Apollon, the Labyrinth, the Minotaur and Ariadne

I have spoken before about Apollon and the Minotaur, but as I am participating in the Pannychis of Ariadne that the thiasos of the Starry Bull celebrated in its calendar, the outline of which Sannion goes over here, I wanted to contemplate this more.

In recent months, as I have mentioned here and elsewhere, I have seen Apollon’s seasonal interactions involved in two main cycles which I have dubbed the Dionysian Cycle and the Demetrian Cycle. In my mind the muthos of Ariadne is very much linked to Apollon in two way. 1. As she is called the Cretan Aphrodite it is probable that this interaction may have some bearing on the close relationship between APollon and Aphrodite, which is most evident at Cypris. 2. Apollon directly and indirectly acts upon the union of Ariadne and Dionysos. How so? Well let me illuminate.

I will take us through the steps of the myth:

1. The Labyrinth of Crete.

At Crete Ariadne is the lady of the labyrinth, queen of the dancing floor such as it was. The labyrinth itself being the sacred dance of the soul. And who is the leader of this sacred dance? It is Apollon who is the leader of the dances, lord of the road and the way. The labyrinth is his winding dance for which we have Theseus instigating and teaching this dance at Delos where it was performed for Apollon and Aphrodite. As the road of the soul, it is bringing the soul from this place to that. It is the winding road from life, to death and back. And only Ariadne has mastered this way without harm as she herself, if we consider her to be an aspect of Aphrodite in mortal form, is not in danger from the labyrinth nor its monster. The Minotaur, as I have come to believe and mentioned before in previous posts, is an agent of Apollon, a destroyer of life. All who stand before him are consumed. Therefore Theseus’ triumphant emergence from the labyrinth by the aid of Ariadne, is the potential to escape the mortal lot. Here Apollon plays two roles then, keeper of the way, master of the devouring monster, lord of the natural cycles, contrasted with his role as mystic guide. He is an aid to Theseus and gives him the tools to solve the labyrinth by directing him to be led by Aphrodite. She who harmonizes all the elements of the soul that one may stand before Apollon and leave behind a return to mortal life, and dwell instead among the blessed. Ariadne here acts as the agency of Aphrodite.

2. The abandonment of Ariadne at Naxos

Naxos, like much of Crete, is hailed in hymn as belonging to Apollon. It is also sacred to Dionysos. Here at Naxos then we see the important overlap between the two gods. It is thus appropriate that it is here that Ariadne is abandoned. Apollon is leader of ships, and so I think he takes an indirect part in the abandonment. It seems hardly coincidental! He leaves her on the sacred island for the purpose. Aphrodite, unlike many goddesses, with perhaps Artemis, knows the grief of loss. As Aphrodite grieved for Adonis, Ariadne grieves for the loss of Theseus. There is the death. Where she never suffered the labyrinth, her grief is the very death of who she was before. She is as the initiate now herself, who is found (led to her resting spot, sounds like work of Apollon again) by Dionysos. Within him she is reborn as surely as Theseus was reborn out of the Labyrinth. And it is likely Apollon, god leading the wedding chorus, there played.

3. Following the abandonment of Ariadne we have the first real direct presence if Aphrodite, a dedication for her statue to Apollon at Delos by Theseus. I think that this plays very well into an actualizibg of Ariadne by her abandonment, a recognition. And that the holy dance belongs to her and Apollon. The arrival of Theseus back in Hellas and the gratuity to Apollon followed immediately by the representational procession of Ariadne and Dionysos certainly highlights this.

Therefore I think to initiate each part of this festival I must acknowledge and libate to Apollon.

Lykeia serves Apollon and is devoted to Artemis. She fell in love with the gods at the age of twelve and started actively worshiping them when she was fourteen years old. The highlight of her spiritual life was a trip to Hellas in 2008 where she had the oppertunity to visit Delphi and Olympia among many other wonderful sites. Lykeia has a BA in history with a minor in Literature and directs most of her devotional activity to writing (particularly of sacred poetry) and painting. She blogs at http://lykeiaofapollon.wordpress.com where you can also find copies of her books.

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4 comments

  1. Interesting! So do you see Theseus himself as an Apollonian figure or representative or Apollo in some way in the myth? Because that would have interesting implications, what with Theseus slaying the minotaur and what Sannion has written recently about Apollo being a needed adversary of sorts to Dionysos, bull vs wolf, and such…

    1. It actually depends on what angle you are looking at because I think two things can be taken from it. In one way of looking at it, with Apollon as the bull herd and destroyer, as a god who is the god for whom the Minotaur is by his actions in the symbol of the labyrinth as I talked about above, is by the Minotaur acting on the mortal soul, the heroic journey of Theseus, this is inidicativeif Apollon’s primary part in the natural order as destroyer of life and the god who is the gatekeeper of the divine and the passage of the soul from the mortal condition among the blessed. He later uses Theseus as an agent on Aradne and Dionysos.
      At the same the Minotaur can be representative of Dionysos at the center of the mysteries and Theseus as Apollon yearly slaying the bull that dwells at the center of Apollon’s labyrinth.
      Here Theseus is as Apollon as leader if the youths and maidens in the labyrinth.

      So I think there are two things going on simultaneously. So Yes and No all at the same time!

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