Modern Minoan Paganism: Walking with Ariadne's Tribe

Walk the sacred labyrinth with Ariadne, loving goddess of ancient Crete who lives on in the hearts and minds of the modern world. Modern Minoan Paganism is not a purely reconstructionist tradition, but a journey in relationship with Minoan deities in the contemporary world. Ariadne's thread reaches across the millennia to connect us with the divine. Will you follow where it leads?

To join the discussion about ancient Minoan civilization and Modern Minoan Paganism, head on over to our welcoming community at Ariadne's Tribe on Facebook.

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Symbols, Opinions, and "Right Thinking" in Modern Minoan Paganism

What does any given symbol mean? Is it all right if you don't see it the same way as someone else does? Do you have to view it in a specific way in order to "qualify" as following a certain spiritual path? If you don't view that figurine up top the same way I do, can you still follow a path of Modern Minoan Paganism?

The short answers: 1) Something different to each person 2) Yes 3) No 4) Yes.  Now for the long answer.

Here's the thing: Every single symbol that any of us sees will be filtered through our individual psyche. So even if we memorize a set of meanings and beliefs (like I was required to do in Methodist Christian Sunday school as a child), each of us will have a slightly different internal take on those meanings. Those differences become even more pronounced when we're looking at ancient artifacts that don't have clear texts associated with them to tell us how the people back then saw them.

Take the Minoan figurine at the top of this post, for instance. She's usually called the Snake Goddess, but not everyone sees her that way. Just within my own Modern Minoan Paganism Facebook group, for instance, there are people who view her as Ariadne, as the Snake Goddess Basilissa (or some other name for the Serpent Mother), as a representation of a single over-arching ancient Goddess, as an ancient Minoan priestess embodying one of those goddesses in ritual, or as an ecstatic snake handler from an ancient Minoan cult. Or maybe even as two or more of those things, all at once.

Here's another interesting Minoan piece that people interpret in different ways:


Minoan rhyton from Myrtos


This is a rhyton - a pitcher - in the shape of a woman holding a pitcher (yes, it's self-referential and meta and all that). The figure is obviously a woman because she has breasts and a clearly defined pubic triangle. Some of us think of her as simply a mother goddess while some of us see the long arms and neck as pointing to the Serpent Mother I mentioned above. Other people see her as a turtle goddess.

If we're really honest, we can't know for certain how the ancient Minoans saw these beautiful works of art. Even if we can connect with the artifacts and find our way to visions and impressions from way back then, we don't have the mindset of Bronze Age people. And again if we're really honest, we have to admit that even thousands of years ago, people probably had a wide variety of personal views about the religious symbols of their culture. Whether or not they felt free to express those differing views probably depended on the individual culture and region where they lived.

Obviously, there have to be some generally agreed upon outlines for any spiritual tradition, but in Pagan practice that often amounts to doing things the same way (praxis) rather than believing the same things. For instance, I know Wiccans who are hard polytheists and believe the Lord and Lady are literal individual beings. I know Wiccans who view the Lord and Lady as something akin to Jungian archetypes. And I know Wiccans who think the Lord and Lady are pure metaphor, nothing more. But they all practice the same type of standardized ritual - that's the connection.

To me, connection is the important thing here. By sharing certain practices - the creation of shrines and altars, the making of offerings and libations, and so on - those of us who follow the path of Modern Minoan Paganism can connect with each other, knowing we're all doing the same things wherever we are in the world. And we can connect with the ancient Minoans, with their culture and their art and their religion. They were human beings with hopes and dreams, love and impatience and ambition, belief and thought and questioning.

They had a connection with their gods and with each other, through a shared culture and religion. We can make similar connections within our own time and reaching back into the past, both with the people and with the gods. To me, that's the most magical thing of all.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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I'm an artist, writer, and lover of all things ancient and mysterious. The Minoans of Bronze Age Crete have been a particular passion of mine since a fateful art history class introduced me to the frescoes of Knossos back in high school. My first book was published in 2001; one of my most recent works is Labrys and Horns: An Introduction to Modern Minoan Paganism. I've also created a Minoan Tarot deck and a Minoan coloring book. When I'm not busy drawing and writing, I enjoy gardening and giving living history demonstrations at local historic sites.


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