The Symbols of Minoan Spirituality

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Minoan Snake Goddess figurine from Knossos

Some Pagan symbols are familiar and are easy to spot: the Wiccan pentagram, the Norse Thor’s hammer. But what about Minoan spirituality? The path of Modern Minoan Paganism has a name, so it should have some symbols, right?

Over in Ariadne’s Tribe we’ve discussed this issue a good bit. The labrys, the double-bladed ax that’s such a well-known symbol from ancient Crete, has already been claimed by several groups that have feminist and/or Minoan leanings. We didn’t think it was appropriate to use it as our ‘biggie’ symbol because we would be infringing on their territory. Plus, it would be confusing, since it’s already associated with other groups.

So what should we use?

A lot of people like the figurine at the top of this post. She’s usually called a Snake Goddess but she might represent a human priestess rather than a deity. And she’s a well-known symbol of ancient Crete, its culture and spirituality.

There’s also a similar figure that people like to use, from a fresco in the Corridor of the Processions at Knossos. She’s holding labryses instead of snakes:

Corridor of the Processions central figure

But not everyone wants a female figure as the central symbol for their spirituality. Some people would rather have something a bit more abstract, a symbol that doesn’t involve human type figures. As I noted above, the labrys isn’t a good choice, at least not by itself. But the Minoans liked to combine the labrys with their Sacred Horns, and that makes for a beautiful, multi-layered symbol:

Labrys and Horns Collage

The labrys and horns both have multiple layers of meaning. The labrys is associated with the Minoan goddesses, especially Ariadne, whose Labyrinth means “house of the labrys.” It can be seen as a butterfly, an age-old symbol of the human soul, or a vulva, or even the type of hoe-ax the Minoans used to cultivate their fields.

The Sacred Horns remind us of the Horned Ones, the Minoan gods like the Minotaur whose power connects us with the animal world and our own inner strength. The Sacred Horns perched along the rooftops of the Minoan temple complexes, where the astronomers used them as sighting aids when they watched for the rising and setting of the moon, stars, and planets. So they also represent a doorway between the Upperworld and the Underworld, the place where the heavenly lights come up out of darkness to twinkle in the night sky.

That’s a lot of symbols! The thing is, Modern Minoan Paganism isn’t a monolithic tradition. There’s no set of rules and regulations, no Grand High Poobah to tell you what you have to do. It’s an individual path, unique to each person who walks it. Some people choose just one of these symbols and some use them all. And some don’t like any of them, opting for something entirely different that suits them.

Personally, I hope the labrys-and-horns combination becomes something of a standard representation for Modern Minoan Paganism. I like it so much, that’s what I called my latest book. I like that the combination of the labrys with the horns reflects the balance of masculine and feminine, Upperworld and Underworld, the physical and the spiritual. It’s not quite a yin-yang symbol (properly called a taijitu) but it represents a similar play between the two halves of the whole.

Do any of these symbols strike a chord with you? How would you use them in your spiritual practice – jewelry? Altar accoutrements? Artwork for your walls? Or would you pick something else, some other symbol that calls to you?

Whatever you decide, as long as it works for you, you’ve made the right choice.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

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