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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Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics... and Minoan Art

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Lies, damn lies, and statistics - you've heard the saying. But sometimes, we really do have to look at the hard numbers to see what's really there, because our impressions can be incorrect, often wildly so.

Case in point: Minoan art.

Most people have been exposed to a narrow selection of examples of Minoan art. Articles online and in books make it sound like these few popular artifacts - the Snake Goddess figurines (above), the gold seal rings, a few frescoes - are representative of the whole of Minoan art and religion. 

Trouble is, they're not.

Those Snake Goddess figurines are beautiful, but there are only two of them, as shown above, plus three bell jar figurines that also involve snakes. So literally just five objects. There's no evidence that the skirt fragment on the right, above, was originally a Snake Goddess figurine. It's more likely that it was part of a figurine depicting a woman (perhaps a priestess) in an ecstatic posture, like the hundreds of votive terracotta and bronze figurines found at Minoan sites, which are far more representative of Minoan sacred art.

The Snake Goddess figurines are inspirational, certainly. In the Tribe, we consider them to represent the Serpent Mother or perhaps Ariadne. But they're not typical, and most Minoans would have gone their entire lives without seeing anything at all like them.

The gold seal rings, like this one from the Isopata Minoan cemetery near Knossos (image via Wikimedia Commons), are also popular as representations of Minoan art:

Isopata gold Minoan seal ring depicting ritual scene

But like the Snake Goddess figurines, these are pretty rare. Out of the more than 12,000 (no, that's not a typo) Minoan and  Mycenaean seals found so far, fewer than 100 are gold rings like the one above. That's less than one percent of all the seals. The vast majority of the seals are small carved stone disks and cylinders with geometric designs or images of animals. That's the sort of thing that most Minoans would have seen in use.

This kind of skewing of our view of Minoan art also makes it easy to misunderstand things like the gender balance in Minoan art - and hence, Minoan religion. There's an impression that the Minoans were "ruled by women," particularly regarding their religion, because the main examples of Minoan art that most people see depict women - like the Snake Goddess figurines and the seal ring I've shared here.

But I've done the math, here and here, and it turns out that women and men are equally represented in Minoan art. This suggests a partnership society, as Dr. Riane Eisler interpreted the Minoans, rather than a dominator society in which the women rule over the men the way men have so long ruled over women.

I've seen arguments about female rule in Crete based on, for instance, the Corridor of the Processions fresco from Knossos. The central portion of the Corridor of the Processions fresco has been reconstructed like this, with a bunch of men apparently worshiping a central priestess (image via Wikimedia Commons):

Corridor of the Processions Fresco from Knossos

But this image is mostly a modern reconstruction. The dark parts in this photo - the feet and a few bits of robes and legs - are all that survived of the original fresco. This reconstruction was designed to support Sir Arthur Evans' now discredited theory that the Minoans were monotheistic goddess worshipers. We don't honestly know what the original looked like. 

Most of the frescoes from Knossos are extremely fragmentary, with 30-40% of the original (or less, like with this one) surviving. Everything else is reconstruction, some of it likely to be more accurate and some of it likely to be less accurate, if at all, because it was all done by Evans' art team, who worked very hard to make sure all the finds supported Evans' (now mostly discredited) theories. 

So we have a skewed view of what Minoan art really looked like "on the ground" in ancient times. And that skews our view of the culture and the religion.

Bear this in mind the next time you're perusing an article that features the Minoans. It's understandable for writers to want to highlight the most famous artifacts, but doing that isn't always the best way to reach an accurate and realistic understanding of the Minoans themselves.

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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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