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 an independent polytheist spiritual tradition that brings the gods and goddesses 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 Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: We're a 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 Minoan Genius: Religion and Cultural Exchange

The Minoans were a seafaring, trading people who traveled all over the eastern Mediterranean and points beyond. During those travels, they encountered other cultures. They brought back objects from faraway places: cylinder seals from Mesopotamia, carved stone jars and jewelry from Egypt. They probably brought back spouses/partners from the places they traveled to.

They also brought deities back with them.

One of the deities they brought back to Crete was the Egyptian goddess Taweret. But as with the other aspects of their lives, the Minoans put their own spin on this deity. And then the Mycenaeans borrowed this deity, who has come to be called the Minoan genius (plural = genii), as they did with a lot of other Minoan iconography and religious practice. You can see an image of the genius at the top of this post in a line drawing of a Minoan-style Mycenaean seal from Vapheio, Greece. Here's an impression from a Minoan hematite seal of the same deity:

Amygdaloid stone seal of the Minoan genius
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

It may sound odd to modern folx to think about importing deities along with art, fashion, and consumer goods. But the Bronze Age world was polytheistic, with no real concept of separation between the sacred and the mundane. It was pretty common for the gods to move around with their people. And the pantheon of any given region or culture could easily fit a few more deities without upsetting the balance.

So the Minoans brought Taweret back from Egypt. In her homeland, she was a goddess of childbirth, a divine midwife and protector of pregnant women. She was often portrayed with either a lioness's head or a hippo's head, and both appear to have been borrowed into Minoan iconography. But once the Minoans got hold of Taweret, her appearance changed, to the point that there is currently a lot of argument as to what, exactly, the Minoan genius's gender is.

Taweret's role as divine midwife and wet-nurse involved her breasts secreting milk that provided protection, purification, and blessings. Egyptian statues were even set up so that liquid could pour out their breasts and be used in ritual. This practice may give us a hint about the reason behind the way the Minoans portrayed their version of her.

In Minoan iconography, the so-called Minoan genius (surely we can come up with a better name for them) is almost always shown holding a rhyton - a vessel for pouring liquid offerings, or libations. So some sort of blessing or offering is associated with this deity.

It's also interesting to note that over time, the genius's profile went from portly/pregnant, like the Egyptian Taweret, to the wasp-waisted silhouette we see throughout Minoan art on figures of all genders. It's possible that means the Minoans didn't associate this deity with pregnancy, but with other aspects of life.

There are lots of theories and arguments about the Minoan genius. They definitely look different from Taweret by the time they're fully incorporated into the Minoan sphere. We don't know whether the genius maintained Taweret's female gender or changed, and if so, what they changed into. We don't really know what part they played in Minoan religion. Heck, we don't even know their name - what the Minoans called them.

So many questions! The Minoan genius is a fascinating enigma. At this point, we'll have to dive into the murky realm of personal and shared gnosis in order to figure out whether/how to incorporate them into our spiritual practice. If we come up with any great revelations, I'll let you know.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

Sources and Further Reading:


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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She is the founder and Temple Mom of Modern Minoan Paganism. 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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