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 an independent polytheist spiritual tradition that brings the gods and goddesses 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 Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: https://ariadnestribe.wordpress.com/. We're a welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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The Linear A Conundrum

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

One of the reasons we don't call Modern Minoan Paganism (MMP) a reconstructionist tradition is that we don't have any texts from Minoan times that we can read to learn how the people of ancient Crete worshiped. Reference texts are a fundamental part of the reconstruction process in many traditions. Why don't we have that resource for MMP?

The Minoans were a literate people; we just can't read what they wrote.

Their script, rather unimaginatively named Linear A, comes down to us via several hundred clay tablets and nodules that were accidentally fired when the Minoan cities were looted and burned, along with a few dozen inscriptions on other artifacts such as libation tables and ceramic vessels.

But the script hasn't been deciphered because it's not any known language and there isn't enough existing text to do a decipherment of an unknown language. Contrary to what most people think they know about deciphering ancient scripts, there is a hard mathematical limit to the minimum amount of text you need in order to complete a decipherment, even with a computer. (Computers don't magically do things people can't; they just do the things we can do, but faster.) No amount of inspiration can magically take us past that limit to a decipherment.

There are a few things we can make educated guesses about even if we can't read the script yet. And there's Linear B, the script that resulted when the Mycenaeans (or more likely, the Minoan scribes working for them) adapted Linear A to their language. Due mainly to the work of Alice Kober and Michael Ventris in the mid-20th century, we can read Linear B.

Though Linear A and Linear B record totally unrelated languages, the clay tablets written in the two scripts look similar: the text on many of them is organized pretty much the same way, so it's a pretty safe bet that, like the Linear B tablets, the Linear A tablets are administrative records of offerings given to the temples as well as records of their own livestock, agricultural, and other production. We know from the Linear B tablets that these lists included the names of deities the offerings were given to and the titles of people who held positions in the temples. But otherwise, they're not sacred documents, just something akin to bookkeeping records.

The difference between the two scripts is that Linear A was also used to inscribe ritual objects like libation tables. That means that once we can read Linear A, we're likely to discover sacred formulas for addressing deities and performing various rites. So Linear A is likely to be very helpful in terms of bolstering our modern spiritual practice.

Do I think Linear A will be translated in my lifetime? I'm not holding my breath, but it certainly is possible. Excavations are ongoing at most Minoan sites, new sites are discovered every now and then, and every year, another tiny handful of Linear A tablets and other texts is found. At this rate, it will take many years before we reach the critical minimum amount of text needed for a decipherment. But I'm hopeful that some lucky archaeologist will unearth a large cache of tablets to speed up the process. Once that happens, it will be a race to the finish line to see who can accurately complete the decipherment first.

Until then, we'll just have to be patient, and be thankful that we have all the beautiful Minoan art, artifacts, and architecture (the three A's?) to keep us going.

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

Image: Ceramic cup from Knossos with Linear A inscription written in squid ink. 1600-1500 BCE. Photo from The Palace of Minos series by Sir Arthur Evans, now public domain.

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Laura Perry is an artist, writer, and the founder and facilitator of Modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a passion of hers since a fateful art history class introduced her to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. Her first book was published in 2001; one of her most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. She has also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. 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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