to-us Minoan sun goddess. She represents the sky portion of the great triplicity and was probably the original harbinger of the seasons and apportioner of the solar year. Find out more about her here

In addition to the Three, we have bunches of other gods and goddesses who fulfill a wide range of functions in nature and in our spiritual practice. This is quite a long list!

Ourania: Great Cosmic Mother-of-All. She is the starry night sky, the fabric of the universe itself. Some of use experience her as a great vulture, perhaps going back as far as the home of the Minoans' ancestors in Neolithic Anatolia.

Ariadne: Who hasn't heard of Ariadne and her ball of thread? But the Greeks got her story wrong (probably on purpose). She wasn't a human girl, but a goddess. Her Labyrinth was not a cage for a monster but a sacred ritual dance and path for spiritual growth along with the Minotaur, who turns out to have been a god after all (he's on this list a little farther down, among his fellow Horned Ones).

Dionysus: So much more than just a party god, he is the source of sacred intoxication, the god of fermentation and other kinds of magical transformations. Later on the Minoan Dionysus was combined with a similar ecstatic god from Phrygia, but during Minoan times he was very much the god of the vine and, eventually, of the solar year.

Zagreus: His name means something like "the dismembered one," which is pretty clearly a shamanic image - dismemberment is a common method of transformation in shamanic work. He is a bull-god who comes wreathed in flowers in the spring. He may be an aspect of Dionysus, and it's also possible that he, Dionysus, and the Minotaur are all closely-related facets of the same ancient god.

Ananke/Arachne: The Minoan fate goddess, spinner of the thread of life, weaver of the web of fate, pursuer of necessity. This goddess may be an aspect of Ariadne, though it's often hard to tell where one deity leaves off and another begins.

The Melissae: Ancestral bee-goddesses or spirits, associated with the Underworld, the harvest, and ecstatic trance states. Ariadne is the Queen Bee, the head of the Melissae in her role as guardian of the spirits of the dead.

The Horned Ones: Three pairs of horned animal deities that were worshiped in different times and places in Minoan Crete. Though the cow/bull Horned Ones are the most famous, they're probably also the most recent. We think that the original Horned Ones from very early times were goat, deer, and ibex deities.

Minotaur: The Moon-Bull, the most famous of all the Minoan Horned Ones because the Greeks turned him into a monster in their stories. He does dwell in the Labyrinth, but not as a monster, I promise. He is associated with Dionysus in some ways. He and Europa are a pair.

Europa: The Moon-Cow; she and Pasiphae are twins and may originally have been the same goddess. A spurt of her milk created the Milky Way.

Minocapros: The Moon-Goat who capers through Minoan art with long, curing horns and a mischievous nature. He is associated with Dionysus and is paired with the goddess Amalthea.

Amalthea: The goat-goddess who gave us the sacred Cornucopia from which all good things flow. She fed the infant Dionysus with her sweet milk and is sometimes described as Rhea's sister or twin.

Minelathos: The Moon-Stag found in Minoan frescoes and seal stone art, often in the form of a fallow deer stag. He is paired with the goddess Britomartis.

Britomartis/Diktynna: Deer goddess who is both the huntress and the hunted. She is associated with the sacred Mt. Dikte in Crete. Her later connections with the sea are due to some linguistic confusion; she was originally a mountain and land/nature goddess.

Daedalus: Inventor/smith god, creator of the Labyrinth and Ariadne's dancing floor. The Minoans were a Bronze Age people so he would have been in charge of bronze smithing as well as the creation of metal objects of gold, silver, and copper.

Minos: Underworld judge of the dead, probably originally a lunar god. Like Ariadne and the Melissae, he protects the souls of the dead in the Underworld.

Eileithyia: Midwife goddess who protects women in labor and childbirth. She also delivers the soul of the newborn infant into its body.

Helice: Willow goddess, sister or twin to Rhea.

Aega: Goddess of the Aegean Sea, probably an aspect of Posidaeja.

Asterion: His name means ‘starry one’ and has been applied to several related figures in Minoan mythology: Minos’ father or foster-father (if he’s Minos' father – and the Hellenic Zeus isn’t – then Asterion may be another name for Dionysus); the Minotaur (Karl Kerenyi supported this view); Europa’s consort (but apparently not the same as the Minotaur). It’s not clear whether any or all of these were originally the same figure in the Minoan pantheon. Many of us feel he is connected with the constellation Taurus.

As you can see, the Minoan pantheon is pretty full and varied. Lots to choose from, and I'm sure we haven't discovered them all yet.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen!


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Tagged in: god Goddess Minoan pantheon
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.


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