The Minoan Sacred Year

x faience snake goddess vignette
Faience snake goddess figurine from Knossos

After people find out what modern Minoan Paganism is, their next question usually has something to do with the wheel of the year. The Minoan sacred year is a little different from the more well-known Wiccan-based eightfold calendar.

You may be familiar with the eight sabbats that many modern Pagan paths have as the basis for their calendar: Imbolc, Spring Equinox, Beltane, Summer Solstice, Lammas, Autumn Equinox, Samhain, and Winter Solstice. Under various names and guises, this set of festivals has become the standard for a wide variety of traditions. But it’s a modern calendar, constructed from several different sets of older European sacred days. The Minoan sacred year isn’t nearly this neat-and-tidy, but it still holds a range of interesting festivals that date back to the second millennium BCE or earlier. And they’re based on the seasonal cycle unique to the area where the Minoans lived.

The ancient Minoans lived on the island of Crete, which lies in the Mediterranean Sea just south of Greece. Like all the lands and islands in and around this body of water, Crete has a unique environment that’s called the Mediterranean climate. Those of us who live in the northern temperate zone (most of Europe and North America) are used to four seasons in a year: spring, summer, autumn, winter. But the Mediterranean really only has two seasons: rainy and dry. The dry season is their dead time, corresponding to winter in the temperate areas. But guess when the Mediterranean dry season happens? Summer.

So summer is the ‘dead time’ on Crete. The rain stops—really stops. All the creeks and all but the largest rivers dry up. Everything turns crispy-dry and brown and it’s HOT. Before the advent of air conditioning, people used to sleep through the hottest part of the day and stay up later at night, when it was cooler, to get things done. And they were very, very happy when the rains started again in the autumn. That’s when they celebrated the new year, because that’s when their agricultural cycle started again.

The rain softened the soil so the Minoans could plow their fields and plant their crops. The wheat, rye, barley, and other field crops grew happily throughout the mild winter and were harvested in the spring. So the Mediterranean growing cycle is pretty much the opposite of what I’m used to here in North America. In Crete, even today, the farmers plant their crops in the autumn and harvest them in the spring. So let’s have a look at what this special climate means for the Minoan sacred calendar.

The Minoan wheel of the year includes a series of holidays that come one right after another, lasting for several weeks and leading up to the New Year’s celebration at Autumn Equinox. This is similar to our modern winter holiday season, but it takes place in the autumn instead of the winter. It begins with the Feast of Grapes on August 31. This is the celebration of the grape harvest and the death of Dionysus, the god of the vine. This is very similar to the grain gods of northern Europe being sacrificed at harvest time. (Please note: In modern Minoan Paganism we have chosen calendar dates for many of these agricultural festivals, but in ancient times they would have been celebrated whenever the crops were actually ready to harvest, which may have varied by quite a few days.)

Following the Feast of Grapes, we have the Mysteries—the Minoan precursor to the Eleusinian Mysteries. The Minoans based these holy days on the rising dates of certain stars. For modern purposes, we set this ten-day-long festival from September 1 through 10. For some excellent reconstructions of the Minoan versions of the Demeter and Persephone myths that were central to the Mysteries, I recommend Charlene Spretnak’s book Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths.

Then we come to the end of the Minoan ‘holiday season,’ the beginning of the rains. Obviously this would have happened on varying dates in ancient times, just like it still does, but in modern Minoan Paganism we celebrate the New Year at the Autumn Equinox. This is the time of fresh green growth, renewal, time to plant seeds and start new projects.

Next up is Winter Solstice, the time of the divine birth. The Great Mother Goddess Rhea gives birth to Dionysus in her sacred cave on Mt. Dikte. Or Mt. Ida. Or one of the other caves across Crete that vied for prominence throughout Minoan times. (I never said Minoan religion was apolitical.) The Minoan Midwinter birth story is the oldest version we have of the familiar tale: A sacred child born on the Winter Solstice to a holy mother but with no father, in a cave or grotto surrounded by friendly animals, then hidden away for safety. One of my favorite stories.

A few months later we come to the Spring Equinox, which is harvest time in the Mediterranean. The ancient Minoans celebrated with dancing, feasting, and offerings to the ancestors. That’s a fine way to do it in modern times, too.

Then we come to the Summer Solstice, which is paired with the Winter Solstice. The baby Dionysus was born at Midwinter and hidden away in his mother’s cave. Now he comes of age, emerging from the cave to take part in the Sacred Marriage with Ariadne. This was probably also a time for boys to have their coming-of-age ceremonies in ancient Crete.

Then we’re back to the Feast of Grapes and a new year starts again.

