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?

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The Minoan Threefold Goddess: The Great Mothers

The Triple Goddess is a major component of modern Paganism, but the popular Maiden-Mother-Crone triplicity doesn't appear in ancient Crete. It's the modern creation of Robert Graves. And while it's a perfectly legitimate way to view the divine feminine, it's not historic, so we don't use it in Ariadne's Tribe.

The closest we can come to that kind of "life phases" division in the Minoan pantheon is a Younger and Elder Goddess, exemplified by, for instance, Rhea (the Great Mother) and Ariadne (the Daughter). This mother-daughter duo are the focus of the mythic cycle of the Mysteries, the probable Minoan precursor to the Eleusinian Mysteries.

But there's a Minoan triplicity associated with the Goddess. It doesn't have to do with the life stages and fertility functions of women, but with the world around us and how the Divine Feminine manifests in it. It's the ancient threefold division of Land/Sky/Sea. This triplicity unfolds around each and every one of us every day of our lives.

The Land portion of this trio is Rhea, the Earth Mother Goddess of the ancient Minoans. Like Earth Mother Goddesses from other cultures, she is the land itself. Her body is the island of Crete - the Earth from which all life springs. If you think about it, the landscape "parents" each of us in many ways. As our bodies renew our cells one by one, the material of our physical being is replaced by the material of the landscape in which we live: We become one with the Mother.

In addition to the name Rhea, we sometimes call this mother goddess Ida. Ida is the old name of the tallest mountain on Crete, now more commonly called Mt. Psiloritis. On its slopes lies the Idaean Andron, one of the sacred caves dedicated to Rhea where the Minoans made offerings and held rituals.

I've always loved what medieval visionary Hildegard of Bingen wrote about the Earth as Sacred Mother. I use these lines sometimes in ritual that focuses on Rhea:

Holy persons draw to themselves all that is earthly...
The earth is at the same time mother,
She is the mother of all that is natural,
mother of all that is human.
She is the mother of all,
for contained in her
are the seeds of all.

The second aspect of the triplicity is the Sky, and more specifically, the Sun. Patricia Monaghan's excellent book O Mother Sun! traces pre-Indo-European Sun Goddesses across Eurasia and beyond. After a great deal of research, journeying, and meditation, we discovered (rediscovered?) the Minoan Sun Goddess, whom we call Therasia. We don't know what the Minoans called her, but this name works for us as modern Pagans.

She is the heat and the light of the Sun, the force and energy that drive the cycles of life on Earth. She reaches the height of her power at Summer Solstice, scorching the Mediterranean with her heat, then wanes until it's time to rebirth herself at Winter Solstice. Many Minoan buildings and tombs were oriented to the sunrise on particular days of the year, so Therasia's presence was literally built into Minoan architecture.

It's likely the island of Thera was dedicated to her in Minoan times. One of the island's ancient names, Kalliste ("most beautiful") is an epithet we use for Therasia. Volcanoes and hot springs have long been connected with Sun Goddesses. They were thought to be created when the Sun traveled beneath the Earth at night, heating up the water (hot springs) and the substance of the Earth itself (volcanoes). 

The Sea is a natural focus for the people who live on an island like Crete. It's the third part of the Land/Sky/Sea triplicity. The Minoans built their civilization on trade, sailing their ships all around the Mediterranean and to points beyond, asking the goddess Posidaeja for her blessing as they rode the waves.

Posidaeja's name is attested in the Linear B tablets. We can't know for certain whether that particular name goes all the way back to the beginnings of Minoan society, but it's a good bet the sea was always important in Minoan spirituality. 

The sea penetrated all aspects of Minoan life and art. I love the squiggly octopi and other sea life on Minoan marine ware ceramics - the realism of Minoan art always takes my breath away. Throughout the ruins of Minoan temples, cities, and towns, archaeologists have found shrines and altars filled with real seashells as well as reproductions made from stone and ceramic. We even find triton shells depicted on Minoan seals.

Land, sky, and sea exist all at once, together, timeless... and so the goddesses as well. I often think of my own ancestors as the Mothers or the Grandmothers, the Ones out of whom all my people arose. And so I've begun to think about the Minoan Triplicity in a similar fashion. Mother Earth. Mother Sky. Mother Sea.

In the Tribe, we call them The Three.

And so they are.

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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.


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