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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Equal Time for Minoan Gods and Men

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I was recently asked, over in Ariadne’s Tribe, about the apparent predominance of women and goddesses in ancient Minoan religion. After all, the labrys and the Snake Goddess figurines have been hallmarks of the feminist movement for decades.

But Minoan spirituality wasn't nearly as overwhelmingly female-centric as it might appear. Instead, it's more balanced.

Before you panic, let me reassure you that the Minoan pantheon as we understand it in Ariadne's Tribe is headed by a triplicity of mother goddesses. From them descend all the deities in the Minoan pantheon, which turns out to be roughly half female-presenting and half male-presenting, just like the human population.

One of the reasons Minoan spirituality has an apparently goddess-centric vibe is that the most publicized pieces of art from ancient Crete involve female figures: the Snake Goddess figurines, the central  figure from the Corridor of the Processions fresco, the Ladies in Blue fresco.

I tend to think these images have captured the imagination of the general public largely because, even today, they’re a bit risque with their brazenly bare breasts. An image of a fully-robed man isn’t nearly as titillating (heh).

And of course, for decades it was the men within the archaeological community who decided what to study and what to publicize, hence the preponderance of topless female figures.

For many years Nanno Marinatos’ book Minoan Religion: Ritual, Image and Symbol was one of the best references for Minoan art. It's now out of print, but Ms. Marinatos has generously posted the PDF of the book online. It's still a great reference because the art in the book is actually from ancient Crete and not an incorrect modern reproduction or fake.

There are nearly 250 illustrations in Minoan Religion depicting just as many male figures as female ones (yes, I counted). I find it interesting that Ms. Marinatos interprets most female images from ancient Minoan art as goddesses, but she thinks most male images are human priests. In other words, she assumes the Minoans had a goddess-centric religion and applies that assumption to the artwork she’s looking at. I beg to differ.

Given what we see in the art, it's a good bet that Minoan religion centered around the practice of trance possession – the deity entering into the body of the clergy person so they became the living vessel for the divine during the sacred ceremony.

When the Minoans thought about their deities, they pictured them in human form, the way they appeared in the public ceremonies and mystery plays. And that’s how they depicted them in art – as humans.

So when you see the image of a man in a robe carrying a mace, you can’t assume it’s a priest; it may be a god portraying one particular aspect of the myths and legends of ancient Crete. We simply can’t be sure. But we can avoid too much bias by viewing the artwork with an open mind.

I understand the desire to discover a perfectly peaceful, egalitarian, woman-run society in the ancient world. Given the sad results of the unbalanced, male-centric worldview that has damaged humanity and the Earth alike over the past couple of millennia, it’s a natural reaction to want to swing widely in the other direction.

But we do both ourselves and the ancient Minoans a disservice if we walk into their world full of preconceived notions.

What we really see in Minoan art isn't a culture dominated by women the way our world is currently dominated by men. Instead, we see equality. A balance, a partnership between the genders.

So let's focus on the concept of equality and allow it to flow out into not just our spiritual practice but our outer lives as well. No culture is perfect, but the Minoans can teach us a few things, if we're willing to listen with open minds.

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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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