Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete

A journey to sacred sites on the Island of Crete

By Max Hartshorne

Idean cave shadows in Crete, the largest of the Greek islands.
Idean cave shadows in Crete, the largest of the Greek island

When Stephanie Ladd Anderson joined a group of 20 women on a Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in 2013, she described it as “more than just a journey between states–physical, mental and emotional…you cross a threshold into a liminal state, where you experience a sense of timelessness. Pilgrims are on their own personal odyssey as well as on a collective odyssey with other seekers.”

Crete has a storied history that goes back 4000 years before the ancient Minoan civilization and is filled with uniquely divine places that call up a deep place in many travelers. Carol P. Christ, who leads the journeys, has taught at Columbia and Harvard Divinity School and is the director of the Ariadne Institute, which runs these trips twice a year. Her fluent Greek and deep knowledge of Crete’s spiritual centers will provide many insights into the ancient religion and culture of Crete.

Mothers and Daughters

Stephanie Anderson Ladd in Mochlos, Crete.
Stephanie Anderson Ladd in Mochlos, Crete.

Stephanie recalls how rich her experience was spending 14 days with sister travelers. “We met on the rooftop of our hotel in Heraklion under a full moon. There were 20 of us, including Carol and two sets of mother and daughter travelers. I knew my mother was a part of the journey in spirit, and felt her presence strongly at times as I continued to both grieve and celebrate our life together.”

Women will visit many sacred sites in Crete as well six archeological museums, sacred centers like Knossos, Phaistos, Tholos Tomb at Kamilari, go swimming in the Mediterranean, and see ancient villages and shrines throughout the beautiful island.

Carol Christ has been leading tours to Greece for 20 years, and today she lives in Lesbos, the home of the poet Sappho.

Inspiring a Painter

Vanessa at an altar of the Sacred Center of Malia in Crete. photo by Diane Gruppe Marshall
Vanessa at an altar of the Sacred Center of Malia in Crete. photo by Diane Gruppe Marshall.

Jassy Watson, a young mother of four and a painter who lives in Queensland, Australia, credits this trip for getting her inspired to paint again. “My present state of inspiration can be attributed to my recent Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete with Carol Christ,” she said.

“I am sure that anybody who has attended such pilgrimages will attest that these experiences are life-changing. Travel alone is profound, but to share the experience in a circle of 20 amazing women is even more so.

“We sang, danced, trekked through the Cretan countryside, delved deep into caves; the womb of our great mother, climbed mountains and cleansed in the sea. We prayed and communed with the goddess daily, participating in rituals that were meaningful, un-contrived and safe.

Crete's wild countryside is unspoiled and vast.
Crete’s wild countryside is unspoiled and vast.

“While I have always known that the goddess is everywhere, within and without–encountering her ancient past in a present day context is a feeling I’m not sure I can adequately describe with words, hence my desire to express some of these feelings through my art.”

Trip Details

The pilgrimage begins in Heraklion, where for two nights the activities include seeing the city’s archeological museum and several other sacred sites. The trip includes a home-cooked meal with village women, and tours of five other museums in Crete with Carol sharing knowledge of the archeology.

There’s also time to explore a cave and a convent and many chances to relax and swim in the clear warm water of the Mediterranean. Not only will you see world-class ancient sites, but the best part, say past participants, are the exciting women you’ll meet along the way.

The ruins of Knossis, on Crete. Mim Neal photo.
The ruins of Knossis, on Crete. Mim Neal photo.

Elizabeth Chloe Erdmann, from Scotland, had this to say. “When I came home from Crete, it was as if l had had a complete blood transfusion. I knew in my bones that there was a better way to live.”

Mim Neal, of Colorado, who went on the trip in 2013, described an aspect of the Minoan civilization that explains why even today the culture continues to fascinate feminist authors and seekers.

“To me, these ruins illustrate the egalitarian aspect of Minoan culture. All the houses were about the same size. (They were also two and three stories high and had a form of indoor plumbing–Not bad for three-plus millennia ago.)

The trip takes in many archeological museums in Crete with expert commentary by Carol Christ.
The trip takes in many archeological museums in Crete with expert commentary by Carol Christ.

“Imagine, if you can, a society in which people – men and women, young and old – were more equal than they are today. A society in which dignity was part of being human.Minoan Crete was a place that honored all the components of the web of life.” Read more about her trip on her blog, Mim’s Prose.

Mim described an event during the trip that in some ways sums up the power of this journey.

“The group was to gather at a Minoan tomb, Tholos, near Kamilari. Because of back problems, I walked so slowly that Mika and I lost sight of the others and wandered around for an hour before giving up and creating our own little ritual on the side of a dirt road, in the middle of nowhere important.

“Sitting in a little patch of rocks, we set our goddess images on their mineral perches and poured our respective libations as we remembered aloud our female ancestors. The ritual prompted me to renew the honor in which I hold my own name (Miriam of course) and its heritage/ my heritage.”

To get in touch with Ariadne Institute by visiting their website or calling them at 541-345-8306. Email


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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.