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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Death Becomes Us

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about death lately. It’s Autumn here in the Northern Hemisphere, the time of year when the trees drop their leaves and the natural world looks like it’s dying. But the concept of death became much more personal a few days ago when my father-in-law had a stroke and then passed away. I was not with him when he died but my mind immediately went back to a time when I experienced death firsthand: my firstborn child died in my arms at the age of five. That was a closer shave with death than most modern people have. But in ancient times, death was a much more familiar companion.

Like most cultures up until just a century or two ago, the ancient Minoans experienced death close up. The elderly and the ill died in their own beds at home. The family washed the body and prepared it for burial, anointing it with precious oils and resins and winding a linen cloth around it. They carried the body to the tomb themselves, perhaps on a cart or even in their arms if the deceased was a small child. They held funeral rites at the tomb as the body was placed within the beehive-shaped building, its form a reminder of the Ancestors and the Goddess who watched over the dead.

Sometime later, during the annual ancestral rituals held in the shadow of the tombs, the people entered the buildings and identified the bodies that had deteriorated until nothing was left but bones. The family then dismembered the skeleton and reinterred the bones in a large pithos, a tall pottery storage jar that served as the final resting place for the remains. This type of secondary burial was practiced in many parts of the Mediterrean world until well into the nineteenth century. The pithos is the great vase of the goddess Rhea Pandora, the All-Giver from whom all things come and to whom all things return in their time. It is Her womb and it is also the Underworld, the abode of the Ancestors – both are places of darkness into which ordinary living mortals may not enter. 

Once the deceased person’s body was reduced to a collection of bones, the family knew there was nothing left to bind them to this world and they could move on to the Underworld, the abode of the Ancestors. But the loved one was not forgotten; the relationship with them continued beyond death. The Minoans revered the Ancestors, making offerings to them in a unique setting: the pillar crypt.

Beneath the main floor of the ancient temple-palaces on Crete as well as some of the larger private homes lay a basement level of dark rooms punctuated by thick, square pillars. These pillars served a practical function – to support the upper floor – but they were also the focus of sacred activities that centered around the Ancestors. You see, the pillars are a conduit, a direct line, if you will, to the Underworld.

Many of the pillars were built with a sort of ‘moat’ around them – a shallow depression in the floor that surrounds the base of each pillar. Into these depressions the Minoans poured wine offerings to the Ancestors. And if my recent vision is any indication, they also mixed the blood of sacrificed animals with the wine as a more potent gift to the Powers of the Underworld.

I suspect that many people, both lay people and the priesthood, made offerings in the pillar crypts and sat in meditation with the Ancestors, seeking their guidance and support in matters ranging from everyday life situations to issues of government and state and reminding them that they are still (and always) loved. This is something we can still do even if we don’t have pillar crypts in our homes. And it’s especially easy this time of year, when the veil between the worlds is thinnest.

If you can, take some time to make a simple offering to the Ancestors – all those who have gone before you, both those in your bloodline and those who paved the way for your spiritual path and your ethnicity or culture. Pour out some wine onto the ground, for the Ancestors’ bones are a part of the Earth now. Take a deep breath and inhale the very same molecules of air that they breathed. Listen for their whisper in your ears, your mind, your heart. Let the breeze that ruffles your hair be their gentle touch upon you. Offer your love to them, knowing that one day you, too, will stand among them, waiting for the living to turn their attention toward you.

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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