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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What else is missing from Minoan art?

CW: animal sacrifice, human sacrifice

When I shared last week's post about what's missing in Minoan art on social media, I got an interesting response from a fellow Pagan writer, who guessed (before reading the post) that what was missing was war and violence.

There's something to that, but it's not a simple subject.

War and (non-war) violence are two different things. How you define violence might also change whether you think that term applies to the Minoans.

First, a little background information about the Minoans. Though there are many aspects of Minoan society and religion that we admire and that we can use to help improve our world, ancient Crete was no utopia. But the Minoans certainly did avoid the trend toward militarization and bloody conquest that characterized the Mycenaeans and other Indo-European cultures that expanded around the Mediterranean during the late Bronze Age.

Instead, the Minoans focused on trade, becoming wealthy by being a mercantile island culture with no borders or military that threatened any empire. What did they trade? Besides the usual - olive oil, wine, wool, fancy dyes, jewelry, ceramics - they became well known for their high quality bronze objects, especially blades like daggers, swords, and spearheads. They sold to everyone on every side of every conflict, remaining neutral themselves, a sort of Bronze Age Switzerland.

There's a sense in which they were the world's first arms dealers. So even though they didn't have an army that went marching out to conquer other lands, they still participated in their own way in the widespread, large-scale war that became the dubious watershed moment of the late Bronze Age. And they clearly didn't oppose that warfare, since they profited from it.

In addition, Minoan society and religion were not bloodless. There's extensive evidence of animal sacrifice throughout the centuries of Minoan civilization. If you look closely at the image at the top of this post (from the Hagia Triada sarcophagus), you'll see a young bull trussed up on a table after having been sacrificed, and two goats underneath the table, awaiting a similar fate. There are images of animals being sacrificed, with a dagger or sword to the neck, on Minoan seals.

Animal sacrifice was common throughout the Bronze Age Mediterranean. It was a way of dedicating valuable food to the deities. Animals that weren't sacrificed in a sacred setting were simply slaughtered, an aspect of meat production that has become hidden in modern industrialized societies. But it would have been very visible in the Minoan world, an ordinary activity beside the temple kitchens and on family farms.

There are also hunting scenes in Minoan art, mostly on stone seals. Again, this is normal for a Bronze Age culture, with hunting being both a way to obtain food and often a religious activity connected with a given deity's sacred animal.

There's also some evidence, from Anemospilia and other sites as well as from myth, that the Minoans may have practiced human sacrifice. This would have been done in a religious setting as a sacred act, but if they did it, it was still purposeful killing, regardless of the setting.

From our modern point of view, these activities may evoke reactions ranging from discomfort to complete revulsion. But bear in mind that they were considered pretty normal back in the Bronze Age.

So Minoan society was definitely not bloodless. But it was pretty clearly not warlike.

There's no evidence that the Minoans ever had an organized military, though it's possible they had a merchant marine to protect their trading vessels. And the only images of armor (helmets, cuirasses, and so on) come from the Mycenaean occupation of Knossos after the Thera eruption, or from depictions of Mycenaeans in Minoan art. For instance, the Shipwreck fresco from Akrotiri shows a Mycenaean ship maneuver in the port of Akrotiri while shield- and spear-bearing Mycenaeans parade by on shore.

So the Minoans weren't perfect, and they weren't exactly pacifists, at least, not by the usual modern definition. But a big part of the reason they were so successful is that they didn't pour their wealth into military conquest. Instead, they returned their profits back into their own cities, towns, and villages to pave roads, build aqueducts and sewer systems, and store food for communal feasting and to share with those in need. They created a society that was incredibly advanced, safe, healthy, and generally well off by using their wealth to provide for the whole community as part of a gift-giving society or sharing economy. And I think that's something we can learn from.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

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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.


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