What kind of religious activities were practised in the Greek Bronze Age? Through examination of ancient visual art, objects and texts, this lecture will explain how aspects of Aegean religion can be considered shamanic. The lecture will primarily focus on “glyptic art” (miniature images engraved on gold signet rings and stone seals) which is the most extensive body of Aegean Bronze Age representational art. It will look at ritual scenes depicted in glyptic art for evidence of shamanism including consumption of psychoactive drugs, adoption of special body postures, trance, spirit possession, communication with supernatural beings, metamorphosis and the journey to other worlds. The lecture will also look at the presence of nature in ritual scenes, particularly sacred trees. In the majority of these scenes human figures approach the trees in a calm and reverential manner, but in seven examples the ritual participant clasps and vigorously shakes the tree. The reasons for interpreting this activity as indicating a shamanic-style altered state of consciousness and prophetic consultation of the tree through the sound of its rustling leaves will then be explained. Comparative examples of prophetic trees from Near Eastern and Greek literature such as the Hebrew Bible, the Ugaritic Epic of Baal and Hesiod’s Theogony will be discussed, and later Greek tree oracles such as that of Zeus at Dodona will be compared with the glyptic images.


Dr. Caroline Tully is a lecturer and tutor at the University of Melbourne, Australia. Caroline’s research interests include religion and ritual in the Bronze Age Aegean and East Mediterranean, Reception of the Ancient World, and Contemporary Paganisms. She is the author of The Cultic Life of Trees in the Prehistoric Aegean, Levant, Egypt and Cyprus (Peeters: Leuven, 2018), many other articles and book chapters, and is associate editor of The Pomegranate: The International Journal of Pagan Studies. Caroline is also a professional tapestry weaver at the Australian Tapestry Workshop and a tarot reader and workshop facilitator at Muses of Mystery.

See her Academia page here: https://unimelb.academia.edu/CarolineTully

See her blog, Necropolis Now, here: http://necropolisnow.blogspot.com/

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