Heidekolb's Blog

Ariadne and the Minotaur ~ Love,Trauma & Abandonment ~ A Jungian Perspective | April 11, 2010

Sometimes I feel like Theseus. A Greek warrior hero who, according to the Greek myth, slew Ariadne’s half-brother. Ariadne was the daughter of King Minos on Crete, but her lineage points to Zeus as her grandfather and in effect Ariadne, the Mistress of the Labyrinth may have been a personification of the great Minoan Snake Goddess. Ariadne’s half-brother, the Minotaur, was a fabulous monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull who was shunned and confined in the labyrinth. Who or what is this Minotaur?

The bull in mythology is a companion of the Goddess in matriarchal societies. In Ariadne’s myth the minotaur was conceived by her mother’s mating with Poseidon’s sacred white bull. Historically the myth depicts a time when the power of the Goddess was waning as patriarchal forces began to dominate and shape culture and beliefs. Mythological creatures like the minotaur were outside the conventional bounds of norm and reason, so highly valued by the newly emerging masculine paradigm.

Psychologically the devaluation of the feminine equals the denigration of the irrational and the imaginal, forces that belong, in modern language, to the unconscious. Like the minotaur, neither human, nor animal nor god, the imaginal is locked away, waiting to be killed off by a heroic rational stance, personified in the myth by Theseus.

Sometimes I feel like Theseus. When I disregard what really matters, when I evade what seems ugly, vulnerable, too much to bear within myself and others. We all are Theseus when we get dangerously close to an enormous rage at the center for having been torn out of the matrix of Oneness, when the trauma of life makes us brittle on one hand, yet awfully “heroic” in our determination to slay the dragons & minotaurs that plague us.

Freud thought that all of life was about mourning our losses, culminating with the loss of our closest friend, our body, at the moment of physical death. No doubt there are happy & blissful moments even periods in our lives, but the losses outweigh them for most of us. If we allow the feeling to come up. If we allow ourselves not to slay the ugly minotaur. Just think of the loss of youth, of health, of hopes and dreams, the loss of people you loved, the loss of country and home in times of war and natural catastrophes…the list goes on.

Life is traumatic, even without the most blatant traumatizing events such as rape or torture. That “God is a trauma” is an often quoted notion in Jungian thought. Jung says “To this day “God” is the name by which I designate all things which cross my path violently and recklessly, all things which upset my subjective views, plans and intentions, and change the course of my life for better or worse”. And let us be clear, when Jung writes about God he describes immediate experiences and never some being in the sky or some entity. “The force of of God is frightful” Jung writes in the Red Book, and this force is within us and we have to come to terms with it.

A deep seated trauma most of us share is abandonment. Being betrayed right from the start. Being born into a world that is not welcoming. Being born with a soul that remembers wholeness, but cannot find it in lived life. A soul that is subjected to terrible suffering if she does not remember her way back to the source of her belonging.

Sometimes I feel like Ariadne. Ariadne fell deeply in love with Theseus. Without her help he could not have slain the minotaur. It was she who provided Theseus with a sword to kill and a thread to find his way back out of the labyrinth.An interesting scenario, the (humanized) goddess is willingly assisting in the killing of her half-brother, an image of an instinctual aspect of herself. We can wonder together, if this self-betrayal is in the service of evolution or a terrible error out of misguided love.

Theseus and Ariadne elope together after the murder of the minotaur. But shortly after Ariadne is abandoned by Theseus who “had no joy of her” as Homer tells us. He left her alone on the island of Naxos and set sail without her. It has been speculated that at the moment Theseus raised his sword to kill, he recognized his shadow self in the minotaur and became aware of the magnitude of his deed.

Ariadne was left behind, betrayed, abandoned, devastated. All the psychological  experiences of trauma. She had betrayed herself first and then was betrayed by the one she loved. A classical woman’s story in a patriarchal world. But the tide is turning again in the dance between masculine and feminine. Women must stand firm and remember their soul’s truth and men must soften and listen. For “Man and woman become devils to each other if they do not separate their spiritual ways, for the essence of creation is differentiation”, Jung writes in the Red Book. Only this differentiation will make a genuine union possible.

