Ariadne was a minor figure of classical myth, but behind her lay the great goddess of Minoan Crete.

An underworld deity, goddess of the Labyrinth, both a licentious dancing ground and a prison, signified by the meander.

The ‘utterly pure one’ whose epithet connects her with Proserpine (or Persephone), Dark Queen of Hades, whose lunar associations (linked waxing and waning crescents is her symbol) also connects her to the lunar, dying Artemis in Greece, and whose death in childbirth and romantic associations led to her association with Aphrodite in Cyprus. A triple aspected, chthonic goddess of Life and Death.

Seduced by Dionysos, and ‘woken from her sleep’, she is given the crown that became the corona borealis.

Children - Staphylos ‘the grape’ (Dionysos reborn?) and other vinicultural offspring.

Daughter of Rhea, whose identity she also shares as daughter and mother, paralleling Demeter and Kore. She is also seen as a kind of female Dionysos, a wild goddess who contains opposites, but more properly is a component of the Dionysian, the form giving, source of order within chaos. Reflecting in reversed gender the Mesopotamian dualism of chaotic Tiamat and Mammu, her ‘male’ form-giving offspring.

See the book Dionysos, by Karl Kerenyi for more details.

A teacher of mine once said that we make mythology our own by taking the stories and retelling them with our own interpretation (like Albert Camus' "The Myth of Sisyphus"). This is what I wrote:

Ariadne and the Minotaur

She hears the rumbling in the halls
The low breath of a monster on the other side
Of the low labyrinth wall
And the shining thread lying behind her
Always behind her, but the breath surrounds her
Hot steam on her shoulder...

At night they must sleep in the shadows of the walls
And she can hear the breath in her dreams
As she lies in his arms beneath a canopy of stars
She isn't safe inside his love tonight
Her nightmares are tangible, stalk the glib alleys
They find her and pull off her blankets

In the morning the sound is an earthquake
And Theseus is barely listening
He doesn?t notice when she falls down
The thread wraps around her feet to bind her to the walls
But she struggles up and on learning ever so slowly
Love is breaking her heart but creating her strength


The daughter of Minos and Pasiphae (Table 28). When Theseus arrived in Crete to do battle with the Minotaur Ariadne saw him and immediately fell deeply in love with him; to enable him to find his way in the labyrinth where the Minotaur was confined she gave him a ball of thread, which he unwound to show him the way to return. She then fled with him to escape the wrath of Minos but she did not reach Athens because when they stopped on the island of Naxos Theseus abandoned her while she slept on the shore. Different authors give varying accounts of this act of betrayal: sometimes Theseus is said to have left her because he was in love with another woman; other versions say that Theseus acted on the command of the gods because fate would not allow him to marry her.

Ariadne woke up in the morning to see the sails of her lover's ship vanishing over the horizon, but she did not remain for long in her grief, for Dionysus and his retinue soon appeared on the scene, the god's chariot drawn by a team on panthers. Overcome by her youthful beauty, Dionysus married her and carried her off to dwell on Olympus. As a wedding present he gave her a golden diadem, made by Hephaestus, which later became a constellation. Ariadne had four children by Dionysus, named Thoas, Staphylus, Oenopion and Peparethus. Another tradition tells how Ariadne was killed on the island of Dia (later identified with Naxos) by the goddess Artemis at the bidding of Dionysus (for alternative versions of the legend about Ariadne, see Theseus).


Table of Sources:
- Apollod. Epit. 1, 9
- Plutarch, Thes. 20
- Paus. 1, 20, 3; 10, 29, 4
- Catull. 64, 116ff.
- Ovid, Her. 10; Met. 8, 174ff.
- Hyg. Fab. 43
- Hom. Od. 11, 321ff.
- Prop. 1, 3, 1ff.
- Pseudo-Eratosth. Catast. 5

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