In Greek myth, Ariadne is a Cretan princess who gives her thread to the hero Theseus so that he can penetrate the maze known as the labyrinth and kill the monster known as the Minotaur. The Minotaur, half-human and half-bull, was born of the desire of Ariadne's mother Pasiphae for a white bull; Daidalos helped her to mate with it. Custom decreed that Athens must send seven girls and seven boys to Crete to be sacrificed to the Minotaur. In slaying the Minotaur, Theseus ended human sacrifice. Ariadne fled with Theseus, but was left on a nearby island. Some say that she hanged herself; others that she married the God Dionysus. Theseus failed to raise a white sail as he approached Athens; his father Aegeus, thinking his son had been killed, threw himself into the sea.
According to Marija Gimbutas and confirmed in my own research Minoan Crete (c.3000-1450 BCE) was a final flowering of the religion and culture of the Goddess of Neolithic Old Europe (c.6500-3500 BCE). Archaeological remains suggest that the Minoans worshipped the Goddess as the source of creativity in nature and culture. The spiral turning into another spiral was a symbol of the dance of life and death. Frescoes depict young Minoans, possibly both female and male, grasping the horns of bulls and somersaulting over their bodies. Dancing women played mportant roles in Minoan ritual. Homer spoke of "a dancing place" created by Daidalos "for Ariadne of the lovely tresses." Ariadne is pre-Greek word, possibly a name of the Minoan Goddess. The Greek-speaking Myceneans occupied Knossos after 1450 BCE.
Labyrinthos is a pre-Greek word, associated with the Labrys or Double-Axe, an important symbol in Minoan religion. An inscription in Linear B (associated with the Myceneans) states that a "jar of honey" was offered to the "Lady of the Labyrinth." The "Cretan labyrinth" (seven spirals around the center) was inscribed on a Roman coin from the city of Gortyn. Such a labyrinth has not been found in Minoan Crete, though a fresco fragment of what appears to be a rectangular labyrinth was found at Knossos. Some have suggested that the sacred centers of Knossos and Phaistos with their many passageways were "labyrinths," while others have imagined that the caves used in Minoan ritual were.
Was Ariadne the Lady of the Labyrinth who led her worshippers in sacred spiral dances that celebrated the grace of life?
The Greek myth of Ariadne, Pasiphae, and the Minotaur is designed to discredit the pre-patriarchal religion of Minoan Crete. Pasiphae's desire for the bull is pornography; the bull is a monster; the labyrinth a place of human sacrifice. Rather than standing at the center of her culture, Ariadne betrays it. She doesn't even live happily ever after with her hero, but is abandoned. Quite a comedown for a Goddess!
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