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 sharedl 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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Ancient Minoan Clothing and Fashion

One of the subjects I'm asked about most often is what daily life was like in ancient Crete. I've written about Minoan food and cooking here and here. And I posted about Minoan cosmetics here, including do-it-yourself recipes. But one thing I haven't really talked about much is the clothes the Minoans wore.

I did write up some information about why women in Minoan art are shown with bare breasts - that one turns out to be my most popular post ever, probably thanks to the word "topless" in the title. But there's more to Minoan clothing than open-front tops, like the ones shown in the fresco at the top of this post (the Ladies in Blue fresco from Knossos). In fact, the Minoans were surprisingly fashion-conscious.

Today I'm sharing an excerpt from my book Ariadne's Thread all about what the Minoans wore. They had a big wool industry on the island and imported linen from Egypt, so they had plenty to work with. Here you go:

 

"For most people, the term Minoan conjures up an image of heavily made-up, finely dressed and bejeweled men and women. While this may be an accurate picture of the wealthy upper classes and the priesthood at the height of Crete’s glory, the majority of the population wore the same sorts of clothes that the locals had been wearing for centuries.

The working classes wore either simple tunics, sometimes belted, or chitons, a loosely gathered garment also worn by the mainland Greeks, all made of coarse wool or linen. The men often wore simple knee-length wrap skirts, tied or belted at the waist. In the balmy island climate many men went bare-chested, and laborers in the harbor or on board merchant ships might wear nothing but a loincloth. The ordinary people had little selection for footwear – simple leather sandals or boots were all that was available. Even the well-to-do craftsmen wore simple, sturdy clothes when they worked, for obvious reasons. The upper classes, however, had a much greater variety to choose from.

Those whose work did not involve physical labor dressed in fine linen, often woven with metallic threads or hand-printed with floral or geometric designs. The women’s dresses hung to the ankles and it was quite fashionable to layer several skirts of different lengths together with the hems hanging one above the other. The women’s tops were open down the front and could be worn with the edges together for a modest look or with the front wide open, revealing the breasts. To complete the stylish Minoan ensemble, the women wore tight corset-like girdles (wide belts) at the waist.

 

Minoan fresco from Akrotiri

 

Minoan art depicts narrow waists as fashionable for both women and men so the men often wore tight belts or girdles as well. But the men’s garments were based around a gathered or pleated knee-length skirt, sometimes referred to as a kilt. Like their working-class counterparts, wealthy Minoan men often went without a shirt, the climate being warm for a good part of the year. Like the women of their island, the men wore their hair long and carefully styled into braids or ringlets.

 

Procession fresco from Knossos

 

One striking aspect of Minoan fashion is its emphasis on sexuality. This should not be surprising coming from a society that found no sin or guilt in sexual display and activity. The people of ancient Crete celebrated their bodies just as they celebrated their beautiful island home and their gods. The women’s clothing often emphasized bare breasts. The men’s clothing could be quite scanty, often consisting of nothing more than a very short skirt and sandals. Minoan men also wore a close-fitting garment much like modern bicycle shorts, made of fabric cut on the bias for stretch. In addition, the men wore exaggerated codpieces on the fronts of their skirts much like the ones that Renaissance European men sported.

Both men and women displayed their wealth through intricately woven trims and ribbons on their clothing, heavy makeup, and expensive jewelry. The men also wore ornate daggers, often with jeweled hilts, to display their high status. Such weapons were a (sometimes ostentatious) display of wealth. While the women usually wore sandals, the men often wore soft leather boots, but all were made of high quality leather and sometimes gilded or decorated with jewels. Those who stayed indoors often went without shoes, a mark of extreme luxury.

Artistic depictions of the different classes of Minoan society on frescoes and pottery show the priestly class wearing distinctive garb. We are familiar with the beautifully-dressed snake priestesses with their flounced skirts, embroidered aprons and tight girdles. But these garments were also worn by well-to-do people outside the temples. The distinction between ordinary women and priestesses, when they were otherwise dressed alike, is the headgear worn only by the clergy. Minoan priestesses wore headbands, hats and coronets as a symbol of their office. Headdresses adorned with lilies are a particular attribute of priestesses and also of the Minoan version of that female mythological creature, the sphinx.

 

Hagia Triada sarcophagus griffin end           Hagia Triada sarcophagus side

 

Another piece of distinctive costuming that sets the priesthood apart is skirts made of animal hide. These above-ankle- length garments were worn by the men and the women of the priestly class, with or without a top. Hide skirts were a particular mark of the clergy who performed animal sacrifice rituals. The animal skins they wore linked them with the energy of the animal that was ritually sacrificed to the gods and shared with them as food."

Excerpt from Chapter 1 of Ariadne's Thread: Awakening the Wonders of the Ancient Minoans in Our Modern Lives.

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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