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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The Minoan Cat: cute, stealthy, beloved

I've written before about the dogs the Minoans kept as pets and hunting companions. But did you know the Minoans also had cats? They probably came to Crete on trading ships from Egypt, and it's clear from the art that they loved their kitties every bit as much as modern people do.

That's a Minoan cat up top in a fresco from Hagia Triada. In true cat fashion, it's hiding behind some ivy to sneak up on a bird.

Or how about this one, chasing after a goose along a riverbank, in a fresco from Akrotiri:

River scene Minoan fresco from Akrotiri

Its spots and overall shape suggest that it's an Egyptian Mau, another pointer toward Minoan cats having originated in Egypt. This is one section of a long, narrow fresco that includes another cat (the other one is yellow with spots), several geese, and a griffin (the mythical creature).

In case you're wondering, the cat above isn't freezing cold. The Minoans used blue pigment to depict gray surfaces - like cats and rocks, above, or shaved heads and monkey fur. We aren't entirely certain why they made this choice, though the fact that blue pigments were very expensive may have entered into the equation, as a sort of wealth display. There may also have been sacred symbology, as there was with other colors.

In addition to frescoes, cats appear in other forms in Minoan art. I just love this cup and footed jug from Malia, with their 3D cats in outdoor scenes with trees and bushes. Maybe these cats are also hiding in ambush, waiting for a tasty morsel to stroll by:

Minoan ceramic cup with 3d cat and trees


Minoan footed jug with 3D cat decoration

Cats were important enough to the Minoans that they created symbols for them in their writing systems. Here's a green jasper stone seal engraved with Cretan hieroglyphs. I bet you can find the cat:

Minoan stone seal with Cretan hieroglyphs

We don't have enough examples of Cretan hieroglyphs, or a Rosetta stone, to be able to decipher them. So for now, they're just intriguing symbols, some of which are recognizable.

A few of the Cretan hieroglyphs transferred over when the Minoans invented Linear A, the writing system they used to record their own language, for bookkeeping in the temples and inscriptions on ritual ware. Linear A is also undeciphered; don't let any clickbait headlines fool you. In Linear A, the cat hieroglyph was simplified into a line drawing to go with the rest of the script, like the cat on this tablet fragment from Phaistos:

Minoan Linear A tablet fragment from Phaistos

This symbol also appears in an even more simplified and stylized form in Linear B, the script that resulted when Linear A was adapted for use with the Mycenaean Greek language.

In Linear B, the cat-head symbol stands for the sound MA. It's likely it had the same sound value in Linear A. I find this especially interesting given that the ancient Egyptian word for cat was, more or less, "mau." Maybe the Minoans borrowed the animal's name once the little cat feet pranced off those trading ships and onto the shores of Crete.

I've always loved that the Egyptian word for cat sounds like the Egyptians found a cat in a grain storehouse, went up to it, and said, "Hello there. Who are you?" Of course, the cat answered, "Mau."

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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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