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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in Dionysus

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Minoan Midsummer: Layers of Religion

Religion isn’t a static thing. We don’t invent a religion once and leave it as is for centuries. Cultures change, people change, and spiritual practice changes, too.

Minoan civilization lasted for centuries. Just the “palace” periods, the times when the big temple complexes were being built and rebuilt, lasted about 500 years. Minoan civilization as a whole lasted more than two millennia. And during that time, the spiritual practice in ancient Crete changed and grew.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Eating the Flesh of the Goddess

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Snakes! Why did it have to be snakes?

When I mention the Minoans of ancient Crete, the first thing that comes to mind for many people is the famous Snake Goddess statues. For us modern folks, they are icons of this ancient civilization. But what, exactly, do they represent? If we're really honest, the answer to that question is, "We're not sure."

There are many theories, of course. I think that falls under the rubric of "Everyone has an opinion." But we simply don't know for sure because we don't have any Minoan-era documents that tell us anything about these figurines. Linear A, the script the ancient Minoans used to write their native language, has never been deciphered. And the few documents we have that are written in Linear B, the script that records Mycenaean Greek from the time toward the end of Minoan civilization, don't say anything about snakes.

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  • tehomet
    tehomet says #
    I was lucky enough to visit Crete, many years ago. I got chatting to a local guy and he mentioned that the one thing he knew about
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    Wow, how interesting! So the reverence for snakes has come all the way down to the present day, even if it doesn't look quite the

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Moon, Stars, and Questions

It’s always tricky, reconstructing ancient religious practices. We may or may not have reliable sources of information and from a distance of centuries, it’s hard to tell what really happened way back then. It’s especially tricky when the only written records we have were recorded by people who weren’t exactly friendly to our chosen culture, as I discussed in a recent guest post on a friend’s blog. This is the case with the ancient Minoans. Most of the mythology we know about from ancient Crete comes down to us from the Hellenic Greeks, who lived a thousand years after the collapse of Minoan civilization and whose male-centric culture held radically different values from the egalitarian Minoans.

So how can we connect with the spirituality of a people who lived so long ago and about whom we have little reliable information? We take what we have and build on it using our own experience of the numinous – the divine. This is one case in which we must simply say, if it works for you, then do it. But we must also remember that what works for one person may not be  satisfying for another, so respect for a diversity of views needs to hold high priority. My friend Nimue put this especially well in a recent blog post.

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  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I like Asterion as the sky-bull/constellation Taurus. Have you tried seeking personal communication with Asterion yet? I know so
  • Laura Perry
    Laura Perry says #
    No, I haven't, mainly because I only recently came up with this correlation. I've been grappling with the identity of Asterion for

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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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Posted by on in Paths Blogs
Dionysos, Bulls and Funerals

Over at Ariadne’s Tribe we’ve been developing a liturgy for modern Minoan Paganism – a yearly calendar of sacred events and their meanings, along with tidbits about the deities who are involved with each one. Throughout the year, Dionysos plays a big part in Minoan spirituality. In fact, he’s the most prominent god, to the point that the Greeks compared him to their Zeus. In addition to his well-known associations with wine, Dionysos also figures as the dying-and-reborn god of the solar year, an aspect that adds quite a few layers to his presence. Lately I’ve been thinking about how his different festivals and annual milestones dovetail together, and what that might mean in terms of some of the well-known bits of life in ancient Crete, bull-leaping in particular.

Before we dive into this subject, it’s important to realize that Minoan civilization, in the form we’re accustomed to think of it, lasted for a solid 15 centuries, from roughly 3000 to 1500 BCE. During that time, the religious practices of the island shifted and changed, from fairly simple ancestor-based activities all the way to an official state religion run by the big temples. Alongside the official religion, the people always had their own home-based practices, which echoed the state religion in some ways and diverged from it in others. But throughout this time, Dionysos played a prominent role.

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Funny, I'd just written up a piece on bull-leaping myself. Must be something in the air.
  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Very nice!

Posted by on in Paths Blogs
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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  • Thesseli
    Thesseli says #
    Beautiful!

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