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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The Colors of the Minoan World

One of the first things people notice about Minoan art is how colorful it is. Check out the Saffron Gatherers fresco above - pretty bright, right? The Minoans painted frescoes on the walls of their temples and homes, and they painted the columns and other parts of the outsides of their buildings. I've shared before about the sacred symbolism of some of the colors in Minoan art.

How did they come up with such bright colors back in the Bronze Age, so long before the invention of synthetic dyes and paints?

Natural pigments can be surprisingly colorful. What kind of natural pigments, you may ask? Here are the materials that have been identified so far in Minoan art:

White: lime (calcium carbonate), white clay

Blue: Egyptian blue or powdered lapis lazuli

Red: red ochre

Yellow: yellow ochre

Lavender/purple: murex dye, a.k.a. Tyrian purple

Black: charcoal, soot

Colors like green and brown were made by mixing two or more of the pigments listed above.

Most of these materials were readily available locally, wherever the artists were working, and were pretty cheap. But three of them were very expensive: Egyptian blue, lapis lazuli, and murex dye.

The two blue pigments, Egyptian blue and lapis lazuli, were expensive because they were imported. The Egyptians kept their formula for their famous blue color a secret and charged a high price for it. And lapis was brought across a great distance by traders, from the region that is modern-day Afghanistan.

The murex dye was made locally, at several locations on Crete as well as on the small island of Chrysi just off the coast of Crete. But it was expensive because it took huge numbers of sea snails to make a small amount of the dye. It was also an incredibly smelly enterprise!

Except for the murex dye, all the pigments above are mineral-based. They're not readily biodegradable, so they haven't faded much over time. That means we still get to enjoy the beauty of the original colors, for the most part.

Except for the murex dye. It's organic, made from a gland of a certain kind of sea snail. So it biodegrades over time - and the Minoan frescoes are 3500 or more years old.

If you look at the fresco up top, you'll see two girls picking saffron (the red stigmas in the center of saffron crocus flowers). There are saffron crocus plants on the hillside next to them as well as in a sort of "wallpaper background" that represents fields of flowers spreading out behind them. We can easily see the green saffron crocus plants and the dark red saffron threads. But where are the lavender flowers?

They have faded away. Every one of those green plants originally had several lavender blooms. Everywhere that saffron crocuses appear in the frescoes from Akrotiri, they were painted with murex dye. Both saffron and murex dye were sacred to the Minoans, connected with their Sun Goddess, whom we call Therasia.

And both are ephemeral, the saffron crocus blooming briefly just once a year and the murex dye fading away while the rest of the painting remains. Just as every day is itself ephemeral, fading away at sunset, leaving us with memories of the beautiful colors we saw in the sunshine.

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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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