The Minotaur, Ariadne and Divine Bride

This post is meant as a follow up to my post on Apollon and the Minotaur, here, and after some reflection regarding after reading John Drury’s post here in response to mine. I don’t often get response blogging but when I do it is nice because it makes me think more in depth than I probably did the first time around. And in this case I realize that I had spent alot of time talking of Theseus and didn’t really say much about Ariadne. In part this is because Ariadne has very little play in the tale of the Labyrinth. I mean she is a big part of it because without her Theseus wouldn’t have been able to be successful. Without the influence of Aphrodite, the harmonization of opposite energies, there cannot be liberation at the gate of Apollon. But the main part of her story follows behind the tale of the labyrinth.

Aphrodite’s part and the sign of Taurus (the zodiac sign which is the symbol of her domain) I think caused some confusion. I don’t see the Minotaur as being literally the heavenly bull Taurus. However I think that his name Asterios, meaning “starry” is part of an association that he sprung from a heavenly bull. That is to say that the heavenly bull is a symbol of Zeus. Specifically speaking the myth of the constellation Taurus it is the form that Zeus took in the seduction of Europa, from which union Minos sprung. Theoi.com states though that the constellation was associated both with the taurine lover of Pasiphae and her son. I am thinking though that is more the former, and in association the latter. The former would make sense though that often this bull is credited as having been sent from Zeus. Though it is to be sacrificed theoretically to Poseidon, it is a vehicle of Zeus’ domain. Pasiphae here takes a position like that of Europa, and finds union with a bull. In the case of Europa the maiden mounted the bull and was carried off (though probably following the other way around too). In the case of Pasiphae she devised a plan that the bull mount her. As the moon was anciently referred to with the identity star, it is of no wonder that the union between her and this heavenly bull would produce their starry son. But the constellation itself by such associations would logically be the taurine Zeus rather than the Minotaur which does not take a full bull-form in iconic art.

It seems further of interest that the Pleiades, whose spring arrival some scholars have suggested as marking the Thargelia rather than a specific lunar date, are hosted within Taurus, along with the Hyades, the rain-bringers. Thus the association of Taurus is like that of the fertile wetness of spring which leads to the Thargelia, the birth of Apollon whose zodiac sign is Gemini. This sign, following the fertile sign of Taurus, is that sign of the portal as I have thought of it. When I suggested this to John he mentioned the dokana and this was exactly what I was seeing when I see the sign of Gemini. It is the wooden frame of a house built crudely with bricks. This makes sense too as Apollon as a god of foundations and the establishment of buildings and walls, as was his son Trophonios a masterful architect in relation to the domain of his father. In a sense I am seeing the entrance of the house, in front of which Apollon is an important deity, along with Hermes, and the Dioskouri in Sparta as it happens. This is the boundary between worlds, not only the living and the dead, but also between the heavenly and the mortal which none can cross with the exception of those who are blessed by Persephone and Dionysos according to the mysteries. It seems to be of no mistake or coincidence that upon Theseus’ final arrival to Athens that shortly following his thanks-giving to Apollon with the Pyanepsia, that we have the Oschophoria of Dionysos and Ariadne.

So here with Pasiphae we see the first workings of Aphrodite as the goddess who aids the way to Apollon. It is by her art that we see the conception of the Minotaur, and in at least one vase painting of Pasiphae with the babe on her knee we see the goose, a sacred animal of Aphrodite, not far away. What work Aphrodite did to align the purposes of Theseus and Ariadne, followed that work which she made between the immortal Pasiphae and the heavenly bull of Zeus. As an aside, said bull was said to have swam from Crete to the mainland and this is the same bull which Theseus defeats as the Marathonian Bull in his imitation of Herakles as a youth. As these “labors” were performed before his arrival in Athens it is reasonable to say that his foray into the labyrinth was the culmination of these. He would have adventures later as king of Athens, including a raid into Amazonian territory with Herakles, but it is these things in his youth that establish his hero-cult and which lived on. To become a hero was to become immortal and to dwell among the blessed. His defeat of the Minotaur established him as the national hero and unshackled him from the fate of the soul following mortal death.

