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?

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Minoan Epiphany: Come on Down!

Have any deities ever appeared to you? If the artwork is any indication, they seem to have put in a few appearances to the Minoans of ancient Crete. It's likely the Minoan clergy practiced ritual trance possession, and it's also possible the deities appeared to worshipers in visions during rituals.

The image up top is the Isopata ring, a gold seal ring from a Minoan-era tomb near Knossos. The scene shows four women, presumably priestesses, dancing ecstatically in a field of lilies. Interesting stuff floats around their heads: snake-like serpentine lines, a beehive, and... a small female figure.

She's dressed like the other women, in a flounced skirt, but she's tiny; her hair and skirt are flying out as if she's moving quickly through the air. She is, perhaps, a goddess who has been invoked in this ritual, trance possessing the central dancing figure, since the epiphany figure is right next to that particular dancer.

The interesting thing is, small floating figures like this one show up on several other seal rings, as does a small floating male figure who holds a spear. This ring from the Minoan port city of Amnisos has a floating goddess hovering over a boat full of people, being greeted by more people to the left. In this case, the epiphany figure isn't hovering close to any particular human, so we can interpret it as the appearance of a goddess to the group during some sort of ritual.


Minoan seal ring from Amnisos


This one, usually called the Ring of Minos, shows a similar female figure floating near a priestess who is seated on a shrine. The epiphany figure is right next to a seated female figure, so we understand this to represent a priestess embodying a goddess in ritual. One of the hallmarks of Minoan iconography is that lone seated female figures represent goddesses, either in mythic settings or trance possessing a human priestess in ritual.


Ring of Minos

And this one, dubbed the Epiphany Ring, shows a male figure floating in mid-air between a shrine and a priestess or worshiper who is performing the Minoan salute. So we can interpret it as a god appearing to a worshiper at this sacred site.


Epiphany ring


We call these "epiphany figures" because we think they're instances of deities either trance possessing Minoan clergy or appearing to worshipers, perhaps as internal mental images, perhaps as mass visions. It looks like they're floating or flying, so there's some idea that maybe they came down from the sky. But as far as we know, the Minoans didn't have a "heaven above" the way Christians do.

I suspect that, instead of coming down from the sky, the deities came down from their sacred mountaintops to appear in the Minoans' ritual space. The Minoans had plenty of peak sanctuaries in the mountains that line the center of Crete. So I'm betting that, if these deities descended from anywhere, it's from those mountain peaks.

These four seal rings are just a sampling of the many epiphany figures in Minoan art. Apparently, having the deities actually show up at your ritual was really a thing in ancient Crete. If ecstatic trance was also a thing the Minoans did (and that appears to be the case) then this isn't surprising. I can only imagine what it must have been like to participate in one of those rituals.

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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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