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: 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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Wings and Things: Minoan Airborne Symbolism

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

We often think of deities as being less tethered to the Earth than we are, so it only makes sense that many of them have winged creatures among their symbols and iconography.

I've written about birds in Minoan art before, but from a more general perspective, looking back toward the Minoans' ancestors in Neolithic Anatolia. But a lot happened after those people migrated down to Crete and began a new life there. So let's discover which birds - and other winged creatures - are associated with which deities in Modern Minoan Paganism.

Our Earth Mother Goddess Rhea has, among other bits of iconography, doves as her symbol. This lovely little triple-column shrine from Zakros has doves nestling atop the posts:

Minoan three column shrine with doves from Zakros

Doves make sense as Rhea's feathered symbol, since they're ground birds.

This lovely fresco from the House of the Frescoes in Knossos is probably also a dove:

Blue Bird Fresco from Knossos
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Though the bird is painted blue, you'll notice that some of the rocks are also blue. For reasons that we still don't fully understand, Minoan artists used the color blue to depict grey surfaces such as rocks, shaved skin, and monkey fur. So given that this may be a grey bird, and given the markings around its neck and on its wings, it's likely to be a wild rock dove - and so, Rhea's bird.

It also makes sense that our Sun-and-sky goddess Therasia would have birds among her symbols. In her case, we look for swallows in Minoan art, like the lovely birds at the top of this post, from the Spring fresco found in building Delta in Akrotiri. There are actually quite a few swallows flying among the lilies on this fresco, which covered multiple walls in the original building:

Spring fresco, Akrotiri, with lilies and swallows
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Lest you think birds are just for goddesses, we also have the lark associated with our god Korydallos. This is especially appropriate, not just because Therasia is his mother, but also because he's a bit of a trickster and joker, and the word "lark" in English can mean a kind of joke or prank.

We don't have any firmly identified images of larks in Minoan art, but I like to think that the cheeky birds on this pitcher, found at Knossos, might belong to Korydallos:

Cycladic ewer from Knossos, 1650-1500 BCE
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In addition to birds, other kinds of flying critters thread their way through Minoan iconography. For instance, Ariadne's symbol - the labrys - turns out to be, among other things, a stylized butterfly. We can see labryses depicted as butterflies (and also as plants, something we call a vegetative labrys) on this pithos from Knossos (image from Sir Arthur Evans' Palace of Minos book series, now in the public domain):

Pithos from Knossos with labryses in a garden setting

Let's not forget the Melissae, the bee-spirit goddesses who guard the spirits of the dead and remind us of the sweetness of  the cycle of life, death, and rebirth. Obviously, their flying-creature symbol is the bee, like the ones on this gold pendant from the Chrysolakkos Minoan cemetery at Malia:

Malia gold bee pendant
Image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Finally, we come to a deity you might not expect to be on our list of  winged creature symbols: the sea goddess Posidaeja. Yet here she is, with her amazing flying fish, in the form of a faience model from the Temple Repositories at Knossos:

Faience flying fish from Knossos
Image CC BY 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons

and this lovely fresco from Phylakopi:

Flying fish fresco from Phylakopi
Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

That's quite a lot of winged creatures! May your day fly by pleasantly as if on beautiful sacred wings.

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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