Tag Archives: Paganism

Making a Minoan Altar

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One of the great things about Modern Minoan Paganism is that it isn’t a rigid path, but a growing tradition with a broad scope that allows each person to find their own right relationship with the gods and goddesses of ancient Crete.

But that can be a problem, too, because there aren’t pre-set rules for things like how to set up your altar.

My Pagan training began with Wicca, which has clear rules for choosing and organizing the items that go on an altar, even down to what you do at different points on the Wheel of the Year. So how do you set up a Minoan altar if there aren’t any rules? There may not be rigid rules, but there are guidelines that can help you create an altar that’s just right for you. (That’s my Minoan altar up top.)

My book Labrys and Horns has details about setting up your sacred space, consecrating your altar, and calling the deities. But there are some basics that will get you started, and some things you ought to know that are different from other types of modern Paganism.

First of all, we have no evidence that the Minoans used the classical (Hellenic) four-element system of fire, air, water, and earth. That appears to have been created much later than Minoan times (the Hellenic Greeks flourished centuries after the fall of the Minoan cities). But the Minoans did pay special attention to the cardinal directions (north, south, east, west) as well as the places along the horizon where the Sun, Moon, and certain stars rose at different times of the year. These directions were important enough to the Minoans that they oriented their temples, peak sanctuaries, and tombs toward them. So you could “frame” your altar with small objects that are located toward the cardinal directions, if that appeals to you.

Then there are the gods and goddesses. Which one or ones does your altar honor? Will that change over the course of the year? Where will you start? What objects will you use to represent or honor them?

My altar, pictured above, currently includes the Melissae, Amalthea, and Ariadne. These three “play well together” so I can put them together on the same altar without a problem. I’ve found that’s not the case for Dionysus; he tends to want a dedicated altar space all his own (which he has elsewhere in my house). So first you need to decide who the focal point will be. Then, if you want to include more than one deity, check (via meditation or your other preferred method) to make sure that will work. The only surefire “multi-altar” I know of is one that honors the Minoan pantheon as a whole, without focusing on any specific deity. If you want to honor particular gods and/or goddesses, please be sure to ask them how they would like to be represented and whether they’re OK with being included alongside others on your altar.

Once you have all the items arranged, you’ll want to consecrate your altar and begin using it: making offerings, meditating and praying in front of it, maybe even performing rituals if that’s your thing.

An altar is a wonderful thing. It’s a physical anchor for spiritual practice, a focal point that reminds us of our priorities every time we pass by it. It can be as simple as a few items on a bookshelf (I have several of those – my non-Pagan friends think I have interesting knick-knacks!) or as fancy as a whole room dedicated to your path.

Whatever your altar looks like, however it’s arranged, make sure it works for you and the gods with whom you’re building a relationship. Because more than anything, an altar is the meeting place between you and the divine.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

Dying-and-reborn gods, or are they?

Iridescent Dionysus by Laura Perry
Iridescent Dionysus by Laura Perry

Dying-and-reborn gods are a fixture in modern Pagan practice, embodying the cycles of life, death, and rebirth. Right now it’s Lammastide and many of us who celebrate this First Harvest in the modern eight-fold wheel of the year are symbolically sacrificing a grain god in our rituals, fully expecting that he’ll rise again with the springtime sprouting of next year’s crop.

That’s Dionysus up top of this post, another so-called dying-and-reborn god (DRG for short). Among other things, he’s the embodiment of the vine and its fruit, so he “dies” at the grape harvest each year (the Feast of Grapes as celebrated in Modern Minoan Paganism) and is reborn… well, it’s complicated, since Minoan religion added layer upon layer for centuries, just like the ancient Egyptians did. In Modern Minoan Paganism we celebrate his birth at the Winter Solstice but we also recognize his renewal with the sprouting of the first leaves on the grapevines in the spring.

The thing is, Dionysus is a god. Gods aren’t mortal so they can’t actually die.

You may have heard the quote from Epimenides, the semi-mythical Cretan philosopher-poet who supposedly lived during the 6th or 7th century BCE: “All Cretans are liars.” It’s referenced in the Christian Bible as a paradox (Epimenides is a Cretan and he said all Cretans are liars, so how can what he said be either true or false?) and that’s where a lot of people have heard it from, though it’s apparent that the original statement wasn’t intended as a paradox but a simple statement.

