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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Ariadne
Ariadne's Thread and Labrys & Horns: What's the difference?

I'm often asked to explain the different between my two books about Minoan spirituality: Ariadne's Thread and Labrys & Horns. So often, in fact, that I figured a blog post about the subject would be a good idea.

Ariadne's Thread: Awakening the Wonders of the Ancient Minoans in Our Modern Lives was released in 2013 but it was based on about 20 years of spiritual work I had done before then. Back in the 1990s, when I was working on my second degree in the Wiccan coven I belonged to at the time, I was given an assignment: Pick a pantheon and write a year's worth of seasonal rituals and a lifetime's worth of rites of passage using that pantheon. I'd like to say I picked the Minoan pantheon, but it's more like it picked me. I'm sure you know how that goes.

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Minoan Fate: Ariadne, Arachne, Ananke

I've been thinking a lot about Fate lately, what with all the crazy things going on in the Big World. Fate has always been a focal point for people's thoughts, and the Fate goddesses of the ancient pantheons have a lot to teach us. What I didn't realize until I had been in relationship with the Minoan deities for some time is that there is a Minoan Fate goddess. You may know her as Ariadne.

My first clue that Ariadne is a Fate goddess should, in retrospect, have been obvious: She has a thread. That's my picture of her up top, the Fate (Wheel of Fortune) card from my Minoan Tarot deck. In the Greek version of Ariadne's story, which dates to almost a millennium after Minoan times, Ariadne is just a girl who uses a ball of string to aid the strapping hero Theseus. But really, she's much more than that.

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Sacred Saffron: A bit of autumn magic

The lovely young lady in the image above is picking the stigmas of the saffron crocus, also called the autumn crocus, to give as an offering to the goddess. We see this whole scene play out in a series of frescoes from Akrotiri, the ancient Minoan-era town on the Mediterranean island of Santorini. Saffron crocus blooms float in mid-air across the backgrounds of these frescoes, reminding us where our focus should lie. Below, we see a girl pouring her gathered saffron into a large basket while a monkey presents some to the enthroned goddess.

 

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Call their names: the Minoan gods and goddesses

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Minoan deity names in Linear B, the script the Mycenaean Greeks used to write their language toward the end of Minoan civilization. We still can't read Linear A, the script the Minoans used to write their native language, but the Mycenaeans borrowed so much of Minoan religion and culture that their texts give us a lot of information, even if most of them are just inventory lists of donations to temples.

Last time, I mentioned Atana Potnia, the early precursor to Athena who was apparently worshiped at Knossos. But we have quite a few more names of gods and goddesses, some of whom are manifestly Minoan and some of whom look to be a part of the blended Minoan-Mycenaean culture that lasted for several centuries before the Late Bronze Age collapse of cultures around the Mediterranean.

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The Many Faces of Minoan Dionysos

Most people are familiar with Dionysos as a vegetation god. In fact, that’s how he started life (so to speak) among humans, dying each year at the time of the grape harvest. In the Mediterranean, where Crete is located, that happens most years in late August or early September. So in many ways Dionysos is similar to the other dying-and-reborn vegetation gods we’re familiar with from the Near East, Europe and other regions. But as so often happens, cultures change over time, inventing or importing new ideas and layering them onto what’s already there. Something like that happened with Dionysos in ancient Crete.

Before we get to his details, though, let me explain a bit about how the Minoan pantheon works. Rather than having a particular slot in a human-style family tree, the Minoan gods and goddesses unfold out of each other in a multi-faceted fashion. In a way, all the deities within the Minoan pantheon can be considered reflections or facets of the Great Mother Goddess Rhea. But for practical purposes, they behave as individual deities with their own personalities and qualities. This henotheistic setup can make it difficult to tease out exactly which aspects go with which deity name, and to sort out whether two different names belong to two different gods or a single one. In addition, as Minoan society changed over time, more layers were added onto those already-complicated facets, and some of the deity names only come down to us in later forms, from languages and cultures foreign to the Minoans. I’ll do my best to untangle some of the bits about Dionysos today. I’ve worked with him for a long time and as far as I can tell, these aspects of him manage to work well together in spite of their apparent differences.

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Mystery at Midsummer, Minoan Style

Mystery plays were a big part of life in the ancient world, when people’s seasonal work was punctuated throughout the year by sacred festivals of all sorts. What on earth is a mystery play? It’s not a whodunit, like a modern murder mystery. In the case of mystery plays, the word takes on an older meaning. My dictionary defines it as ‘a religious truth that man can know by revelation alone,’ in other words, something you have to experience yourself rather than just being told about it. And that’s what mystery plays are all about: letting you have the experience of the gods, the myths, the sacred, right there in your own life. A mystery isn’t just something you experience; it changes you from the inside out.

The modern world still has mystery plays of a sort. The ‘living nativity scene’ that some Christian churches put on around Christmas is a snapshot or tidbit of a mystery play and those huge Passion of Christ productions are the full-scale deal, a mystery play about the Christian festival of Easter.. But for most people these days, I suspect the movies largely take the place of the old mystery plays, allowing us to roll ourselves up emotionally in the stories that make up the mythology of the modern world: superheroes, science fiction, fantasy.

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A Midsummer tipple, Minoan style

One of the aspects of archaeology that continues to amaze me is our ability to scrape tiny bits of residue out of ancient containers and figure out exactly what those containers held thousands of years ago. With this technique, we’ve been able to determine what the ancient Minoans ate and drank and even what kinds of cosmetics they used. Most people picture the people of the ancient world drinking wine, and they certainly did that, but the Minoans also drank mead. You might tend to think of this alcoholic beverage, brewed from honey rather than grapes, in connection with the Norse and the fabulous feasts at Valhalla, but mead was actually a popular drink all over the ancient world. Just be aware that it’s actually a wine, not a beer (honey beer/ale is a different beverage) so, unless you’re a god, don’t go quaffing it by the tankard-full. Today I’m sharing my recipe for mead so, if you like,  you can follow in the footsteps of the many people who have brewed and enjoyed this beverage for millennia.

My first foray into making mead – actually, brewing at all, since mead was the first brew I made – began in 1993. I was inspired by an article I read in the Lughnasadh issue of Keltria Journal. The author of the article, Steven of Prodea, outlined his method for brewing mead. Over the years I’ve refined my recipe but the process is really quite simple. You don’t need to go out and buy any kind of fancy equipment. I brewed my first batch using an empty gallon glass jug (from store-bought apple cider) and a balloon. The ingredients are simple, too: honey, water, and yeast. The only real requirement is that you make sure anything that touches the mead – your equipment, your hands – is scrupulously clean. You don’t want any unfriendly germs competing with the yeast in your brew. The results will likely be undrinkable. So wash everything with hot, soapy water or run it through the dishwasher before using. And wash your hands well, too.

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