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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Rockin' Religion: The Minoan Baetyl Ritual

Considering that we can't read the Linear A records the Minoans left behind, we know a surprising amount about their religious practices. Much of it is what we would expect from a Bronze Age culture in the Mediterranean and adjacent regions: processions, libations, temples, shrines. The art and archaeology tell us as much.

But some of the Minoans' religious practices were distinct from their neighbors'.

The Minoans appear to have maintained some Neolithic practices well into the Bronze Age. Caves, mountain peaks, large sacred stones - these are not typical focal points for Bronze Age temple-based religion. But if the art and archaeology are any indication, they were important facets of Minoan religion. And some of them are still as mysterious as the day we first discovered them.

Take, for instance, the so-called Baetyl Ritual.

That's a depiction of it up top, on a gold seal ring from the Sellopoulo chamber tomb at Knossos (image via Wikimedia Commons).

This ritual appears on a number of seal rings and seal impressions. At its most basic, it involves a person leaning over a large boulder. Sir Arthur Evans used the word baetyl, pronounced "beetle" and meaning a sacred stone, to describe this rite.

There are lots of theories about what this ritual might have meant and how the "snapshots" of it that we see in the art might fit into a larger whole. But without greater context, or written texts, we can only get so far with academic-style analysis.

What does the art tell us?

First, the ritual takes place outdoors, usually in a natural setting but sometimes on what looks like a stone-paved surface such as a courtyard. We don't have specific enough dates for the seal rings to be able to tell whether the ritual perhaps first began as a rite done out in nature and eventually became an act performed at temples and other human-made sacred settings, but that's a possibility.

Second, there are specific postures associated with this ritual. The person can lean face-down over the boulder, with one or both arms raised as if shielding or covering their face or head. Or they can lean against the boulder, facing it, but lifting their upper body up and turning it away from the stone.

The rite can take place by itself, as on the seal ring above, or alongside other rituals, as on this seal ring from the Minoan cemetery at Phourni:

Minoan gold seal ring from Phourni
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here we see a male figure on the left performing a baetyl ritual while a female figure in the middle dances and a male figure on the right performs a tree-shaking ritual.

The two examples I've shown here depict male-presenting people performing the baetyl ritual, but female-presenting people are shown equally in the art. So this isn't a gendered rite.

We don't understand the other rituals shown alongside the baetyl ritual well enough for them to help us understand. So what can we do?


One of the delightful aspects of polytheism and animism is that they're living spiritual practices. The deities and other spirit beings whom the Minoans honored in these rites still exist and are usually happy for us to connect with them.

While I can't share many of the details, a number of us in Ariadne's Tribe have tried our own versions of the baetyl ritual in an effort to understand it better and figure out aspects like which deities it was associated with and what times of year it might have been performed.

Our results so far? It appears to be connected with divination, it definitely involves trance conditions, and it was probably used on many different occasions and at multiple different times of year.

How we end up using it in our modern practice will depend on where the deities lead us. This is why we call ourselves a revivalist tradition and not a reconstructionist one. We can't know for certain how the Minoans performed this ritual. But we can listen to what the deities tell us today and follow their guidance.

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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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