There were many other celebrations that we know about based on the archaeological discoveries from Crete, but they aren’t as easy to fit into a prefab modern calendar. For instance, several of the peak sanctuaries celebrated the major and minor lunar standstills, each of which happens once in a roughly 19-year cycle. The Minoans, who were obviously great astronomers, also celebrated certain times when the cycles of the Moon, the Sun, and Venus coincided over an eight-year cycle (that’s eight solar years, five Venus cycles, and 99 lunations). And they also revered the local nature spirits, some of which probably had their own festivals and sacred days.

Now, part of Paganism is about respecting the cycles of the seasons wherever you happen to live. And obviously, if you live somewhere that doesn’t have a Mediterranean climate, it would be kind of weird to celebrate planting in the autumn and harvesting in the spring. I’m pretty sure the gods understand that the environment varies from place to place, so I have no problem switching those two festivals to match the climate where I live in North America. It’s also good to remember that the Minoans sailed all over the place, even out into the Atlantic and probably up the western coast of India as well, so they had a clue that there are different seasons in different places.

So there you have it, the Minoan sacred year. How will you choose to celebrate?

If you’d like to join the conversation about modern Minoan Paganism, please feel free to check out Ariadne’s Tribe, our welcoming community on Facebook.

In the name of the bee,
And of the butterfly,
And of the breeze, amen.

Women, Healing & Lore : Daisy, the “Day Eye”


Daisy, belonging to the Aster Family, means “Day Eye”. . .


 

For the simple fact that when night falls softly over the world, so does a Daisy shut its eye. Even on shady days, a Daisy is known not to even peek.

In Latin, the Daisy’s name is Bellis Perennis, meaning “beautiful.” The reason I’m including the Daisy in our Medical Plant List, is that it grows everywhere– Europe, Asia, North America, etc–and is very easy to find.

The Daisy, often thought of as a weed much like Dandelion, will grow absolutely anywhere: paths, lawns, wooded areas, meadows. Accused of being a stubborn weed or not, doesn’t change the fact that for decades, this plant has been well admired and used from folklore to remedies.

Daisies contain something called saponines and tannins , both really good stuff. Saponines are famous for kick starting and stimulating the old metabolism, by way of the liver and gallbladder. While also being famous for helping the appetite and having a mild analgesic (pain killer), antispasmodic (relieving muscle spasms) effect, as well as aiding gastrointestinal (stomach and intestines) functioning. And Tannins, the miraculous good stuff which is also found in Green and Black teas, is considered a bitter astringent, toning tissues and helping to remove the body of toxins. (Note: This is why many age defying creams now have green tea in them.)

Now, while you won’t find doctors writing out prescriptions of Daisies, in Folk Medicine the plant was treasured. Not only for its pain killing effects, metabolism support, and or all of the wonders I listed above, but also for its ability to purify the blood, relief of gout, rheumatism, lung congestion, illumination of swellings, bruises, varicose veins, sprained muscles, healing of wounds, and many infections including that of flu and bronchitis.


 

The fresh flowers, leaves, and stems can all be dried, stored, and saved for Medical purposes.


 

Tea for Metabolism:

1 cup of boiling water for every teaspoon of dried flowers and leaves. Let it soak for ten minutes, then strain. Drink two to three times a day and remember, the tea can be mixed with other Metabolism supporting herbs as well.


Compresses:

Take a washcloth and soak it in Daisy tea (warm or cold–whichever is needed). Then, place the cloth over the desired area.


Tincture:

Soak 1 oz of the dried Daisy in 5 oz of Vodka for a total of two weeks, shaking it up every day. Strain and then store in a closed bottle. Take twenty-forty drops 3 times a day.

 


 And now to reflect back on all our ancestors who were Mountain Mommas and Granny Women.


  • Wear a Daisy and you will attract love.
  • Sleep with a daisy underneath your pillow and your lover will return to you.

 


 

Resources:

 The Complete Guide to Natural Healing

Wikipedia

Gardening the Daisy

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: June24 : Old Midsummers Day and the most Powerful Time to Gather Herbs

balanced scales

For all those who love to dabble in herbs, it is said that today, plants are the most powerful. In days of old, herbs, plants and flowers were gathered all because many believed their magical powers were at an all time high.


And, if you celebrate Old Midsummers Day, as our Ancestors did, then feel free to light the bonfires on this night to celebrate the peak of the year.

Those who lived in England, Wales and Ireland celebrated Midsummers, which merged comfortably with the Summer Solstice.

Festivals were had all across the land with Pagans dancing and celebrating around huge fires as big as men could make them.


Ancient Egyptians would celebrate the Festival of the Burning of the Lamps on this day at Zau. Zau was a city that was positioned within the Nile Delta.