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 not a 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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Toilet Snobs and other Modern Problems

There is a certain kind of mindset that says that we, the current oh-so-modern inhabitants of the world, are the epitome of social and biological evolution, that we are an improvement over everything and everyone who has come before us. This concept was very popular in Victorian times thanks to Social Darwinism, a misapplication of the concept of evolution to social and cultural contexts. It was simply an easy way for well-off white Westerners to feel superior to non-whites, non-Westerners and pretty much every single culture that had come before them. So it came as quite a shock to Victorian society when Sir Arthur Evans uncovered the ruins of Minoan civilization and discovered complex architecture, beautiful naturalistic art and (gasp!) enclosed sewers and flush toilets. It turns out, ancient Crete wasn’t alone in this kind of ‘modernity.’ Almost every house in the ancient Indus Valley cities of Mohenjo-daro and Harappa had flush toilets attached to a sophisticated system of sewers.

The concept of linear cultural and social evolution, of simpler and cruder things leading to more complex and elegant things, derives from the Judeo-Christian worldview that offers a beginning (creation) and steady progress to an end (Judgment Day). This viewpoint colors our expectations of ancient cultures and our interpretations of what we find. But many cultures around the world, especially the ancient world, had a non-linear view of history. They did not see a straight path from beginning to end so much as an ever-spiraling cycle, like the seasons but on a larger, almost epic, scale. I think this circular/spiral mindset is more helpful than the linear one as a lens for viewing ancient cultures. It allows us to recognize the ups and downs of history and prehistory, the fact that people have always been intelligent, ingenious and adaptive.

There is a second facet to the social Darwinist worldview, and it involves religious belief. The Victorian-era Christian men who felt sure they were the epitome of social and physical evolution also believed their religion was the most advanced, highly-evolved religion on Earth. They considered all pre-Christian traditions to be primitive, their adherents less than fully intelligent. This attitude lies subtly in the background even today, encouraging even well-trained and intelligent archaeologists to suggest that the Minoans worshiped snakes and bulls and the Druids worshiped trees. These archaeologists can’t imagine that the Minoans and the Druids were smart enough to understand the animals and plants as symbols of unseen deity, of the forces behind the natural world. But that’s exactly how the ancients viewed those animals and plants: as symbols, as reminders of the sacred forces within the material world. Mentally, they were every bit as sophisticated as we are. Our brains have been the same size for tens of thousands of years. If that bruises the modern ego, then we need to take an honest look at why we feel such a need to be superior to our ancestors. After all, it’s their DNA we carry in our blood and in our bones. If they had been unsuccessful, we wouldn’t be here.

It can be very difficult to tease our way out of our own preconceived notions about how the world works. But it’s important that we do so if we are to view the ancient world as it was rather than as our egos wish it had been. I promise you, keeping an open mind won’t allow your brain to fall out.

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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 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, you can find me in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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