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?

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By Land, Sea, and Sky: A Minoan ritual framework

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Most Pagans are familiar with the Wiccan ritual framework of casting a circle, calling the quarters, and then invoking the deities. Other traditions have their own standard ways of beginning and ending their rites, of framing their sacred actions. But what about Modern Minoan Paganism? We can start by looking at what we think the ancient Minoans probably did, and build our practice from there.

As far as we know, the Minoans and other ancient cultures didn't cast circles; that's a practice that originated with grimoiric magic. What they did, instead, was purify the temple or shrine, usually with incense and occasionally by asperging (sprinkling) a substance such as herbal water.

While the Minoans knew about the cardinal directions, they appear to have been more interested in the places on the horizon where the Sun, Moon, and other celestial objects rose and set at particular times of the year. Most of their temples, tombs, and peak sanctuaries are oriented to these astronomical events. So no calling of the quarters, then, for our modern Minoan ritual.

The purpose of calling the quarters, of course, is to orient ourselves in the world as we begin ritual, to turn our ritual space (in a sense) into the center of the universe. Instead of the four cardinal directions, I'd like to suggest that we use the ancient triplicity of land, sea, and sky. This three-fold division of the natural world is represented in the Minoan pantheon by a trinity of goddesses: the earth goddess Rhea, the ocean goddess Posidaeja, and the sun goddess Therasia. (Adding the links to this paragraph makes me realize that I need to write a post about Posidaeja; it's on the list now.)

The liminal space where these three realms meet is a magical place. It's the abode of the crane, the sacred bird who walks in all three worlds, the source of the name of the labyrinthine dance that has long drawn people into their own Underworld, their own inner darkness, to meet the monster in the shadows and integrate it into their own wholeness.

As for invoking the deities, we're pretty sure the Minoans did that. Their art depicts gods and goddesses descending to worshipers, perhaps being drawn down into the priests and priestesses who embodied them during ritual. So that's a familiar ritual action that we can include in our modern rites.

How do I frame Minoan ritual? Here's my version. Please feel free to alter it to suit your own needs.

PURIFY THE TEMPLE: I use incense and sometimes herbal water as well to sain/smudge the ritual area after the altar is already set up. I prefer to walk back and forth rather than in a circle since ritual space in Minoan temples and villas tended to be located in rectangular rooms, but walking in a circle around the ritual area would also work.

CENTER THE SPACE: I call to the Mothers of the Three Realms:

By land, sea, and sky, I open this rite.

By the earth beneath our feet: Hail Rhea!

By the one ocean that encircles us all: Hail Posidaeja!

By the sun that rides across the sky: Hail Therasia!

Great Mothers, as we perform this sacred rite today,

Hold us in the palm of your hand.

THE RITUAL ITSELF: I usually begin with deity invocations and then get down to whatever "business" we're doing - offerings, celebrations, prayers of gratitude, requests for aid. I usually include a libation of a liquid that's appropriate to the deity, and we may share that drink around the group after the god or goddess has had their portion. I don't always include food, even though many of us are used to a "cakes and ale" section in ritual thanks to the influence of Wicca (though a feast after the ritual is never amiss, I say).

FINISHING UP: I reverse the opening process to end the ritual. Finish up the business, bid farewell to any deities who were invoked (if you've done trance possession, make sure you have appropriate aftercare for your clergy), and acknowledge the land/sea/sky triplicity again:

By land, sea, and sky I close this rite.

By the earth beneath our feet: Hail Rhea!

By the one ocean that encircles us all: Hail Posidaeja!

By the sun that rides across the sky: Hail Therasia!

Great Mothers, as we leave this sacred space today,

As we go about our daily lives,

hold us ever in the palm of your hand.

ENDING: Hugs all around, then sit down to a communal meal or head your own separate ways.


In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen!


Artwork: The Ring of Minos, modern art interpretation by Laura Perry

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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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