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?

Find out all about Modern Minoan Paganism on our website: https://ariadnestribe.wordpress.com/. We're a welcoming tradition, open to all who share our love for the Minoan deities and respect for our fellow human beings.

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The MMP Pantheon: The Mother Goddess Rhea

This is the first in a series of posts about the MMP pantheon. Find the full list of the whole series here.

Last time, I shared the full pantheon that we've developed for Modern Minoan Paganism. Now it's time to explore the deities one at a time and discover where we can find their iconography in Minoan art.

The pantheon begins with the Three Mothers - the mother goddesses who represent the realms of land, sky, and sea. So that's where we'll begin with this exploration. First up, Rhea, the Earth Mother goddess. We also call her Ida; there's still a mountain on Crete with this name. In fact, there are a number of sacred mountains that are said to be hers. The Minoans built cave shrines and peak sanctuaries on these sacred mountains. That gives us another of her epithets, the Mountain Mother.

But really, she's the Earth itself, and more specifically, the island of Crete.

Crete with Minoan Cities

Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Her relationship with humanity goes back to a time when every group of people had their own Earth Mother goddess who represented, not the whole planet, but the small patch of ground that those people called home. Given that our bodies literally take in the Earth where we live (at least, if we eat locally-grown food), that kind of setup makes sense.

But by the time a recognizable Minoan culture developed, Rhea had taken on specific symbolism that helps us recognize her in the art. The most obvious sign that we're looking at a bit of Minoan art that relates to her is the lion. Mountains are a big tipoff, too.

If you look at the main blog image at the top of this post, you see a female figure standing on top of a mountain that's flanked by a pair of lions. That's Rhea. There's a shrine behind her and a male worshiper making the Minoan salute in front of her.

We also find lions on Minoan seals flanking female figures or altars. A pair of animals flanking a human figure or an altar (or a pillar, column, or stylized tree) tells us which deity is being represented. It's a kind of pictorial shorthand.

But there are some more impressive lions, too. How about this gorgeous alabaster lioness rhyton from Knossos - the eyes and nose would originally have been inlaid with colored stones. A rhyton is a type of ritual pitcher used to pour libations (liquid offerings). In this case, the rhyton was filled via the neck, and the liquid poured out the mouth.

Alabaster lioness rhyton from Knossos

Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Here's another lioness rhyton, this time in ceramic from Akrotiri. I love the expression on this one.

Ceramic lioness rhyton from Akrotiri

Image CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

So when you're looking at Minoan art, keep an eye out for lions and mountains. They're a clue that you're looking at a sacred image involving the mother goddess Rhea.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

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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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