Tag Archives: Laura Perry

Labrys and Horns: review

Labrys and Horns by Laura Perry is an introduction to practicing modern Minoan Paganism. The Minoans were are culture on Crete who existed before the Greeks. They were a much more egalitarian society, and while there are a lot of gaps in our knowledge about them, much can be inferred from the art and archaeology. This is not an academic-style book so there’s not much detail about how the author comes to her conclusions, but there are plenty of other books listed in the references so anyone who wants to dig deeper knows where to start. You can also pick up her other title, Aridane’s Thread, which goes into more detail on history and Minoan life.

I came to this out of curiosity rather than any intention to practice. It is a book worth reading from that basis. The relationship between the Minoans and the Greeks has much to tell us about the later culture, too. There’s a wealth of insight here about the ancient world as a whole, and much to ponder about the way sacred myths evolve and change depending on who is telling them and why.

I’m guessing that most people come to Minoan Paganism either through an attraction to the art, or via one of the deities. Ariadne, the minotaur and the labyrinth seem like the most obvious way in. If you’ve encountered the Greek story, and felt drawn but found it inadequate, this is no doubt for you. If you like aspects of the Greek myths but find the rapey patriarchal content unpalatable, you may want to check out the Minoans.

The book includes line drawings based on Minoan art and artefacts, I found this really helpful for getting a sense of the culture and concepts. In its original form, it’s a really attractive art style, with brightly coloured frescos and Laura has captured the flow and feel of it in her drawings.

This is a very readable book, author Laura Perry writes with warmth and clearly speaks from broad and long term experience of bringing an ancient culture into her life. Her writing is permissive and encouraging rather than dogmatic, it’s very much a book about how to go about finding your own path, and where to start. There’s enough material here on rituals, symbols, deities and devotionals to enable a person to start experimenting.

 

Find out more about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/labrys-and-horns

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Magical Realism: Contradiction in Terms?

A guest post from Laura Perry

I’m a writer, and a portion of what I write is fiction that qualifies as magical realism. My most recent novel, The Bed (http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed), definitely qualifies. I’ve had a few people question that term, suggesting that it’s a contradiction. After all, according to mainstream society and “common sense,” magic isn’t real.

I’ve written before about Pagans who practice magic but don’t actually believe in it, a habit that can lead to very unpleasant side effects (http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/single-post/2016/02/10/Pagans-who-dont-believe-in-magic-but-use-it-anyway). Mainstream society puts a great deal of pressure on us to conform to the materialist viewpoint that anything that can’t be experienced through our five physical senses or detected via scientific instruments simply doesn’t exist or is, at best, some sort of hallucination. So it’s an uphill battle against cultural pressure just to consider the possibility that magic is a real thing.

There’s a sizeable portion of the Pagan/alternative/New Age community that explains magic as some sort of psychological effect, which is fine as far as it goes. There’s plenty we don’t know about how the psyche works, so chalking magic up to psychological thingamawhatsies is tantamount to invoking a version of Clarke’s Third Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clarke%27s_three_laws) with the human brain in place of some sort of constructed technology. That, too, is just fine, since no one really knows why or how magic works.

The thing is, magic does work. It produces effects—sometimes unexpected or unpleasant ones—in the material world. Whether that’s through the forces of the human mind or the workings of Nature or the intervention of divine beings is up for discussion.

If magic works, then it’s reasonable to write stories about it and say that those stories are examples of magical realism. Bear in mind that fiction, even fiction that’s based on “true life” stories, is still a made-up thing. But good fiction is a believably made-up thing. I’ve seen the results of magic, both good and bad, enough times to be willing to slide it into the underpinnings of my stories. I don’t write about people flying through the air on broomsticks or shooting flames out of their hands. I write about the kinds of magic I’ve experienced myself: dreams and visions, rituals that go well or that get out of hand, customs that are designed to safeguard the practitioner and that can result in disaster if they’re ignored.

These things aren’t fantasy, though not everyone experiences them. And of course, even people who’ve experienced them may choose not to believe in them since mainstream society still says magic isn’t real (I’ve seen that happen—cognitive dissonance is a powerful and frightening thing). That’s another useful bit for my fiction: the conflict with friends and family members who think you’re crazy for even considering the idea that magic actually works. But in real life, it can be less than fun to deal with.

