The Ritual of the Labyrinth
Ta Hiera Laburinthou

©1997, John Opsopaus


Works cited extensively here can be found among the References. (They are not currently hyperlinked, but may be at a future date.)
Maintaining the sexual polarities of the Theseus-Ariadne-Dionysos myth (and the more general structure of the Goddess and her two Paredroi or Associates) dictates that the Acolyte be male. Certainly a similar ritual could be designed for a female Acolyte (perhaps structured around a God and two female Paredroi), but this would have to have a different mythic foundation.
This ritual is synthesized from a large number of sources. Some of them (such as the main elements of the Ariadne-Theseus myth) are too obvious to require comment. Many others, which are less obvious or more controversial, are listed in these notes (which have been added after the composition of the ritual), so the reader may know what sort of warrant they have. I have no doubt forgotten other sources, especially those with a more pervasive or less specific effect on the ritual; I will annotate them as I remember or rediscover them.
Gantz (pp. 114-6, 259-70) is a good summary.
See Nilsson (pp. 29, 34-5), Parke (pp. 75-82) & Simon (pp. 75-7, 89-92, 107). Plutarch (Theseus) notes that Theseus returned to Athens on the Autumn Equinox, the seventh day of Puanepsion. The sixth, seventh and eighth days of each lunar month (beginning with the new moon) are sacred to Artemis, Apollo and Poseidon.
See, for example, Gardner & Maier (1984) for the Sîn-leqi-unninnî (SLU) version, and Dalley (1989) for the "standard" (S) and Old Babylonian (OB) versions. The Gilgamesh Epic also has its Apollonian (defeat of Humbaba) and Dionysian (death of Enkidu) phases (Gardner & Maier, pp. 17, 26, 45n15).
[Humbaba image] See for example Black & Green (fig. 8, p. 17). In the Epic of Gilgamesh he is said to have an "alien appearance" (e.g. Old Babylonian version, tablet III, column v).
Heller (1946, p. 123).
For the divinatory Face of Humbaba, see Black & Green (p. 106 & fig. 8, p. 17) & Dalley (fig. 2:5).
For divinatory livers, see Black & Green (fig. 56, p. 69) or Matthews (World Atlas of Div., p. 66). The face of Humbaba was also used for protection, like the Gorgoneon (Medusa head), to which it is related (Dalley, 323). The Labyrinth is associated with divination by Vergil (Aeneid VI.20ff), who places an image of it on the entrance to the Cumaean temple of Apollo by the cave of the Sibyl (Knight, MLT 115-6).
Carter (1987, 1988).
On Ortheia: Carter (1987, pp. 378-83); on Ariadne: Kerényi (Gods 270-2) and Plutarch (Thes.). The Geranos was connected with Aphrodite and later Artemis (Lawler 1946, 119).
See Marinatos (152-60).
See Doob, Jaskolski, Knight, Matthews, etc.
Kerényi, Heroes 232.
Lawler (1946, p. 115). The night-time ritual implies that it is for chthonic deities (Lawler 1946, 118). Although the Delian Geranos was danced in Hekatombaion (mid-July to mid-Aug.), at least at first (Lawler 1946, 115), the various festivals connected with Theseus were performed around the 7th of Puanepsion (late Oct.).
Not uncommon in ancient Greek (especially Dionysian) rituals (Kerényi, Dion. ch. 6; see also Carter 1987).
This is consistent with Cook's estimate (vol. I, p. 479) of the Labyrinth in the "theatrical area" of the palace at Knossos: 12.94 m. by 9.89 m.
The Crane Dance on Delos was around a sacred olive (Oxf. Class. Dict. s.v. Delos); the palm is often the sacred tree in Minoan sanctuaries (Marninatos 181); Humbaba guards the cedar trees in the Gilgamesh Epic (e.g. tablet II, column v, line 5 in Sîn-leqi-unninnî version; see Gardner & Maier).
The entrance to medieval church labyrinths faces West, so the pilgrim starts from the place of death (Jaskolski 68, 73). If Cook's (I.479) reconstruction of the Knossos Labyrinth is correct, then its entrance faced West, down the Sacred Way. However, for this Descent to the Otherworld, the pillgrim starts in the place of life (East), proceeds towards the Underworld (West) and then returns to the place of Life and Dawn.
For Ariadne as nurse/mother of Dionysos/Minotaur, see Kerényi (Dionysos, 121) and Otto (183).
Ariadne is associated with the dark or crescent moon (Kerényi, Dion. 103). These festivals occur around the seventh day of the lunar month, that is, the first quarter.
Cook (vol. I, p. 492, fig. 354).
See, for example, the "Chieftan's Cup" (e.g. Marinatos fig. 100).
These are standard attributes of Dionysos, and also reinforce the connection between the Cretan Dionysos and Sabazios, the Young Hunter (Kerényi, Dion. 117).
This was a part of the myth of Theseus reflected in the rituals of the Oskhophoria. For cross-dressing in rope dances (kordakes) similar to the Geranos, see (Knight 1935, p. 104).