Ariadne is at once a part of this and a bit separate from it. Ariadne is the daughter of Pasiphae and the labyrinth is *her* dancing floor. It is the place of her mystic dances as I indicated in my previous post. She did not fear the minotaur, and certainly had nothing to fear from him. She alone of those who traveled into the labyrinth was safe from his destruction of those who dared to approach his boundary. Ariadne very much represents what I call the Divine Bride. This is distinguished from the hero but is also that which the heroes, and those who are not heroes, attempt to attain. Though that is jumping ahead a bit for she does not technically become the Divine Bride at this point. However her meeting of Theseus leads her to this destination. As John point out in his post her tale in many respects is similar to Theseus’ kidnapping of Helen (though in this later telling he is an old man kidnapping the maiden) in that Theseus is placed at an obstacle and removes the maiden from what seems to be her protector. This is a fair simile, though Ariadne is not yet the Divine Bride this bears little importance because it is what she will become, just as Artemis in some versions slew Actaeon to prevent his courtship of Semele who become a divine bride herself.

The short of it is that the Divine Bride is the soul loved by the gods and is deified. Both males and females as mortals contain receptive “feminine” souls to the gods. Yet when it comes to myth and in physical expressions we find that females tend to emulate divine brides, while the males desire to secure the divine bride to themselves. In this fashion he is “possessing” the divine soul symbolically. For female emulation we can understand this quite well from the maenads and thyrai, mortal women who mimic the mythic original Maenad nymphs and the nymph Thyra in their ecstatic celebration of Dionysos. Of course each god has their series of divine brides and offspring that generate from these unions, but Ariadne is *the* Divine Bride who represents all of these, as she is wedded to Dionysos, the savior of men and the god who brings men among the company of the gods (or just brings the feeling with his wine which is symbolic of the former statement). It is by necessity that she is wedded to him because they are working together in the spiritual processes.

It was fated that Theseus loose Ariadne on the island of Naxos, and beyond his control. Ariadne’s evolution couldn’t conclude as his did with the labyrinth, for her she was to become a gods bride to be divine. Of course Apollon does his part here too, for he is the god of ships, which we know abundantly from given all the devotional figureheads of ships devoted to him at Delphi in addition to an image of the god with his hand upon the stern of a boat and his own myth as the dolphin-guide of the Cretan sailors, as well as the god of harbors. Thus he is arranging this part for Ariadne. She has no confrontation except her own despair and isolation as she is left behind at the harbor of Naxos with no allies or friends and no family as one who betrayed her own family to help the one she loved. Dionysos found her though and they had offspring and Ariadne’s mortal life ended at the end of Artemis’ arrow. This is not uncommon as I said before, especially in the treatment of females for often times the slaying of women was attributed directly to Artemis and that of men directly to Apollon. Yet the marital crown of Ariadne is considered to be of singular importance as it is that which forms the constellation of the crown. It is her identifier above everything else, in my opinion, as a bride….really *the* bride of brides.

By being slain by Artemis she was freed by the goddess and was hailed as a goddess in her own right with Dionysos who is a constant and loving spouse to her. The part she plays as a goddess though is that of the Divine Bride, the goddess of the initiates who emulate her in their initiations by adorning themselves as brides while Ariadne and Dionysos look on as we know from scenes of the Orphic house in Pompeii that were perserved by Vesuvius. Women emulate her for that divine love. This is perhaps not too different than the role played by Rada to Krishna, for Rada is often depicted in bridal dress and the story of Rada and Krishna relates the story of having divine love and the sacredness of this in the rising of the soul. So too do we imagine Ariadne as the mystic bride, the immortal one.