Granted there are many versions of how the myth of Ariadne continues, but in most versions the god Dionysus came to the rescue. Dionysus, the god of madness and ecstasy, ruler of the irrational, always close to the feminine came to take her as a bride and they joined the gods on Mount Olympus.

What is the myth telling us here? Why is Ariadne rescued by Dionysus? Betrayed she may have, but she stayed true to her love and passion, something Dionysus will always honor. We may suffer and be left alone and feel like fools, but at the end of the day, when we look in the mirror, the question will always be, “How much did we love?” And at the end of our lives, when we look in the cosmic mirror, the question will always be, “How strong was our love? How much courage did we have to live our love?” May we be prepared to answer these questions one day.

Hail Ariadne!




6 Comments »

  1. Gracias Heide ~ Interesting post. There seems to be an air of familycide since Minoataur was like her half-brother. Sometimes we have to look at the larger family to determine the path with heart. We see different members of the human family killing each other in a way that becomes as natural as breathing. I equate the Minotaur archetype with the archetype of the ‘fascist pig’ ~another mythological beast of modern times made popular by Black Panther founder Huey P. Newton.

    We can love all people in an abstract sense but who do we lay with and love at night beyond our individual self? In the process of life we go through the trauma drama of love, are sometimes abandoned by our ‘true love’ and the resultant experience can help us grow and universalize our pure love for life. Blessings, Che Peta

    Comment by Peta-de-Aztlan — April 18, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

  2. Hello Heide. Thanks to Twitter and the tag #cgjung, I was able to find this site. It is great that I have found another person blogging that is jung at heart. You may enjoy a different approach to musing on CGJ’s words found on my blog site:

    http://retiredeagle.wordpress.com/

    There I use photography as well as Jung’s writings and those of post-jungian writers such as analysts, James Hollis, Daryl Sharp and John Dourley, as a means of exploring . . .

    Comment by Robert G. Longpré — April 24, 2010 @ 12:45 pm

  3. Enjoyable post. It’s interesting how Ariadne is so often referred to as a mere accomplice in the tale, and generally used only to highlight aspects of Theseus and his journey. (Even by Campbell if memory serves me correctly.) I believe that by looking at the myth from her perspective, you’ve made us all – male and female – richer for the experience Thanks!

    Comment by David Weedmark — May 2, 2010 @ 1:24 am

  4. I found this discourse interesting as it provided an intersection to the fairytale of the handless maiden which illustrates the wounding to the feeling function prevalent in modern life according to Robert Johnson. That intersection is the refusal of the father to relinquish his narcissism–the ensuing drama to both stories is the damage to the feminine by the demonic rage of frustration from unyielding entitlement that lies at the core of the victim’s passivity; unconscious and archaic demand for sacrifice of potential that leads ultimately and paradoxically to individuation.

    Thank you for provoking my thoughts…

    Comment by Edith Schenkel — January 27, 2011 @ 4:22 pm

  5. This was a really interesting post, Ariadne is my favorite character in Greek mythology. For an interesting spin off her story, I would strongly suggest a series by Sara Douglass called The Troy Game. It’s a story about Ariadne and the lives of her daughters. Be warned, it has some pretty graphic imagery, but if you’re not skittish it’s a really great read. :)

    Comment by Ariadne — May 29, 2011 @ 12:45 am

  6. […] Evoking the the legend of Ariadne & the Minotaur. (The short version is a young woman falls in love and betrays her half brother (Minotaur) by helping her lover kill him. She then is abandoned by her lover and ends up married to Dionysus. Yikes!) I may have to add the spindel of thread and a dagger at some point to bring the picture full circle. But for now I am satisfied. You can read the Jungian Perspective of the legend here. […]

    Pingback by Taurus Tango | DCTdesigns Creative Canvas — December 30, 2011 @ 3:32 pm


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