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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Walking the Labyrinth

When I tell people I follow a Minoan spiritual path, one of the first things they ask about is the labyrinth. Often, all they know about the labyrinth is what they've heard from the Theseus-and-the-Minotaur story. The thing is, the Greeks invented Theseus as a culture hero centuries after Minoan civilization had ceased to exist, so the Minoans never even knew about him. In Theseus' tale, the labyrinth is a deadly maze full of confusing twists and turns, impossible to escape with the help of Ariadne's thread. In reality, the labyrinth is very different from that.

If you have a look at the labyrinth design at the top of this post, you'll see that it has a single path that leads unerringly to the center. Sure, there are twists and turns. These are designed to disorient the person walking the labyrinth so they can enter altered states of consciousness and reach their own inner spiritual understanding. But there's only one way in and the same way back out. This is called a unicursal (one-route) maze. And it's not a tricky trap. It's a spiritual tool.

One of the most well-known forms of the labyrinth, besides the seven-fold version at the top of this post, is the beautiful one that's inlaid into the stone floor of Chartres cathedral:

Chartres cathedral labyrinth

People travel from all over the world to walk the labyrinth at Chartres. It's also a popular choice for the portable labyrinths that are painted on heavy canvas. These can be rolled up and stored when not in use, then unrolled when people want to walk it. I've walked the Chartres labyrinth as it was painted on a canvas floorcloth and found it to be a profound experience. Some spiritual retreat centers have indoor or outdoor labyrinths, and a very few dedicated people have built labyrinths in their yards and gardens.

Walking a labyrinth is a moving meditation of sorts. It can help you sort out problems, figure out what's really going on in your head/heart/subconscious, or simply find a place of peace. Since full-size labyrinths (big enough to comfortably walk the path) are hard to come by, many people use finger labyrinths. Here's one I made out of homemade spice clay:

Handmade finger labyrinth

As you might guess, you 'walk' a finger labyrinth by slowly moving your finger along the path. This is an excellent choice for people who don't have regular access to a full-size labryinth (which is probably most of us). I keep my finger labyrinth at my desk and use it to take mindful breaks during my workday. The simplest version of a finger labyrinth is simply a printout on paper of a labyrinth design - easy and quick to do.

We've put together the tidbits the ancient writers left us and the things we've learned from the decipherment of Linear B (the writing system the Mycenaeans borrowed from the Minoans and adapted to their own early Greek language). And these tell us that the Crane Dance from the ancient myths, the circular dance that began on the harvest-time threshing floors of ancient Crete, is also associated with the labyrinth. So instead of just dancing in a circle, the Minoans probably danced or walked a more elaborate design. In fact, it may have been scratched into the earthen bases of the threshing floors or outlined with flour or some other powdery substance.

Labyrinth designs have been found all over the world (including India and the Americas) dating back to very ancient times. So even though most people think of the Minoans when they hear the word 'labyrinth,' this special kind of design appears to be a crosscultural, basic human pattern. That's probably why it appeals to so many people regardless of their spiritual tradition or personal background.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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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 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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