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Adventures in Sort-of-Reconstruction: Modern Minoan Paganism

Modern Minoan Paganism is something of a hybrid, combining reconstructionism (to the extent that we can) with a lot of do-it-yourself methods: shared personal gnosis, shamanic journeying, psychic archaeology. We're not trying to revive the exact religious practices of the ancient Minoans because, to be honest, we really can't. And there are all sorts of obstacles in our way, even if we did want to revive "the real thing."

We can't read the Linear A script that the Minoans used to write their own language. Yes, someone or other comes out with a supposed "translation" every few years but they're always wrong; any well-trained linguist will tell you that we simply don't have enough text to do a proper decipherment. There are a few things we can tell about the script, but we honestly can't read it so we don't Minoan texts to go by (yes, I'm positively envious of the Norse and Irish reconstructionists and all their historic texts).

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Taking Myth Literally: How it trips us up

All my life, I've heard people complain about the Christians who take the stories in the Bible literally rather than as allegory or symbolic storytelling. A few days ago, I realized that Pagans sometimes do the same thing, and I think they probably have for centuries, right back into ancient times. Case in point: the Labyrinth.

The Greeks, who are ancient to us but who lived centuries later than Minoan civilization, figured that the Labyrinth must have been an actual physical structure of some sort. And they assumed that the Minoan inventor/smith god Daedalus, whom they viewed as a mortal man, had built it. The Greek historian Herodotus, who lived a solid millennium after the fall of Minoan civilization, wrote about a huge temple building in Egypt with hundreds of rooms and winding passageways, and he called it a labyrinth (yes, it's a real thing - archaeologists have found it). Then, when Sir Arthur Evans unearthed the ruins of the Minoan temple complex at Knossos a century ago, he was sure he had found the original Labyrinth, the famed home/cage of the Minotaur, built by Daedalus.

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  • Lizann Bassham
    Lizann Bassham says #
    Lovely - we just worked that myth at Reclaiming's California Witchcamp -

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Modern Minoan Paganism: Gathering together

As I've said repeatedly in interviews and in my books, Modern Minoan Paganism isn't a rules-and-regulations tradition but a broad pathway with room for many people to walk it, each in their own way.  That's great in terms of personal spirituality but not so great in terms of finding other people to practice with.

Pagans of all stripes are scattered far and wide in the modern world. Sure, there are larger clusters of us in metropolitan areas. But unless you follow one of the big traditions with standardized rules, regs, and rites (Wicca, Druidry, and various types of Norse Paganism, for instance) you may have a hard time finding others who want to do the same thing you're doing.

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Ancient Crete Was No Utopia

One of the dangers of having an ancient civilization as the focus of our spirituality is the tendency to view that culture through rose-colored glasses. That’s especially tempting when it comes to ancient Crete and the Minoan civilization that flourished there in the third and second millennium BCE.

There are so many positive aspects of Minoan culture: Women had high status and the Goddess was revered. Minoan cities and towns had paved streets, enclosed sewers, and flush toilets. The Minoans appear not to have had any sort of military, choosing instead to invest all their energy and wealth into what was probably the largest merchant fleet in the Mediterranean at the time, so their society was prosperous and relatively peaceful.

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Minoan Ecstatic Postures: Saluting the Sacred

If you participate in ritual, you're probably familiar with the idea of sacred postures. Many modern Pagan traditions include gestures such as the "Osiris pose" (arms crossed over the chest with hands on the shoulders) or the "Goddess pose" (arms raised to the sides with hands up and palms facing forward). Ancient religions included sacred postures as well. One of the most famous is the Minoan salute, shown above, with the right arm raised and the loosely-curled fist placed with the back of the hand against the forehead (all images in this post are from Wikimedia Commons).

Those of us who practice modern Minoan Paganism have worked extensively with the Minoan salute. Like other sacred postures, if held for a while, it will induce a gently altered state of consciousness. Belinda Gore and the folks at the Cuyamungue Institute in New Mexico have studied the effects and uses of ecstatic postures for years; I reviewed Belinda Gore's excellent book on ecstatic postures a while back. It turns out, the use of ritual postures goes back to the Stone Age and each one induces an altered state with a slightly different focus. And the Minoans had a whole collection of postures they used, not just the famous salute. Over in Ariadne's Tribe, we've been experimenting with these postures for a while and sharing our experiences so we can have an experiential window into ancient Minoan spirituality.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_scribes.jpgMany of us are drawn to ancient Egypt, and of those a small number linger to find and follow the spiritual path embedded there.  Soon we find that for all the wealth of published material about Egypt, there is very little about modern spiritual practice.  Egyptian Pagans are also a small minority in the wider Pagan world, so it can be difficult to connect, find teachers and gather for ritual.

My early years on this path were probably characterized by more bumbling and feeling alone than anything.  But much of the first advice I received was to read the Egyptology literature, surely a daunting task for the non-scholar.  After all, few have set out to simply write about religion; more importantly, there was no monolithic single religion in ancient Egypt, at least not as we understand religious affiliation today.  Here are a few things I learned along the way.

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It seems a common topic of conversation these days that the world is pretty chaotic. We find so many things hard to understand - from violence in the name of peaceful religion, to laws which seem to increase suffering for some in the 'best interests' of others, or just decisions to which we can only stammer 'But... but... that's just wrong!' At heartfelt level, become intellect and rationality, we know this and are flummoxed that the other person cannot even grasp the possibility

The craziness of 'everyday' life is brought home to me often, largely because of my work as a Professional Priest. This brings two worlds colliding in a very real sense. The secular, normal, nuts-and-bolts life that generally allows for the concept of spirituality but with an undercurrent of nervousness, unsure how to engage with it for fear of offending - and the spiritual, soul-deep understanding that we are actually all humans muddling through some greater journey together, albeit with a similar suspicion that the 9-5 family-and-day-job is mad in its own way. Is one more important than another? Is one more real than another?

 

 

 

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