So no, I don’t consider “magical realism” to be a contradiction in terms. I enjoy writing it and I enjoy reading it. But more than that, I enjoy living it.


Witchlit and Spiral Nature

The Bed, by Laura Perry.

Oh what a glorious read this was! A witchlit novel full of magical realism, strange occult happenings, supernatural beings and … haunted furniture! I read it over a couple of days, immersing myself in the world of Liz – upcycler and folk artist – whose world is sent spinning into chaos by the purchase of an antique bed. The writing style is utterly engaging, the characters complex, the situation intense. It’s great reading occult fiction from someone who really has a feel for the traditions of both writing and practice – it feels real. It feels like someone could really have been through all these things (assuming your reality accommodates the supernatural). There are some serious messages in the book about knowing what you’re up to, and not assuming that any spirits you might interact with are inherently benevolent. Alongside all the supernatural shenanigans, Liz’s family, friends, and the man attempting to become her fiancée are portrayed with skill and depth, making it all feel very rooted in this world, this life. For me that’s a key part of the genre – the real world stuff has to be persuasive to ground the magical aspect of magical realism. The magic has to be real enough to not stretch credulity too far, while also feeling genuinely magical. For witchlit of course the magic has to make a certain kind of intuitive sense, and this absolutely does.

This ticked all the boxes for me – a heroine who isn’t fresh out of school, and who has as a consequence a more developed life and character, with real life issues, and a nice mix of independence, and cooperativeness. A surprising story, that keeps you guessing right up to the end. Loved it!

More about the book here – http://www.lauraperryauthor.com/the-bed

I recently reviewed Lupa’s book Nature Spirituality from the ground up for Spiral Nature. This is my first Spiral Nature review, and also my first time reading a full length Lupa text, although I’ve been following her blog for a while. It’s a great read, and the full review is here – http://www.spiralnature.com/reviews/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up-lupa/

More information about the book here – http://www.thegreenwolf.com/books/nature-spirituality-from-the-ground-up/

 


When Is a Reconstructionist Tradition not a Reconstructionist Tradition?

A guest blog by Laura Perry

When Nimue suggested the idea of a guest blog post, I asked her what aspects of modern Minoan Paganism might interest her fellow Druids. Her response was enlightening:

“Probably the main point of commonality with Druidry is that this is a tradition with scant but tantalising evidence, parts of which was recorded by its oppressors.”

I hadn’t really thought about Druidry in that light before, but of course it’s true. Caesar wasn’t exactly a warm supporter of the Druids, was he? And the Hellenic Greeks weren’t terribly fond of the Minoans either, except when they could scrape up a few bits of Minoan mythology to give their own culture the patina of age.

Let’s start with the basics. The ancient Minoans were a civilization that spread across the island of Crete, just south of Greece in the Mediterranean, beginning in the Neolithic era, about 6000-5000 BCE. The main run of Minoan society flourished during the Bronze Age from about 3500 to 1400 BCE, with the heyday (the big temple complexes, colorful art, and so on) from about 1900 to 1400 BCE. This puts the Minoans contemporaneous with the New Kingdom of Egypt and the Mesopotamian cultures of Sumer, Akkad, and Babylon. The first stage of Stonehenge was built during the early phases of Minoan society and it was completed during the height of civilization on Crete. The Minoans were a wealthy mercantile society of accomplished seafarers, trading all across the Mediterranean and as far up the Atlantic coast as Cornwall, from where they brought back tin to make bronze blades.

One issue that confuses many people is the ethnicity of the ancient Minoans. In modern times, the island of Crete is part of the nation of Greece. However, the Minoans weren’t Greek. Their ancestors came from Anatolia in prehistoric times, a part of the westward wave of pre-Indo-European peoples that eventually spread across most of Europe. And while the people and culture are called Minoan after the mythical King Minos who purportedly ruled the island at one time, there is no such place as Minoa. The homeland of the Minoans is called Crete.

