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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The Mysterious Minoan Snake Goddess Figurines

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

The photo above (image CC BY 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons) shows two full faience figurines and one partial one from Knossos as displayed at the Heraklion Archaeological Museum. You're probably already familiar with at least the two full ones in the middle and on the left.

What you might not know is that they weren't found in such a complete state, and at least one of them may have been reconstructed incorrectly.

Here's the thing: Both of the Snake Goddess figurines in the photo above have been extensively reconstructed. Here's what the one in the center looked like after Sir Arthur Evans' archaeological team had put the smithereens of her skirt back together:

Minoan Snake Goddess figurine

These photos are from Sir Arthur Evans' book series The Palace of Minos (now in the public domain). They show that this figurine was missing her left arm and her entire head when found - both of those parts are reconstructions. The famous headdress with the cat on it was found "nearby" (that's all the info that was in Evans' field notes) so we have no way of knowing whether it even belongs with this figurine at all - though I will admit to kind of liking it. The reconstructed arm matches the one that was found intact, and the head is a reasonable guess based on Minoan art and the ends of long hair visible on the figurine's back. So except for the question about the headdress, this reconstruction is a reasonable guess and is probably correct.

The figurine on the far left, with the tall headdress and the snakes running up both arms, was also broken when she was found. Here's the color plate from The Palace of Minos that shows which parts are original and which are reconstructed:

Minoan faience snake goddess figurine

If you look carefully, you can see that some parts of the figurine are colored in (the head, torso, right arm, and a small piece of the skirt) and the rest is black and white. The black and white parts were missing entirely when the figurine was found. They had to be reconstructed.

Now look back up at the photo at the top of this post. You can see that the skirt on the far right has a narrow horizontal waistband, while the original parts of the Snake Goddess figurine we're looking at here do not have that kind of waistband. Instead, her garment has a drop waist that's outlined by writhing snakes. Ignoring the fact that the waistlines don't match, Evans decided to copy the skirt on the right when he was reconstructing the figurine on the far left.

Archaeologists now agree that the skirt reconstruction is incorrect.

And if we're really honest, we have no idea what the top of that third figurine originally looked like. We don't know whether it was a Snake Goddess figurine or something else entirely.

These figurines were found in the Knossos Temple Repositories, which appear to have been a sort of "sacred garbage dump" for decommissioned ritual objects - everything in the Repositories was broken in some way, destroyed so it could no longer be used. And the artifacts were all jumbled up, deposited there repeatedly over time. So there was no organization to it and no way to tell for certain which objects were associated with which for ritual use.

We have no idea whether any of these three figurines were ever used together. Even if they were, they would not have represented the Maiden, Mother, and Crone goddess aspects because that's a concept that was invented in the 20th century by Robert Graves. Yes, the Maiden/Mother/Crone triplicity is internally consistent and has a great deal of spiritual value for many people. I'm not arguing that.

But it's not historical and should not be applied to ancient cultures. If you're looking for well-researched information about what Graves created and what's historic, I can recommend Mark Carter's excellent book Stalking the Goddess.

But back to the Minoan figurines.

We're left with some intriguing little statues that can inspire our modern spiritual practice. We can use them to connect with some of the Minoan goddesses (in MMP we tend to lean toward the Serpent Mother and/or Ariadne). We can admire the skill that created such beautiful sacred objects.

And we can allow ourselves to be open to not having all the answers. Because sometimes that's how spirituality works.

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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