In this sense we can see her reflection in Helen who was also such. Not only was she fought over by princes to have her hand in her youth, she was also kidnapped by Theseus as I said above (though taken back by her brothers the Dioskouri), and then spirited away by Alexander/Paris to Troy in which we see an epic battle between that which possesses the divine bride (Troy) guarded by Apollon primarily at the fore with the assistance of those gods who are his closest relations (Artemis, Leto, Xanthus, and Aphrodite who doesn’t really count as a closest relation but it makes sense when we consider as mentioned previously and above about the transition from her domain into his). Like with Ariadne Aphrodite is chiefly responsible for setting in motion the pivotal events which brings the divine bride to Troy. More than once we see in the Iliad the demands of handing over Helen and her wealth. Those this can refer in once sense to her worldly riches she absconded with, such wealth can also imply the spiritual wealth that she carries with her, especially given that her name refers to a basket. And it is the quest for her that established heroes in the 10 year war. In the myth of Helen then we find an paralleling echo of the themes of Ariadne, and how both goddesses would figure in the mysteries. Perhaps for Ariadne it is more directly related specifically to the mysteries whereas Helen has some part in the transitions of girls in addition to her more mystic character. Certainly he who possessed her gained divine benefit though as Menelaus was worshiped with Helen. However, Ariadne is forever honored as the Divine Bride, the bride of Dionysos. She more than any other goddess that I can think of, is honored as such aside from perhaps Hera because of her marital status to Zeus.

In this fasion Ariadne is not only an important part of the labyrinth as the mystic journey as the opposite to which Theseus as the traveler is harmonized to, but plays a paramount part as the soul-bride as per her part as the Divine Bride. Please note however that my discussion of her as Divine Bride (in all capitals) are in my own words to describe what I am seeing and may have nothing to do with any ancient epithets. This is of course going off of ideas already in place of certain figures being as brides to gods, and the mystic sense of the soul as a bride. Apollon plays an important part, as does his twin, but it is a natural part in a culmination of other parts that have been played.

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8 thoughts on “The Minotaur, Ariadne and Divine Bride

  1. Pingback: More on Apollon, Labyrinth, Ariadne, Helen, etc. | The Divine Twins

  2. I’ll have more to say, but on ships it’s worth remembering that the Dioskouroi are protectors of sailors.

    Also, although the Dioskouroi didn’t go to Troy to save Helen, another set of twins (Agamemnon and Menelaus) did.

    It’s going to take me a bit to absorb all of this, as it’s coming from a different angle than I’ve seen before, but I find this quite exciting.

    • Very true. That is a point that is worthwhile remembering.
      Of course with the mysteries of Samothrake we have Apollon as the father of the Corybantes, nurses of Zeus and probably Dionysos. The Samothrakian mysteries in general gave protection to sailors to their initiates which probably alludes to the journey of the soul upon the waters of life with the boat as a vessel of the soul. Which makes sense in the context of Apollon who takes the ship by the prow as a god who guides men. He is also Telchinios who brings up stormy winds. I have always found the interrelationship between Artemis and Apollon and the Dioskouri fascinating myself ๐Ÿ™‚
      And no I wasn’t referring to the Dioskouri when it came to Troy lol. When I spoke of them saving Helen I was speaking from Theseus. But it was a number of heroes who went to Troy for the sake of Helen, most particularly Agamemnon and Menelaus ๐Ÿ™‚

      • It is a goose. Swans are sacred to Apollon principally, though they have also been associated with Ares and with Zeus who took the form of a swan, and Artemis has been depicted feeding swans. But largely the swan is a bird connected to Apollon and Aristophanes in his Birds identifies Apollon as a swan.
        The white goose is sacred to Aphrodite, and she is often depicted sitting on one. Theoi.com says that the swan, usually sacred to Apollon, she is occassionally sitting on instead of her goose. But generally it is the goose.

  3. Pingback: Apollon the swine-herd, boars and Adonis | Beloved in Light

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