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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Minoan Seal Rings and their Mysterious Floating Objects

If you look at one of the amazingly detailed Minoan gold seal rings, you might see a tiny human figure hovering as if it's descending from the heavens. These are usually interpreted as a god or goddess coming down to their worshipers: an epiphany scene. But what about all the other strange shapes that float in the air on the seal rings?

Given the Minoans' focus (obsession, maybe) with astronomy, there's a strong possibility that those floating objects represent constellations. One clue is that they always show up in the same position relative to each other, no matter how many or few of them are on the ring.

Above, you can see the ring from Tholos Tomb A at Arkhanes/Phourni (Arkhanes is the name of the nearest modern town and Phourni is the name of the hill the Minoan cemetery is located on). You have to enlarge it like crazy to really see the detail, but the hovering shapes include something that looks like a capital letter i, a butterfly, and a dragonfly. Above those is an object that looks like a heart (animal? human?). Bear in mind that the Minoans practiced animal sacrifice and may have used the animal's internal organs for divination, so the heart may be an indication of that practice. But I think the other floating objects may be constellations, especially that capital i, since it shows up repeatedly.

Here, for instance, is a ring from Mochlos with the "floating i":


Mochlos Minoan seal ring


The Mochlos ring also includes what looks like a double comet or double meteor, which is pretty interesting if you ask me.

This one from Knossos, usually called the Epiphany Ring, also has the capital i symbol:


Epiphany ring


What I find most interesting about this one is that the "capital i" isn't floating in the air, but standing inside a shrine while a male god descends to a worshiper. That suggests to me that if the floating objects do indeed stand for constellations, the Minoans connected their constellations with their mythology just like everyone else in the ancient world did. Maybe this particular constellation represents one of the Minoan gods.

There's another floating object that appears repeatedly on the seal rings that really fascinates me. It looks like an ear of wheat or barley. Given that the Eleusinian Mysteries likely had their start in Minoan Crete, and that the heliacal rising of Spica (the ear of wheat in the hand of the virgin in the constellation Virgo) was integral to the timing of the Mysteries, I'm going to go out on a limb and say the floating ear of wheat possibly represents Spica and, by association, the Mysteries. Here are some rings that include it. First, the famous Isopata ring:


Isopata ring


The ear of grain is floating just above the writhing serpent here (serpents are the most common visual phenomenon associated with the use of entheogens).

Here's a ring from the Sellopoulo chamber tomb at Knossos:


Sellopoulo chamber tomb ring


Here you can see a male figure leaning over a boulder (the so-called "baetyl ritual" that was probably shamanic in nature) while a bird descends toward him and an ear of grain floats above. Lots of symbology to unpack here!

Here's the Runners Ring from Kato Syme:


Runners Ring from Kato Syme


You can see the ear of grain right over the runner's head. There's a female figure (priestess?) on the left and a male figure playing a lyre on the right (wearing the animal hide skirt associated with animal sacrifice). This makes me wonder what other kinds of activities were associated with the Mysteries (assuming I've got that part right, of course).

Some of the floating objects also show up in Minoan-style gold seal rings from mainland Greece. Here's the Vapheio ring (from Vapheio, Greece where the famous gold cups also came from):


Vapheio ring


Here you can see the ear of grain clearly floating above the human figures, along with a funky labrys-plus-sacral-scarf object that appears elsewhere on Minoan seals.

I've only been able to find one research paper that studies these floating objects (you can read it free here -  academia dot edu is a great resource). You can find out much, much more about Minoan astronomy (but no mention of the floating objects, unfortunately) on the Uppsala Archaeoastronomical Project website.

Bear in mind that most of the people who study this stuff academically are just that - academics - and have no experience with Pagan spirituality, so they may not have reference points for some of the shamanic and trance possession activities depicted in the art or for the mythology, except what they've read in passing in school.

The more we find out, the more questions we have. But that's OK. The journey is the destination.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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Laura Perry is a priestess and creator who works magic with words, paint, ink, music, textiles, and herbs. She is the founder and Temple Mom of Modern Minoan Paganism. 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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