But here’s the thing: Epimenides is intricately linked with “Cretan Zeus” (that would be the Minoan Dionysus, the way the Hellenic Greeks referenced him). He supposedly became a prophet/oracle after sleeping in Rhea’s cave on Mt. Ida, the cave where Dionysus is born every Midwinter (well, one of them anyway!). This is a tidbit of Good Stuff that managed to make it down through the centuries, possibly a shadow of the practices that people undertook during Minoan times at the cave shrines on the island.

So why did Epimenides say all Cretans are liars? Because by his time (almost a millennium after the fall of the Minoan cities) the myths and stories about Dionysus and the rest of the Minoan pantheon had degenerated to the point that people took it literally when the story said Dionysus died. They interpreted the remains of the cave shrine as his tomb.

But gods aren’t mortal. They can’t die.

In modern western society, we have an example of a DRG whose myth has been taken literally: Jesus Christ. But how is it that he can actually die? By becoming mortal. That’s a special consideration, one that’s been argued back and forth for centuries by all kinds of religious scholars, and one I don’t care to take on.

My point is this: Dionysus doesn’t become mortal. John Barleycorn doesn’t become mortal. They’re not human. They don’t actually die, though of course the crops that symbolize them do (and for that, I’m grateful).

The DRGs don’t die; they DESCEND. They go down to the Underworld, awaiting the right time to rise again and start the cycle anew.

We’re mortal. We actually die. Though some of us can travel to the Underworld via shamanic journeys without dying, we don’t take our bodies with us on that trip. So the closest we can come to understanding the divine cycle, the up-and-down, the growing-giving-releasing of the DRG is by equating it to what we ourselves undergo, what we understand: dying and being reincarnated.

So technically, the DRGs don’t die. They can’t, and they don’t need to. But to us, it looks very much like that’s exactly what they do. And that’s fine. We’re mortals, watching immortals do something that we can only understand in part; three-dimensional beings doing their best to interpret the actions of heaven-knows-how-many-dimensional beings.

But what we can see, the part we’re able to understand, has meaning for us. It’s a reminder that it’s not a straight line, but a circle, a spiral… and that’s a gift indeed.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

The Many Ways of Modern Minoan Paganism

Finger labyrinth

 

One of the interesting challenges I’ve found in practicing Modern Minoan Paganism is that my world is a bit different from ancient Crete. I’m not talking about technology so much (the Minoans didn’t have iPhones but they did have enclosed sewers, flushing toilets, and paved streets). What I mean is the religious facets of the culture I live in, as compared to a few thousand years ago.

For instance, when the high points of the Minoan sacred year come around, I can’t just head down to the local temple to watch a Mystery play or participate in a public ritual. Even though I have a debit card and access to the Internet, it’s still pretty hard to find “Minoan bling” outside of museums and specialty shops in Crete – I can’t just stroll down to an ancient Minoan marketplace and pick up some goddess figurines, oil lamps, and offering stands. I don’t have a whole city full of people who practice Minoan spirituality. We are, in a sense, baking from scratch in Modern Minoan Paganism.

(As an aside, I think Modern Minoan Paganism is poised at about the place Druidry was maybe 20 or 30 years ago. It’s a small specialty field within Paganism, which is itself a small specialty section of world religions. Not many people know about the Minoan spiritual path yet, but that’s slowly changing. I’m looking forward to the day when we can put together a Minoan Pagan festival with a big Mystery play as the main ritual.)

(As another aside, Modern Minoan Paganism isn’t the only Minoan path out there. The Minoan Sisterhood and the Minoan Brotherhood have been around for several decades. I was recently asked why I didn’t mention them in my two Minoan spirituality books, Ariadne’s Thread and Labrys and Horns. The answer is simple: because they’re separate paths from Modern Minoan Paganism. To go back to the Druidry analogy, I wouldn’t expect a member of one Druid tradition to write a book that discussed the spiritual practices of a different tradition. Modern Minoan Paganism is its own path with its own evolving traditions and practices, open to people of all genders, sexual orientations, and ethnic backgrounds.)

So what’s a modern Pagan to do? Put the bits and pieces together in our own lives, one person and one day at a time. And get together when we can.

The photo at the top of this post is a finger labyrinth I made out of homemade spice clay (recipe and complete directions are in my book Labrys and Horns, or you can do an online search for “cinnamon clay recipe”). The labyrinth is a potent emblem of Minoan spirituality, one that has remained in the public eye and touched hearts and minds for millennia. Making the finger labyrinth was a slow, meditative process that I did in a ritualized sacred setting. Now it “lives” on my altar as both a powerful symbol of Minoan spirituality and a helpful meditative tool. Finger labyrinths are readily available online and in metaphysical shops, and you can always make your own.

