Laura Perry: Exploring Ancient Magic
Laura is the author of the recently published Ariadne’s Thread which explores the Minoans and their spirituality, and how to utilise this in the modern world. She has written three other books, and has been involved in a wide range of healing and magical activities. She let me quiz her on her book and other aspects of her magical life.
Mabh: You’re described in your bio as a Naturopath. Can you tell us what this means?
Laura: Naturopathy is a variety of natural/complementary healthcare that encompasses many of the well-known modalities such as herbalism and homeopathy. I find that it dovetails well with my spiritual beliefs and practices, focusing on finding the root cause of health problems and balancing the body rather than suppressing symptoms. When my first child was born with severe orthopaedic disabilities I began studying herbalism to help ease her chronic symptoms that conventional medicine couldn’t relieve. I moved on from there, eventually earning a Doctorate in Naturopathy degree (N.D.). I had a private practice as an herbalist and naturopathic consultant for a number of years, but eventually I burned out and decided to retire. I still apply my knowledge to my writing where appropriate, and my background allows me to be a very effective freelance editor for authors of books about herbalism and other natural healthcare modalities.
MS: Your latest book, Ariadne’s Thread, brings the Minoan world to life by making the rituals relevant for our modern world. How vital is it, do you feel, that even ancient religion or spirituality is altered to fall in tune with our modern rhythms?
LP: I think there needs to be a balance between being true to the ancient tradition and making it accessible to modern people. While it is certainly interesting to read about the details of ancient traditions, there are many aspects that modern people are uncomfortable with or unwilling to approach. How many people do you know who would be willing to bring a live bull to a ritual and sacrifice it in honor of a deity? This particular activity was a focal point of ancient Minoan rituals to honor the god Zagreus. My purpose in writing books like Ariadne’s Thread is to provide ways for contemporary pagans to honor various deities and make them an active part of their spirituality. I want people to enact those rituals, not just read them. In fact, I have performed most of the rituals in the books I have written, and those I haven’t actually performed, I have presented to the deities in question for approval before publishing them. In several cases, the gods and goddesses involved have given me ‘hints’ that they would rather the ritual be changed in some way (poltergeist-like activity is a common way of drawing my attention to something they don’t like) and I have always honored those nudges. To me, the purpose of a spiritual practice is to connect with the divine. If rituals that feel comfortable to modern people allow them to connect with deity in a way that deity approves of, I consider those rituals to be successful.
MS: And does pure reconstructionism have any validity too?
LP: Any method that allows a practitioner to achieve their goal (whatever that may be) is valid. For some people, the purpose of a reconstructionist tradition is to help them feel a connection with their ancestors and their ethnicity. For others, the purpose may be to connect with particular deities. If the practice achieves that goal, it is valid. No one should judge anyone else’s spiritual practice; we are all different, with different needs, different beliefs and different ways of connecting with the divine. In the case of Minoan spirituality, it is almost impossible to reconstruct a full religious tradition because we have no written records of actual rituals like we do for Greek, Norse and other reconstructionist traditions. Linear A, the writing system in which the native Cretan language was written, is still not deciphered.
MS: As a Wiccan priestess, do you use Wiccan structure as the basis for your Minoan ritual?
LP: I do, mainly because that structure is familiar to the broad pagan community. Like many people who did not grow up in a pagan tradition, I began my journey with Wicca. My private spiritual practice is shamanic in nature, but the rituals I write for publication and those I lead for groups adhere – to some extent at least – to the well-known arrangement of Wiccan ritual because that is what many people are familiar with. As I mentioned above, I wrote the Minoan rituals to be performed, not just read, so I had to choose a structure the pagan community would be willing to approach. Among other spiritual activities, the ancient Minoans enacted mystery plays in which they depicted the events of their mythology on stage with an audience watching. While this might be an enjoyable project for some groups, many pagans would prefer to connect with these deities in a more familiar setting. And mystery plays are simply not possible for the solitary practitioner.
MS: What made you put your thoughts and experiences with Ariadne and Minoan history and culture onto paper?
LP: I’ve been fascinated by the Minoans since high school, when I first encountered the Knossos frescoes in an art history class. Part of the work for my second Wiccan degree involved writing a set of rituals from a chosen pantheon. Ariadne spoke strongly to me so I centred those rituals around the Minoan deities. That was the beginning, almost twenty years ago, of the book Ariadne’s Thread. I have used that core set of rituals in actual practice over the years, adding to it as needed for various celebrations and rites of passage. I have also read a great deal about the Minoans due to my interest (honestly, fascination) with them. What really compelled me to gather it all together was the realization that very few pagans have ‘met’ Ariadne and her family; very few ever considered the Minoan pantheon for real-life ritual practice, mainly because there were no resources available. So I decided to create such a resource and put it out there for people to use.
MS: How challenging was the research into Minoan life?
LP: It was not nearly as difficult to write the section on Minoan history, which I did over the past couple years, as it was to compile those first few rituals two decades ago. Back then, the Internet was still a meagre resource and I had to search in libraries for what scant information was available. So much more data is accessible now from wonderful researchers like Nanno Marinatos and John Younger, it’s much easier to get a handle on what life was like on ancient Crete. Still, I had to avail myself of university libraries and journal articles in order to find the details I needed to build an accurate picture of daily life so long ago.
