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 MMP Pantheon: The Melissae

This is one in a series of posts about finding the MMP deities in Minoan art. Find the whole series here.

Today we're going to focus on the Melissae. In MMP, we view them as bee-spirit goddesses who care for the spirits of the dead. As such, the bee and beehive are the most obvious symbols we associate with them. For instance, there's the famous Malia bee pendant:

Malia bee pendant
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This beautiful gold pendant depicts two bees holding what may be a piece of honeycomb, with what looks like a drop of honey between their mouths. This pendant also happens to be the symbol we've chosen as the Modern Minoan Paganism logo: The bees represent community and interdependence, like in a hive. The honey is the sweetness of connection with the divine. And the three round drops at the bottom of the pendant remind us of the Three Mothers who preside over our pantheon.

There's another lovely Minoan bee that's also gold:

Minoan gold bee
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This one probably had stones inlaid in the eyes, way back when. The granulation on both of these pieces is really quite impressive, and it makes me think of all the tiny, fuzzy hairs on a honeybee's body.

Beehives are a little harder to find in Minoan art, but they're there if you know where to look. Take, for instance, this gold seal ring from the Isopata tombs near Knossos:

Isopata seal ring
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The actual ring is at the top of the photo above; the larger gold oval is the museum's enlargement for easier viewing. It's kind of hard to see, but above the head of the figure on the far right, there's a beehive with bees streaming out of it. It may represent the presence of the Melissae during the ritual that's depicted on the ring. It might be easier to see in my modern art interpretation of the ring:

Isopata by Laura Perry

This is just a single beehive. But the Minoans were renowned for their beekeeping. They had so many hives, the Linear B tablets record huge quantities of honey at the Knossos temple complex. And there just happens to be a Minoan fresco that shows beehives in their natural habitat, so to speak. It's the Flotilla fresco from Akrotiri:

Akrotiri Flotilla fresco
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

I recommend clicking through to the original full-size image on Wikimedia, preferably on a large screen such as a laptop, so you can see all the detail. The fresco depicts a festive procession of ships, perhaps something like the Blessing of the Ships that we celebrate in MMP. The ships in the fresco are sailing from one port, on the left, to a second port, on the right. If you look closely at the far right end of the fresco, you'll see that there's a hillside just to the left of the port, and it's covered with rows of beehives. Bees, honey - and the Melissae!

So the next time you see honeybees or hives, in Minoan art or elsewhere, think of the Melissae and their buzzing greeting as they wend their way from the spirits of the dead in the Underworld to those of us who honor them in the World Above.

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

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Laura Perry is an artist, writer, and the founder and facilitator of Modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a passion of hers since a fateful art history class introduced her to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. Her first book was published in 2001; one of her most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. She has also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. 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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