I walk labyrinths whenever I can, in public parks and at the beach and even in churches. A lot of people enjoy labyrinth walking as a moving meditation or simply as a way to explore this symbol in a whole-body kind of way. If we’re really honest, we’re not entirely certain what the original Minoan labyrinth was. No one has ever found one in the ruins on Crete, though meander designs do figure prominently in Minoan art. What we do know is that the idea of the labyrinth was powerful enough to influence classical writers, who thought it was important enough to write about and pass on. People continue to be moved by this twisting, turning symbol of the human spiritual journey.

Like many modern Pagans, I have altars in my home. Below is a photo of the Minoan altar in my office/studio. I consider my writing and art to be sacred acts, so I like being able to light a candle and some incense and turn at least part of my workday into a ritual.

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The ancient Minoans, like many other Bronze Age people, also had altars and shrines in their homes. They did the same kinds of things that we modern Pagans do with those altars: make offerings, meditate, pray, burn incense, light oil lamps (candles hadn’t been invented yet, but you get the idea). Most of the time, I do these kinds of things alone, but it’s also lovely to have a quick/tiny ritual in front of the altar with my family or a friend or two. A lot of Pagans are perfectly willing to hang out with Minoan deities every now and then, even if it’s not something they do as their main path, so go ahead and ask your local Pagan friends. You never know who might offer to meet you in the park for a little labyrinth-walking, or bring the incense for an impromptu ritual.

Formal religion, like the Minoans practiced in their huge temple complexes with a professional priesthood, has a lot of rules and regulations. But everyday spirituality, the kind that ordinary people have practiced for millennia, doesn’t. To me, it’s mostly a matter of listening: to your intuition, to the gods, to the universe. Take the pieces that are meaningful to you and use them in a way that feels right as you’re doing it. This should be a mindful practice, of course; just tossing anything and everything together without thinking isn’t going to get you very far and might very well annoy any Powers you’re dealing with.

But ultimately, if you’re paying attention and intending for what you do to be sacred and respectful, whatever steps you take will lead you in the right direction.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.

 

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays for February 11th, 12th, 13th, 14th

February 11th

On this day, in the year 1858, the haunting image of Our Lady at Lourdes suddenly appeared in a grotto keeping the shrine of the Goddess for many, many centuries. After the apparition and even before, the spring there has been a place people have gathered to gain healing and or special prayer.

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In many ancient cultures, today was actually the Lunar New Year or New Year’s day.

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In Abydos Egypt, today will be the Feast of Osiris. (Urban Paganism)

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February 12th

Today marks the holy day of Artemis, also known as Diana. (Urban Paganism)

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In some Ancient cultures, today was actually their sacred Imbolc.

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Today symbolizes the good devouring the darkness as the Runic-Half Month of Sigel begins.

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February 13th

For the next eight days, Parentalia—a huge festival in Rome, will be running. This Festival is for the dead as the spirits of our parents are honored throughout the week. The Romans connected this festival with the Manes—who were dead, and immortal, but not gods. Now in the spirit of Urban Paganism—in many Roman cities there existed a vast, huge pit covered up by one huge stone. Inside this pit, was the path into the Underworld—the path of the Manes.

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Old Leap Years Day—in many ancient calendars.

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Today in Egypt, there is another feast of Osiris, only this time the feast will be held in Busiris.

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Welsh Culture gives us a festival called Gwyl o Don a Cerunnos—held for the Goddess mother Don and the honored God of the forest Cerunnos. The Festival will begin at sundown and will not end until sundown on February 21.

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February 14th

 

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!!!!!!!!

In Rome, today is sacred to Juno Februa—their Goddess of Looooooooooooooove! Before dreaming, a girl should decorate her pillow with five bay leafs—this will let her dream of her lover. Others should wear a yellow crocus which is believed to attract their true love.

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The Norse will be celebrating Valisblot –a feast for Vali—during which the light triumphs over darkness. Vali was the son of Odin and Rind.

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Paganism: The Month of February

Thee Romans had something called Juno Februa.

Interestingly enough, the term Februa is where February was said to derive from. The entire festival of Juno Februa was based on purification. In fact the root of the word Februo meant purification by way of sacrifice or rather I purify by sacrifice.’

