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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Hands of Great Skill: A few "handy" Minoan deities

Modern Minoan Paganism's pantheon includes a variety of gods and goddesses with varying attributes. One group I haven't talked much about is the set of deities we call Hands of Great Skill: those whose purview is highly skilled handcrafts of various sorts.

Taking the raw materials of the Earth and transforming them, turning them into something new and different: that's a kind of magic. Rhea's gifts to us - clay and metal ore - are the body of the Earth Mother, offered up to those whose can make blades from rocks and vessels from mud using their hands and the equally magical power of fire.

The foremost member of this group is Daedalus, the mythic figure who is famous for building the Labyrinth and, according to Homer, Ariadne's dancing floor. Centuries after the fall of the Minoan cities, the Greeks twisted his story into something sad and terrible. But in Modern Minoan Paganism, we know him as a smith-inventor god.

The Minoans were a Bronze Age culture, so you won't find any anvils or pieces of red-hot iron in Daedalus' workshop. Instead, you will find the tools for pouring bronze blades and figurines, along with the accoutrements of the goldsmith and silversmith's trade. You might even find the plans for some of the fancy temple complexes at the heart of the big Minoan cities.

Along with Daedalus, you'll find some interesting demi-gods and goddesses in the pantheon of Modern Minoan Paganism: the Daktyls and Hekaterides. Where did they come from?

At Midwinter, the Earth Mother goddess Rhea went to her sacred cave on the island of Crete to give birth to her son, the god Dionysus. During labor, as she cried out in the throes of a contraction, she dug her fingers into the Earth. As her son was born, so too rose up a set of beings from the marks her fingers made in the soil: the five male Daktyls from her right hand and the five female Hekaterides from her left hand.

These beings represent the magical skills that transform the Earth from raw material to fine finished goods. Pottery, the Hekaterides' territory, goes back at least as far as the early Neolithic era. And metalsmithing, which we associate the Daktyls with, began in the Copper Age during the late Neolithic, progressing to the fine works of the Bronze Age.

In a world before the advent of the factory assembly line, every item anyone owned was made entirely by hand. The hands of a skilled craftsperson were their most precious tool, the focus of their expertise. It’s no wonder that hands and fingers became the focus of reverence and even the names of some special deities.

The next time you begin a craft project or buy a handmade item, consider the possibility that Hands of Great Skill, whether yours or someone else's, are a sacred gift.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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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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