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 Menagerie Part 2: Animals of the Sky

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Last time, we looked at some of the land animals the Minoans depicted in their art: cattle, monkeys, lions, and so on. Today, we're going to explore the Minoans' images of animals of the sky, the domain of our Sun goddess Therasia - so, essentially, birds, though I think bees also count.

Sometimes it's easy to tell which type of bird is being shown. For instance, that's a swallow flying by some lilies in the image at the top, which is a segment of the Spring fresco from Akrotiri. Here's the whole thing, with quite a few swallows:

Spring fresco from AkrotiriImage CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Or these three doves resting atop columns in a terracotta model from Knossos:

Doves on columns, Knossos
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Or this rock dove in the Blue Bird fresco from the House of the Frescoes, one of the outbuildings surrounding the Knossos temple complex. Note that Minoan artists used the color blue to depict surfaces that appear grey, so this isn't actually a *blue* bird - the markings on its neck and its overall shape identify it as a rock dove.

Blue Bird fresco, Knossos
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

But there are many birds that we can't identify beyond just saying that they're birds. For instance, this lovely little alabaster pendant:

Minoan alabaster bird pendant
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Or the birds on this bell jar figurine's headdress (she's from Gazi):

Bell jar figurine with birds
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

How about the bird on this alabastron from the Kalyvia cemetery at Phaistos. It's clearly a water bird of some sort - it's carrying a fish in its claws. But what kind of water bird?

Alabastron from Kalyvia
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Then we have some objects that are even less directly bird-like, though they still depict birds. Bird rhytons are a common find at Minoan archaeological sites. They're vessels with beaked heads and some semblance of wings and/or tail. Here's a typical one:

Bird rhyton
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

And then there are the very generic birds, which can often be quite lovely. This is one of my favorites, a delicate little bird that's flying in the hollow of a bowl from Palaikastro:

Bird in bowl, Palaikastro
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This is just a small sampling of the birds in Minoan art; they definitely take up their full third of the land/sky/sea triplicity. But I would be remiss if I didn't include the other flying creature that shows up in Minoan art: the bee. Perhaps the most famous Minoan bees of them all are the ones on this gold pendant from Malia:

Malia bee pendant
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

But I'm also quite fond of this one as well. The eyes would originally have been inlaid with some kind of colored stone - maybe amber or carnelian.

Minoan gold bee
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So there you have it, the birds and the bees, Minoan style. Next time, we'll have a look at the sea creatures the Minoans were fond of depicting in their art.

Check out Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4 of this series as well.

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

Last modified on
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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