 

February is known as the time of the ‘ice moon’. Also known as a time to gain personal healing by items such as amethyst or of white, and bluish-violet items. February is sacred to women—not only is it a time preparing for the rebirth of the land, but of future generations, spirituality, etc.

According to some Native American Tribes, February was known as the Hunger Moon since the heaviest snows fell making hunting hard. To other tribes, it was known as Full Snow Moon.

February represents the House of Aquarius (January 20—February 19) 11th sign

and the House of Pisces (February 20—March 20) 12th sign

 

Stay tuned for two more articles coming up explaining the Paganism concerning Valentine’s Day and Ground Hog’s day.

Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: January 28, 29, 30, 31

 

 

January 28—Thursday:

I am gaining new respect from the Norse and today is only once more shining example as to why. They are celebrating something called Upelly-Ah.  Scottish folk adapted this from the Norse, which means it will be going on in both cultures.

So what is it? Well it marks the end of Yule and what better way to do that with a huge slam dunk of a celebration? But you must do it right! And in order to send Yule off good and proper, a rowdy march must be sported through the town while carrying torches and a Viking Longboat through it’s streets. Afterwards, we will thrust the boat into the sea and burn it. (We have all seen that one in movies one form or another). Now the huge fire from that represents the old, dead year which has come to pass.

Less not forget that today is also the Runic Half Month of Elhaz—or rather its beginning.

January 29—Friday:

*sighs* what the Romans are doing today maybe something we need in our own day and age. the 29th marks their grand Festival of Peace. Dedicated to the Goddess Pax AND the Greek Goddess Eirene—both being deities of the same desire—PEACE. Pagans, I say light your candles this day and pray to either of these lovely ladies if Peace is in deed your wish for our crumbling world. Stir up some energy and manipulate something.

January 30—Saturday:

Well, now that the ‘whole’ peace issue is dwelt with, how about some fresh partying? Today happens to be the Festival of Sementivae Feriae in ROME. The whole shebang is to honor Ceres, their goddess of agriculture. Also Demeter in Greek minds, having been adapted into Rome during 496 BCE after suffering a brutal stretch of famine there.  During that bought of starvation, the Sibylline Oracles prophesied to Rome that the Goddess was urgently needed. Listening, she was embraced by the Roman people, but particularly worshipped by women in the way most Goddesses are—her rituals and rites kept secret to women so that Historians were unable to record them.

While Rome is insuring bountiful harvest, Egypt is celebrating the Day of Opening the Doors at Karnak. Karnak being something like the suburbs of Thebes and capital of Egypt itself. Many, many Pharaohs added their own touch to the temple at Karnak.

January 31—Sunday

Wishing January goodbye on this day….universally and by path of ancient, while the Eve of February or Eve of Imbolc, is among us and so is the Imbolc Festivals (ancient and new). Imbolc also known as Brigantia, spawns from the Irish definition ‘in the belly’ pertaining to the pregnancy of ewes.

This celebration will take place tomorrow between the Observances of Yule and the blessed vernal equinox. Our focus, as our ancestors focus, will be on the COMING OF LIGHT and the longing of days which comes about during spring. I say bring it on, bring it on….I am so over Winter.

Now interestingly enough, the Norse is stirring things up again, making today sacred to the Valkyries and Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, who are said to sit by Urd’s Well under a Yggdrasil tree while determining the fates of men and gods.

But in Greece, we have a feast for Hecate—the Goddess of Night, the underworld,  of love and passion.  I adore Hecate.

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Interested in the days of the week?

Thursday belongs to the deity Thunor, also known as Thor, who is the God of Agriculture and Thunder.

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Thursday are Great for Dealing with Matters or Magical Spells & Rituals Concerning:

Passions & Desires—what do you want in your life?

Political Power—you can influence this for yourself or for what you desire on this day.

Speculating & Gambling—someone have a problem? Do you need help or luck?

Legal Matters, Treaties, Oaths—today is a great day to deal with these.

Harvests—perhaps you buy your food and this doesn’t;t matter to you but today you could make sure someone else has a good harvest. Maybe you could see to it that they have a meal for Thanksgiving?

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Thursday represents The Planet Jupiter and The Element of Fire

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Friday belongs to Frigga or Venus—Goddess of Love and Transformation.

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Fridays are excellent days to deal with matters or magical spells & rituals concerning…

Family life, friendship, growth, harmony, love, romance, passion.

