Modern Minoan Paganism: 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. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a purely reconstructionist tradition, but a journey 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?

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Myth-information: Minoan facts, rumors, and wild tales

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The Internet is a great source of information, but it turns out that it's also a repository of out-of-date and incorrect ideas that keep getting passed around again and again simply because they're floating around in cyberspace. Believe it or not, the Minoans are the subject of quite a few of these bits of misinformation.

In the interest of efficiency, here's the list of Minoan-related concepts that I find myself having to explain most often. Don't panic; I believed many of them myself at one time. But it's a good idea to set the record straight. Plus, this way I have a link to point people to instead of having to constantly repeat myself. :-)

Linear A has not been translated. Linear A is the script the Minoans used to write their native language. We simply don't have enough texts to do a decipherment. It's not a matter of inspiration, but simple math: deciphering requires a minimum amount of text. Some people get Linear A confused with Linear B; they do have very similar, painfully unimaginative names. Linear B is a script that was adapted from Linear A in much the same way that the Greek alphabet was adapted to create the Glagolitic/Cyrillic script. Linear B was used to write Mycenaean, an early form of Greek. We still don't know what language Linear A recorded, except that it's the one the Minoans spoke. If you want to see some good work based on our current best guesses with Linear A, check out John Younger's website at the University of Kansas. But it's not a translation, just some work in that direction.

The Phaistos disc hasn't been deciphered either. Just like with Linear A, every few years someone pops up and insists that they have somehow magically "translated" the symbols on the disc. Again, it's a simple matter of math: it's not possible to do a decipherment of a script unless we have a certain amount of text. Lots of the supposed decipherments out there are kind of inspiring, but I promise you, none of them are factual. The only reason we were able to translate Linear B was that we have so many texts in that script. I'm still holding out hope that we'll find more discs and more Linear A tablets so one day we can do a decipherment of both. Minoan archaeology is ongoing, so that kind of discovery is not out of the question.

There is still no real evidence that the Minoans had any kind of military. Just like with the decipherments, every few years someone pops up with some ideas that purport to "prove" that the Minoans had at least a navy, if not a full-blown land-based military. The reason we never hear from these people again is that there is no real basis for their theories. I think the need to find a military within Minoan society says more about modern people than it does about the Minoans. It's certainly possible that they had something like a merchant marine (I think they probably did) but there's not really even any solid evidence of that.

The story of Theseus and the labyrinth is Greek, not Minoan. We don't actually have any surviving "whole" Minoan myths. Everything we know about Minoan mythology has come down to us in fragmentary form via the Mycenaeans and later Greeks, none of whom were positively disposed toward the Minoans. Ariadne and Minos were originally Minoan deities, not mortals. The Minotaur was likewise originally a god, not a monster. And Theseus? He's a Greek culture hero, not a part of Minoan mythology. It's a normal process as cultures collide for the "conquering" culture to demote and demonize the gods of the "conquered" culture, and that's exactly what happened to the Minoan pantheon at the hands of the Greeks. So we have to do our best to put the Minoan myths back together from the purposely altered fragments the Greeks have left us with.

Horns don't make it a bull. If it's a bovine creature and it has horns, you can't automatically assume it's a bull, even though that's exactly what all the high-falutin' Victorian and Edwardian archaeologists did. Until very recently, all cattle, both cows and bulls, had horns. Check out some details of this subject in this blog post.

There are no actual labyrinths at Knossos. Yes, yes, I know the labyrinth is iconic of Minoan civilization. But nowhere at any Minoan site have we found an actual labyrinth design. There are lots of partial maze-like designs in Minoan art (that's probably where the later "Greek key" style border comes from) but no labyrinths. It's possible that the labyrinth was too sacred to commit to any kind of permanent form. Its association with the Crane Dance suggests that the labyrinth design may have been the form of a dance, kind of like a spiral dance. The design may even have been temporarily marked on floors for rituals. But nothing of that sort has survived. Now, mind you, the labyrinth plays a part in Modern Minoan Paganism. Many of us walk labyrinths as part of our spiritual practice. But sadly, there are none from ancient Minoan times.

Let's keep exploring and enjoying the reflection of ancient Minoan culture in the modern world. We can listen to the gods and even use our imaginations. But let's at least start from a basis that we know is pretty well factual, OK?

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

 

Blog image: Original art by Laura Perry from The Minoan Tarot

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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; one of my most recent works 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.

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