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: https://ariadnestribe.wordpress.com/. 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 Mystery of Minoan Papyrus

When someone says "papyrus," most people think of Egypt - specifically, ancient Egypt with papyrus plants growing along the banks of the Nile and being made into sheets of material to write on.

People don't often think of the Minoans in connection with papyrus. But papyrus appears in Minoan art more than you might think. And we're still not quite sure what it means.

In Egyptian art, papyrus symbolizes fertility and fecundity. It's associated with the beginning of life on Earth (the First Occasion), and pendants in the shape of papyrus were used as amulets for good health.

But what about on Crete?

The image at the top of this post is a fresco from the House of the Ladies in Akrotiri, dating to about 1625 BCE. It depicts large, life-size papyrus growing across a whole wall in mural format. This might simply be a decoration, a bit of nature brought indoors. But it probably has other connotations as well.

Here's the Blue Monkey fresco from Knossos. It was found in the House of the Frescoes, one of the outbuildings surrounding the main temple complex in Knossos, and dates to 1600-1500 BCE:

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

This fresco depicts baboons picking papyrus along the water's edge. Both baboons and papyrus are found in Egypt, so this might be an image of a foreign land or a mythical scene.

But it's possible to grow papyrus on Crete. In fact, there's a large stand of it in front of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum today. And there's some evidence that the Minoans used papyrus. Clay nodules have been found with the impressions of the edges of folded-up papyrus, as if the nodules were used to seal a folded message.

So that makes it all the more interesting that papyrus shows up in Minoan jewelry like this gold necklace:

Minoan gold necklace with papyrus beads
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

or this bathtub-style larnax (sarcophagus) dating to 1440-1050 BCE:

Minoan bathtub style larnax with papyrus
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

or this interesting jug from Phaistos (1700-1450 BCE) that has papyrus blossoms on the ends of stems that loop around to make the papyrus look like labryses:

Minoan jug from Phaistos
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

We can't assume the Minoans viewed papyrus the same way the Egyptians did. The Egyptians and the Minoans borrowed a great deal from each other. Minoan-style frescoes have been found in Avaris in the Nile delta, for instance. And the Egyptian goddess Taweret shows up in late Minoan art in a form that's called the "Minoan genius" with different attributes than the original Egyptian goddess had (more about that in another post).

But we can see that the Minoans liked papyrus quite a lot, enjoyed its beauty, and viewed it in a positive light. Maybe one day we'll find some more clues that will help us figure out how it fits into Minoan cosmology and mythology, too.

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

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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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