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Planets & Elements

Venus and the element of Earth

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Saturday is the day of Seatere, Seater, Saturn, and Loki—trickster of the Norse Culture.

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Saturday is a good day to deal with matters and or invoke magical spells concerning:

A Gift of some sort, and or maybe something to do with your property?

Are you moving your home? Is someone else moving their home? Do you have matters concerning the elderly and or maybe you need to work on self discipline?

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Remember that Saturday belongs to Saturn and the Element of Earth.

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Sunday is all about the Sun God Hellios, Apollo, Ogmios and, Mithras or Phoebe: The Sun Goddess

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Sunday is a good day to deal with matters or magic concerning:

Your creativity—or be creative. Maybe someone else? How about matters of hope or personal money issues? What of victory, anything agriculture, perhaps healing, or a career? Do you have or need ambition and or most importantly, self confidence?

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Sunday represents the Sun and the element Fire.

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Wishing everyone a GREAT WEEKEND!!!

C.H. Scarlett

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Ancient Calendar & Pagan Holidays: January 22, 23, 24

 

 

WRITERS AND ARTISTS TAKE NOTE OF TODAYS HOLIDAY!!!!!!

Today is Friday January 22nd and it’s a busy one for the Goddesses of Inspiration—also known as the Muses. Most do not know this but the Muses were actually a collection of nine daughters born of Zeus and Mnemosyne.

Calliope—in charge of song

Thalia—in charge of comedy

Melpomene—in charge of tragedy

Terpsichore— in charge of dancing

Erato—in charge of erotic poetry

Polymnia—in charge of songs of serious issues.

Urania—in charge of astronomy.

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Also on this day, in Ancient wondrous Egypt, we will make the way for Khum—the god of creation. (a lot of CREATING going on today isn’t it?)

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And for all those who mark your Calendars for the Goddess Months–grab the sharpie, because today the Goddess Month of Hesta Ends.

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January 23

 

We are going to kick things off in Egypt because today is a HUGE festival for Hathor—their Goddess of Love and Happiness. Hathor is also famous for being the keeper of the Eye of Ra and more importantly, the Goddess of the sky.

At one time in Egypt’s ancient bliss, the Priests of Hathor would begins things by pouring cow’s milk into the natural flowing Nile.

Many people don’t know this but the name Hathor actually means ‘The House of Horus.’ There were actually seven Hathors, but the main one we are honoring today is Isis who represents this Goddess and the mother of Horus.

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Now while the Egyptians are doing their thing…at SUNDOWN over in Welsh territory, they will be doing theirs. When the sun leaves the sky, that will mark the beginning of Braciaca Dydd, also known as the Day of Braciaca who happens to be the sacred Goddess of Agriculture and more importantly…brewing.

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Go pick the sharpie back up and run to the calendar—

The Goddess Month of Bridge Begins on this day!

 

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January 24

 

Well if we have learned anything by doing and reading these Pagan Holidays, its that the Romans and the Greeks love a damn good time. They will make a celebration and holiday for anything! Any excuse for fabulous dancing, partying and drinking of the wine.

Today is going to be no different. In Rome, there is a NINE day celebration which starts TODAY. That’s right, nine days of nothing other than damn good times! It’s called Sementivae and it honors the Goddess named Terra, whom happens to be the patron of soil. But don’t think its all about her, no….let’s add Ceres to the mix who happens to be the grain Goddess and then lest not forget Proserpine, Goddess of seeds. So if you haven’t guessed it….these nine days will be all about spring, crops, and honoring the Goddesses that have the power to bring the Romans good harvest.

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Now, if you are not interested in what’s going down in Rome then today, I have another one for you. There are some Occult traditions which recognize something called Bevil Blizard, Who is he and why does he get an observance?

Well according to some, he was the last necromancer of Winchcombe and it was on this day of 94 years in 1838 that he passed away. What most forget however, on this day, its also celebrating a brand spanking new season of Cornish Tinner‘s & Seafarer Day’s—sailing and mining in that captivating place called Cornwall. That’s right, Bevil passed on an Ancient Labor Day.

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Now if you aren’t all that into what the Welsh are doing, then you can always pop back over to Egypt…golden glitz and sandy sunsets. Today is extra special becomes it marks the Coming of Thoth.

Thoth is famous for the Emerald Tablets, for being the God of writing, astronomy, music, art, time & magic, and for assisting Isis a great deal during the whole Osiris ordeal. Thoth is said to protect Osiris and he also assists the dead.

 

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