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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Crete
Minoan Shields: Shamanic Tool of the Kouretes?

The figure-eight shield that shows up in Minoan and Mycenaean art is endlessly fascinating and has inspired a broad range of theories as to its religious and military significance. You can see above part of the reconstructed Shield fresco from the Minoan temple complex at Knossos; the figure-eight shield also appears on Minoan seals and seal impressions as well as a fresco from the Mycenaean palace at Tiryns. The seals and seal impressions combine the figure-eight shield with other images from Minoan religion and nature, like these:

 

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Dividing the Minoan World

We divide our world into all sorts of segments based on time and space: day and night; the four seasons; the ground, the air, and space. Organizing the world into understandable parts is a natural human inclination, and the Minoans did it, just like everyone else. So how did they divide their world?

I have a few ideas. The most obvious is the seasons. Crete lies in the sea just south of Greece and has a Mediterranean climate. That means that, instead of the spring-summer-autumn-winter cadence we're used to in most of North America and Europe, the year flows from the rainy season to the dry season and back again: only two major seasonal divisions. In Mediterranean climates, the dry season lasts from what we might call late spring, through summer, and into early autumn. On Crete, plant life turns crispy-brown and dry. All but the largest creeks dry up, and even the rivers diminish to a flow much smaller than their wet season. This is the dead time of year, the counterpart to winter in the northern temperate zone.

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Sacred Saffron: A bit of autumn magic

The lovely young lady in the image above is picking the stigmas of the saffron crocus, also called the autumn crocus, to give as an offering to the goddess. We see this whole scene play out in a series of frescoes from Akrotiri, the ancient Minoan-era town on the Mediterranean island of Santorini. Saffron crocus blooms float in mid-air across the backgrounds of these frescoes, reminding us where our focus should lie. Below, we see a girl pouring her gathered saffron into a large basket while a monkey presents some to the enthroned goddess.

 

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Offering to the Minoan Gods

Modern Minoan Paganism is a pretty broad path. People come to it from many different directions and backgrounds; our commonalities are the pantheon, the Minoan sacred calendar, and a few basic practices that we all share. Prominent among these is making offerings to the Minoan gods and goddesses. The image at the top of this post is a lovely three-footed offering table from Akrotiri decorated with dolphins. Perhaps its owner left fruit or flowers or seashells some other offering on it, maybe dedicated to the ocean goddess Posidaeja or another favorite deity (though I'd vote for Posidaeja because of the dolphins).

Solid items can be set out on the altar or offering stands or at an appropriate outdoor location. Liquid offerings can also be set out in a cup or pitcher, or they can be poured out as libations. A libation can be poured into another container (a bowl, for instance) or onto the ground. A libation can even be the centerpiece of a ritual for abundance.

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Minoan Epiphany: Come on Down!

Have the gods ever appeared to you? If the artwork is any indication, they seem to have put in a few appearances to the Minoans of ancient Crete. The image at the top of this blog is of the Isopata ring, a gold seal ring from a Minoan-era tomb near Knossos. The scene shows four women, presumably priestesses, dancing ecstatically in a field of lilies. Interesting stuff floats around their heads: snake-like serpentine lines, a beehive, and... a small female figure. She is dressed like the other women, in a flounced skirt, but she's tiny; her hair and skirt are flying out as if she is moving quickly through the air. She is, perhaps, a goddess who has been invoked in this ritual.

The interesting thing is, figures like her show up on several other seal rings, as does a small floating male figure who holds a spear. And all the artwork depicts ritual settings, so I think the identification of these floating figures as deities is a pretty sound one. For instance, this ring from the Minoan port city of Amnisos has a floating goddess hovering over a boat full of people and being greeted by more people to the left:

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Archaeological Dating: A thorny issue, even for the Minoans

I've been a big fan of archaeology ever since I discovered the ancient Egyptians back in grade school. Indiana Jones aside, I think it's absolutely fascinating that we can dig up the remains of civilizations from centuries ago, put the pieces back together (mostly) and get a glimpse into those long-ago lives.

Ah, but there's the big question: Exactly how long ago did it all happen?

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The Sacral Scarf: Minoan Symbolism

A while back, I shared some information about some snake-like sacred knots in Minoan art that may or may not have anything to do with the tet knot associated with Isis in Egyptian symbology. There's another "sacred knot" found in Minoan art that's very different, made from a length of fabric that's loosely looped and knotted. Scholars often lump it in with the other sacred knots, but it's not the same. Those of us who practice Modern Minoan Paganism have taken to calling this object the sacral scarf to differentiate it from the knots made of cord or rope.

Some time ago I offered a few thoughts about the sacral scarf. Since then several of us in Ariadne's Tribe have worked with the sacral scarf and have come up with some ideas about what it represents and how we can use it in ritual to connect with the divine. First of all, from the artwork we can clearly see that this is a length of woven fabric, fringed on the ends and knotted with a loop:

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