The Minoan Path: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, loving goddess of ancient Crete who lives on in the hearts and minds of the modern world. This is not a reconstructionist tradition, but a journey of modern Pagans in relationship with Minoan deities in the contemporary world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

To join the discussion about ancient Minoan culture and Modern Minoan Paganism, pop on over to our Ariadne's Tribe group on Facebook.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Minoan Seal Rings and their Mysterious Floating Objects

If you look at one of the amazingly detailed Minoan gold seal rings, you might see a tiny human figure hovering as if it's descending from the heavens. These are usually interpreted as a god or goddess coming down to their worshipers: an epiphany scene. But what about all the other strange shapes that float in the air on the seal rings?

Given the Minoans' focus (obsession, maybe) with astronomy, there's a strong possibility that those floating objects represent constellations. One clue is that they always show up in the same position relative to each other, no matter how many or few of them are on the ring.

Above, you can see the ring from Tholos Tomb A at Arkhanes/Phourni (Arkhanes is the name of the nearest modern town and Phourni is the name of the hill the Minoan cemetery is located on). You have to enlarge it like crazy to really see the detail, but the hovering shapes include something that looks like a capital letter i, a butterfly, and a dragonfly. Above those is an object that looks like a heart (animal? human?). Bear in mind that the Minoans practiced animal sacrifice and may have used the animal's internal organs for divination, so the heart may be an indication of that practice. But I think the other floating objects may be constellations, especially that capital i, since it shows up repeatedly.

Here, for instance, is a ring from Mochlos with the "floating i":

 

Mochlos Minoan seal ring

 

The Mochlos ring also includes what looks like a double comet or double meteor, which is pretty interesting if you ask me.

This one from Knossos, usually called the Epiphany Ring, also has the capital i symbol:

 

Epiphany ring

 

What I find most interesting about this one is that the "capital i" isn't floating in the air, but standing inside a shrine while a male god descends to a worshiper. That suggests to me that if the floating objects do indeed stand for constellations, the Minoans connected their constellations with their mythology just like everyone else in the ancient world did. Maybe this particular constellation represents one of the Minoan gods.

There's another floating object that appears repeatedly on the seal rings that really fascinates me. It looks like an ear of wheat or barley. Given that the Eleusinian Mysteries likely had their start in Minoan Crete, and that the heliacal rising of Spica (the ear of wheat in the hand of the virgin in the constellation Virgo) was integral to the timing of the Mysteries, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the floating ear of wheat possibly represents Spica and, by association, the Mysteries. Here are some rings that include it. First, the famous Isopata ring:

 

Isopata ring

 

The ear of grain is floating just above the writhing serpent here (serpents are the most common visual phenomenon associated with the use of entheogens).

Here's a ring from the Sellopoulo chamber tomb at Knossos:

 

Sellopoulo chamber tomb ring

 

Here you can see a male figure leaning over a boulder (the so-called "baetyl ritual" that was probably shamanic in nature) while a bird descends toward him and an ear of grain floats above. Lots of symbology to unpack here!

Here's the Runners Ring from Kato Syme:

 

Runners Ring from Kato Syme

 

You can see the ear of grain right over the runner's head. There's a female figure (priestess?) on the left and a male figure playing a lyre on the right (wearing the animal hide skirt associated with animal sacrifice). This makes me wonder what other kinds of activities were associated with the Mysteries (assuming I've got that part right, of course).

Some of the floating objects also show up in Minoan-style gold seal rings from mainland Greece. Here's the Vapheio ring (from Vapheio, Greece where the famous gold cups also came from):

 

Vapheio ring

 

Here you can see the ear of grain clearly floating above the human figures, along with a funky labrys-plus-sacral-scarf object that appears elsewhere on Minoan seals.

I've only been able to find one research paper that studies these floating objects (you can read it free here -  academia dot edu is a great resource). You can find out much, much more about Minoan astronomy (but no mention of the floating objects, unfortunately) on the Uppsala Archaeoastronomical Project website.

Bear in mind that most of the people who study this stuff academically are just that - academics - and have no experience with Pagan spirituality, so they may not have reference points for some of the shamanic and trance possession activities depicted in the art or for the mythology, except what they've read in passing in school.

The more we find out, the more questions we have. But that's OK. The journey is the destination.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Last modified on
I'm an artist, writer, and lover of all things ancient and mysterious. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a particular passion of mine since a fateful art history class introduced me to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. My first book was published in 2001; my most recent work is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. I've also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When I'm not busy drawing and writing, I enjoy gardening and giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.

Comments

Additional information