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 not a 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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Chasing the Minoan Sun Goddess: two book reviews

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Modern Pagans are used to pantheons that have a Sun god and a Moon goddess. But it hasn't always been that way. Some of the oldest and earliest religions in the world have a Sun goddess. When we went looking for the Minoan deity who was associated with the Sun, we found not a god but a goddess. We call her Therasia.

How did we find her? Two books were very helpful, as was the author of one of them. Until I read The Ancient and Martial Dances by Arlechina Verdigris, I had no idea that dance ethnography could be such a powerful tool for teasing out bits of mythos. Ms. Verdigris's study of Mediterranean folk dance shows clearly that it still holds layers that go back at least to late Minoan times, and probably much earlier, giving glimpses of not only a Sun goddess but also a grain goddess and the Mountain Mother who rules over the crafts that use her substance to create beautiful objects: pottery and metal-smithing.

Arlechina was generous enough to join the conversation and help us in our search for the Minoan Sun goddess, pointing out the associations with the date palm, the murex dye, and griffins, all of whom show up in Minoan art as tipoffs that the deity being shown is indeed a Sun goddess. Some of this information was lost during the Bronze Age collapse and during the transition from bronze cults to iron cults, but enough threads remain that we can find our way back.

The second source that we found to be very useful was Patricia Monaghan's book O Mother Sun! This excellent resource traces Sun goddesses across Eurasia and beyond, from the Paleolithic era to modern times. It's out of print now but worth seeking out at used booksellers. Monaghan is known for her thoroughly researched, well-documented works about the divine feminine, several of which are still in print (she died in 2012).

What I found especially interesting about the material in O Mother Sun! is that the format I thought was normal (Sun=god and Moon=goddess) is reversed in the older layers of mythology. We can still catch glimpses of this in traces of earlier pantheons, such as the Norse Sun goddess Sunna and her brother Mani, the Moon god.

So we found Therasia, though we still don't know what the Minoans called her. She answers to this name now, spoken by modern Pagans in the contemporary world. And I'm grateful for the resources that helped us make that connection.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

 

NOTE: The lovely folks at NASA tell us that we should capitalize the names of our Earth, Sun, and Moon the same way we capitalize the names of other planets (Jupiter, Neptune), stars (Aldebaran, Sirius), and planetary moons (Io, Europa). I think it’s only right that we show as much respect for our Earth, Sun, and Moon as we do the other celestial objects.

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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 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, you can find me in the garden or giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

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