You’re probably familiar with the Minoans thanks to their art: the colorful frescoes of bull-leapers and priestesses, the figurines of the goddess with writhing snakes in her hands, the seal rings depicting complex ritual scenes. Much of Minoan art focuses on religious acts: sacred games, offerings, animal sacrifice, sacred dance. As with much of the ancient world, the Minoans felt no divide between everyday life and religion, the ordinary and the numinous.

So what was Minoan religion like and why would anyone be interested in reviving it, even in a modified form, in our times? The initial appeal for many people is the prominent place of the goddesses in the Minoan pantheon. Rhea, Ariadne, Diktynna, Eileithyia, and others may be familiar to most people from the Hellenic Greek pantheon, but they all were born, so to speak, among the Minoans. We can deduce a lot about Minoan religious practice from their artwork – the offerings, dances, sacrifices, and so on that I mentioned above. But we can only get just so far by looking at pictures.

The Minoans were a literate culture. In fact, they had two writing systems, a hieroglyphic system and a syllabary known as Linear A. The problem is, we can’t read either one. Now, the Mycenaean Greeks came into contact with Crete during the last few centuries of Minoan civilization. Either they or, more likely, some Minoan scribes altered Linear A to write Mycenaean Greek. The ensuing syllabary, known as Linear B, was translated in the 1950s and we can read it pretty well. That’s how we know so many of the Minoan deity and place names, what kinds of offerings the temples accepted, and the fact that women owned property. But we still can’t read the native Minoan language. And that’s a problem, because our main source of written information comes from the Mycenaeans, who weren’t exactly the Minoans’ best friends.

Though we can’t be sure of the Mycenaeans’ specific aims, it’s apparent that they did their best to take over Minoan society, first by infiltration and then by force. They may have wanted the island as a hub for naval activity or they may have coveted the Minoans’ wealth, gained from extensive trading activity. In the process, the Mycenaeans borrowed a great deal of Minoan religious practice, including large chunks of the Minoan pantheon. The Hellenic Greeks later incorporated the Minoan deities into their pantheon but altered the myths and even the characteristics of many of the deities to suit their own cultural values.

The main activity in Ariadne’s Tribe is figuring out how much of what we know about the Minoans (mostly through Greek mythology) was recorded accurately and how much was purposely changed. The Mycenaeans, like the later Hellenic Greeks, were a profoundly patriarchal society, in contrast to the egalitarian Minoans. So the Greeks ‘demoted’ many of the Minoan goddesses (Ariadne became a mere human, for instance) while they forced others, such as Rhea, to submit to husbands who ruled over them when these goddesses had been stand-alone, unmarried deities in Minoan religion. Then the Greeks invented Theseus, a culture hero, to show that they were superior to the backwards, human-sacrificing, Minotaur-worshiping Minoans.

So those of us who practice modern Minoan Paganism spend a lot of time teasing out the original myths from what amounts to a political smear campaign. There are some aspects of ancient Minoan religion we’re not likely to revive: huge mystery plays attended by hundreds or thousands; drug-induced shamanic journeys; animal sacrifice. But we use the same symbol set the ancient Minoans displayed in their temples, shrines, and homes: the labrys, the horns, seashells, the sacred serpent. We’ve taken a page from the modern Norse Pagans and are working with multiply-corroborated gnosis to fill in the blanks where necessary, along with a lot of ritual experimentation. And of course, we listen to the gods. They understand that life changes with the passage of time, and whatever we can do to help them remain relevant while respecting their underlying nature is a good thing.

 

References:

Though I’m often wary of Wikipedia, the page about Minoan civilization contains generally undisputed information and is pretty comprehensive:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_civilization

 

Max Dashu’s Suppressed Histories Archives has 5 pages of good examples of Minoan art, focusing on the religion of ancient Crete:

http://suppressedhistories.net/Gallery/crete/crete.html

 

The writing systems mentioned above:

Cretan Hieroglyphs http://ancientscripts.com/cretan_hieroglyphs.html

Linear A  http://ancientscripts.com/lineara.html

Linear B  http://ancientscripts.com/linearb.html

 

Ariadne’s Tribe – Facebook discussion group for modern Minoan Paganism:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1502335483312496/

 

The Minoan Path blog, an exploration of modern Minoan paganism:

http://witchesandpagans.com/pagan-paths-blogs/the-minoan-path.html