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.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

Ariadne's Tribe Family of Deities: Zagreus

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

This is one in a series of posts about finding our deities in Minoan art. Find the full list of blog posts in this series here

Today we're looking for the bull-god Zagreus in Minoan art. We consider him to be an aspect of our god Tauros Asterion. So obviously, we're going to look for images of bulls. But what kinds of images? When we go looking for Tauros Asterion in Minoan art, we seek out naturalistic/realistic images of bulls. When we're in search of the Minotaur (another aspect of Tauros Asterion), we look for shape-shifting depictions of half-man, half-bull creatures. So how do we know when we've found Zagreus?

Zagreus is the bull who comes wreathed in flowers in the spring - which happens to be the time of the grain harvest in the Mediterranean and the associated ancestor and Underworld work. Zagreus is a shamanic god, a psychopomp who descends to the World Below to safeguard the spirits of the dead. It's likely that bulls or bull calves were sacrificed in his honor in Minoan Crete.

We find him in Minoan art in the form of friendly bulls: bulls that are used to being handled by humans, who show up on the seals being admired. Sometimes we find them being led on a rope, like a dog on a leash. And sometimes we find them wearing fancy decorative blankets, like on this bull-shaped rhyton from Pseira:

Bull rhyton from Pseira, Crete
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Or this one from Akrotiri:

Ceramic bull rhyton from Akrotiri
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Though some commentary still includes the outdated idea that the blankets these cattle are wearing are nets used to capture wild bulls, anyone who has ever seen photos of blanketed horses or cattle at a livestock show will recognize that these aren't nets, but blankets with clear neck openings and lower hems. Besides, the whole wild-cattle-hunting thing appears to be a bit of Mycenaean mythos (check the Vapheio cup, for instance) and probably not Minoan. And it turns out, the cattle blankets come in designs other than the one that looks so net-like. Here's an illustration from Evans' Palace of Minos series that shows the bull rhyton from Pseira (photo above) on the right and another, much more decorative one from Mochlos on the left:

Bull rhyton from Knossos


I have to wonder if the one on the left isn't meant to represent an animal with a sacred design painted on it. If the Minoans had trained cattle that were as docile as the Apis and Mnevis bulls in Egypt, I can imagine that the animals would be patient enough to allow a little painted decoration for festival time.

So when you're looking for Zagreus in Minoan art, seek out the friendly bulls!

Last modified on
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.


Additional information