Ariadne's Tribe: Minoan Spirituality for the Modern World

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, the Minotaur, the Great Mothers, Dionysus, and the rest of the Minoan family of deities. Ariadne's Tribe is an independent spiritual tradition that brings the deities 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 Ariadne's Tribe at We're an inclusive, welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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Dividing the Minoan World

We divide our world many different ways based on time and space: day and night; the seasons; the ground, the air, and space.

Organizing the world into understandable parts is a natural human inclination, and the Minoans did it, just like everyone else. So how did they divide their world?

The most obvious division is the seasons. Crete lies in the sea just south of Greece and has a Mediterranean climate. That means that, instead of the spring-summer-autumn-winter cadence we're used to in most of North America and Europe, the year flows from the rainy season to the dry season and back again: only two major seasonal divisions, with a short Blooming Time as a "hinge" between them.

In Mediterranean climates, the dry season lasts from the end of the Blooming Time in late spring, through summer, and into early autumn. On Crete, plant life turns crispy-brown and dry. All but the largest creeks dry up, and even the rivers diminish to a flow much smaller than their wet season. This is the dead time of year, the counterpart to winter in the northern temperate zone.

Then the rains come.

The world springs to life again in the autumn, the soil softens under the falling rain, and farmers plant their crops. On Crete, field crops such as grains and vegetables grow through the mild winter and are harvested in the spring, with the Blooming Time coming at the very end of the rainy season.

So the wet season, what we might call autumn through spring, is the living-and-growing season in the Mediterranean. If you live in southern California or certain parts of Australia, you might have firsthand knowledge of this rhythm of wet and dry seasons, the dance between green growth and brown death.

This wet-and-dry-season cycle is the original seasonal component of the myth of the Eleusinian Mysteries that probably goes back to Minoan Crete. We've edited the story so those of us who live in the four-season world can relate to it, but originally, it wasn't the wintertime when the young goddess descended to the Underworld; it was the dead, dry summer.

There are other ways to divide the world as well: divisions of space as well as time. Since Crete is an island, the most obvious division to start with is the triplicity of land, sea, and sky.

This is a common one around the world and across time. It's easy to see how people who live on an island might feel like the island itself is their anchor in the world, while they're surrounded and embraced by Grandmother Ocean and the wide, wide sky.

Crete has some pretty dramatic geography, smooth beaches that roll up into foothills that climb to tall, craggy mountain peaks. There's a strong sense of the vertical thanks to those mountains, many of which the Minoans held to be sacred.

They built sanctuaries near the tops of their holy mountains and shrines in the caves lower down (though some of the caves are actually pretty high up, requiring some serious effort to reach them - quite the pilgrimage). The peak sanctuaries touch the sky where certain deities abide and the cave shrines are portals to the Underworld.

So this is another division: the sky-and-mountaintop world, the place from which the goddess descends; the Underworld, the abode of the ancestors, the Melissae, and the deities with shamanic and psychopomp powers (Ariadne, Dionysus, Minos and others); and the surface of the Earth, where the humans live, that narrow space that separates the two great sacred regions.

There's one final division I want to talk about, but it doesn't really fall under the rubric of either space or time. Instead, it's a division of type, of sense, of being: the pairing of domestic and wild.

We can see this way of organizing the world in the Bull Leapers fresco above, with the "wild" animal (probably a well-trained domesticated one, actually, but it's the symbol that counts) and the "civilized" athlete.

But there's not always such a clear division between domesticated and wild; instead, there's something of a continuum. Take the Horned Ones, for instance.

The most famous of the Minoan horned gods are the Minotaur and Europa/Pasiphae. Setting aside for a moment the Hellenic Greek tale of the Minotaur and the Labyrinth, which isn't Minoan at all but appeared centuries later, we can see that cattle were a fully domesticated animal in Minoan times. From the huge herds that the temple complexes owned to the handful of animals belonging to the small farmers out in the countryside, domesticated cattle were a familiar component of Minoan life.

Then there are the goats. The goat-y horned gods are the Moon-Goat, also called Minocapros (yes, I know, that's a clumsy set of word roots but I didn't make it up - go blame the Victorians) and the goat goddess Amalthea.

Goats are the mid-point between domestic and wild on Crete. As my farmer-grandmother used to say, goats have ambition... they'll get loose and go wandering any time they can figure out how. So all over Crete, in Minoan times and now, there are feral goats wandering the hills. But in ancient times, just like now, there were also domesticated goats that provided milk and meat for the people. So in a sense, the goat is a liminal Horned One, straddling the border between domestic and wild.

Then we have the deer-gods, the Minelathos (see note above about awkward word roots) and Britomartis. Deer are wild, part of the natural backdrop on Crete. The Minoans hunted them with spears and appear to have occasionally captured them live for sacrificial purposes.

In an era before rifles and antibiotics, hunting a large wild animal in the mountains could easily be a life-threatening activity. So the buck and the doe and their offspring fall fully onto the wild side of the spectrum, reminding us that nature by and large isn't tame at all.

The wet and dry seasons; land, sea, and sky; the Three Worlds; domestic and wild. How do you divide your world?

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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She's the founder and Temple Mom of Ariadne's Tribe, an inclusive Minoan spiritual tradition. 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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