MS: What’s been the most rewarding aspect of writing and publishing Ariadne’s Thread?
LP: I feel like I’ve finally finished a project that has been ongoing for two decades. Looking back now, I can see that those original rituals were just the beginning. And I’m especially gratified to be able to share my connection with the Minoan pantheon with others. It’s not a well-known spiritual path, but I would like more people to ‘meet’ Crete’s native deities and incorporate them into their lives.
MS: You’ve done four books, all on very different subjects, and one of them is fiction. Are you thinking about doing any follow ups on any of the books, or is each project completely new for you?
LP: I supposed I could be accused of having a short attention span! So much interests me, I’ll never live long enough to research and write all the books I have ideas for (or read all the books other people have written, that I’m interested in). In a way, Ariadne’s Thread is a follow-up to Ancient Spellcraft; it’s an exploration of a specific culture from the broad spectrum of ancient spiritual traditions I touched on in the earlier book. And all my books have a single thread that connects them. They all revolve around the human relationship with deity, whether in daily spiritual practice, or in the process of healing, or even (in my novel) in the adventures that occur when we are thrown into new and unknown situations.
MS: Tell us a bit about Jaguar Sky, your first fiction book.
LP: Jaguar Sky is a mystical adventure novel that focuses on the spiritual awakening of a young woman as she shifts from a college campus in Florida to an archaeological dig at an ancient Maya sacred site. I was inspired to write the book after travelling to Belize and visiting the temples and other places my main character journeys to in her fictional life. I felt that the Maya temples – Xunantunich, Lamanai, Cerros and others – were still very much alive and that their energies could be accessed by anyone who had Maya ancestry and was willing to open themselves to that path.
MS: In the opening pages of The Wiccan Wellness Book, you are forced to give a disclaimer, commenting that as a modern society, we consider healing and medicine to be two different things. In the past ten years since this book was published, do you think people in general are moving towards a more holistic view of their health and wellbeing?
LP: I think the section of the general public that is interested in the holistic health model has expanded, but I feel there is still a resistance to it, or discomfort with it, on a broad basis. In spite of all the information available these days about the various complementary and natural healthcare methods, many people still feel uncomfortable stepping outside the bounds of the conventional medical system they grew up with. I think over time the holistic view will continue to grow; it’s just a matter of whether it does so slowly or quickly.
MS: Even though it is called Wiccan Wellness, are there healing techniques in here that will work for everyone?
LP: The title unfortunately paints an inaccurate picture of the contents of that book. As you may know, the publisher has the final say regarding many aspects of a book during production. The publisher of this particular book (or more specifically, the publisher’s marketing department) insisted on using the term Wiccan in the title because they felt that would help the book sell. I would have preferred a more broad-based title such as The Holistic Healing Book but I was overruled. With the exception of the loosely-Wiccan-style ritual at the end of the book, there is nothing particularly Wiccan about any of the contents. The focus is on the integration of body, mind and spirit for a holistic improvement in not just health but also quality of life in general.
MS: Ariadne’s Thread explores Minoan faith. Jaguar Sky speaks of Mayan Shamanism and of course you touch on many traditions in Ancient Spellcraft; do you feel drawn to ancient cultures, and are you closer to any one in particular?
LP: I have often joked that I was born in the wrong century (or millennium). Since childhood I have felt drawn to a number of ancient cultures. My personal spiritual practice focuses on the pre-Indo-European (pre-Celtic) peoples of the British Isles – my ancestors. I am strongly drawn to several different ancient cultures that are widely spaced geographically but that have spiritual connections with each other in various ways. The Minoans are among these, as are the Britons and the Norse. My connection with the Maya came about through the trip to Belize that I mentioned earlier.
MS: As a family woman, do you have time put aside specifically for writing or do you simply grab what you can, when you can?
LP: I have had to learn (the hard way!) to be organized in order to meet deadlines for my editing clients as well as for my publishers. I home-school my daughter and I work from home, so I’m pretty busy. In order to get my writing accomplished in time, I do set time aside for it, but I don’t have a fixed schedule (writing at 1 p.m., doing the next task at 1:45, that sort of thing). Instead, I set daily goals based on a to-do list. I prioritize what needs to be done on any given day and start with the top priority. Some days I get farther down that list than other days, but I generally manage to get everything done without too much of a hassle. It helps that my daughter is older now and doesn’t need constant supervision. And I’m very thankful that my husband is supportive of my work.
MS: What’s your next project?
LP: I am currently constructing a Minoan-style Tarot deck as an accompaniment to Ariadne’s Thread. Given the huge market for Tarot and oracle cards, I was surprised there wasn’t already such a deck available. The artwork is in the style of the Minoan frescoes with their deep, rich colors and naturalistic poses. It’s a huge task, designing a full deck of cards from scratch and writing the explanatory book to accompany it, but I’m enjoying the process. I hope to have the artwork finished by next spring, at which point I’ll begin seeking a publisher.
MS: And how will you be celebrating Yule or the Winter Solstice this year?
LP: We have a small group of close friends with whom we celebrate the various turning points of the year. We will gather on the Solstice for a ritual with a party afterward, including a gift exchange and a sing-along of our favorite carols.
You can find Ariadne’s Thread (published by Moon Books) through Amazon and other good book retailers.
You can Find Laura Perry on Facebook