Atwood (35).
Cook (vol. I, p. 492).
The Greek terms most commonly used for the Tree associated with the Goddess are dendron (lit. tree), alsos (lit. grove) or rhabdos (lit. rod) (Carter 1987, 376-7).
See Marinatos (183) on the sacred tree in Minoan ritual, which may be a potted tree. Tree rituals announce a period of renewal, prosperity or fertility. See Carter (1987, 376-7) on the Tree as natural or artificial in the Spartan rites of Ortheia and related Phoenician rituals.
See Carter (1988, p. 93) on "robe" as the relevant meaning of pharos (often translated "plough").
The Pharos is not so much a tailored robe, as a simple rectangular cloth, which might be used as cloak, winding sheet or marriage blanket (LSJ). See also Carter (1988, pp. 92-4).
The color of the Robe that Amphitrite gave to Theseus (Carter 1988, p. 94).
The Minotaur is sometimes shown with a body speckled with stars (Jaskolski 16), but is argueably more closely associated with the Sun (Cook, vol I, pp. 468-595), as will be discussed in more detail later [107].
There is a famous (but lost) Orphic poem called The Robe (Peplos), which seems to have used the robe as a cosmological model. See Cook (vol. I, p. 495) for the Minotaur's connection to "celestial lights."
Although a sword is most common, Theseus is found using a variety of weapons, including clubs, staffs and his bare hands (Kerényi, Heroes 232). A sword reinforces the theme of penetrating the womb of the Earth.
Nilsson (29), Parke (75-7), Simon (75-7, 107).
Jung & Kerényi, p. 135; Plutarch, Theseus. Other sources, however, say the horns are from the right side (Cook I.513).
This was probably the form of the Altar around which the Geranos was danced on Crete (Lawler 1946, 121).
Nilsson (34-5), Parke (77-81), Simon (89-92).
Kerényi, Heroes 232; Gantz (265).
Kerényi, Dion. 86.
The Tree of the Goddess is next to the Altar of the Bull God (Carter 1987, 376-7).
These are the four libations, which Circe told Odysseus to make before entering the Underworld (Odyssey X.519f, XI.27f).
In many cases the roles of HP and HPs are interchangeable, and the parts may be allocated to suit the skills etc. of the two; all these cases are indicated by "HP/s." In other cases it is more important, for mythic, magical or practical reasons, for a part to be spoken by one or the other, and these are indicated by "HP" or "HPs."
For the Lake of the Monster, see Cirlot's Dict. of Symbols (249). For the Underworld Rivers pouring into the Crater, see Kingsley (127) and Plutarch's Those Whom the God is Slow to Punish (De Sere... 566a-c); on the important significance of the Crater in ancient thought see Kingsley (passim, but esp. ch. 11); it is crucial that in Greek Crater (kratêr) means mixing bowl as well as a crater in the earth (Kinglsey 141). Also, the Orphic poems called the Crater and the Robe are closely connected (Kingsley 140).
For the Four Rivers flowing to the Fons Vitae (Font of Life) at the center, by the Tree, see Cirlot's Dict. of Symbols (127). They meet at the entrance to the Underworld. Four streams flow from Calypso's cave, at the Axis Mundi (Odyssey V.57ff; see also Butterworth, Tree at the Navel of the Earth, pp. 8-9).
Kingsley (126-7).
The West Gate is the entry to the Underworld, where chthonic daemons dwell (Porphyry, The Cave of the Nymphs ¶13).
Souls descend into mortal life through North Gate, associated with the Moon and the constellation Cancer; it is cold because it congeals them and sends them to Earth (Porphyry, The Cave of the Nymphs ¶¶11-13).
The North is associated with the Underworld River called Cocytus, which is associated with Persephone (Kingsley 96-7, 123, 353-4). Persephone is called "Most Pure" ("Utterly Pure," "Untouchable" etc.), Ariagnê, of which Ariadnê is a Cretan variant (Kerényi, Dion. 99).
Thanks to Estara for suggesting an invocation of the Four Rivers in preparation for an Underworld journey, although my use of them is rather different from hers. I have relied to Peter Kingsley's perceptive and extensive analysis of Underworld geography in ancient thought and the association of the Rivers with the Elements and various deities (see his Ancient Philosphy, Mystery and Magic). Unfortunately, there is no way that the ancient doctrine of the Elements can be squared with contemporary practice in Neo-Paganism and Ceremonial Magic (which has a short pedigree). In particular, respect for fundamental polarities requires that Fire be opposite Water, and Air opposite Earth. In the following I have tried to deemphasize the differences to avoid confusion.
To correspond to the sexes of the Quarter Wards invoked.
There are many logical ways to make the directional associations; I have found those based on the "organic cycle," which dates at least back to Ptolemy, to work best (see my "Pythagorean Pentagram" and "Pentagram and the Elements"). In this, following the sun and the cycle of life, the East is associated with the Moist quality, the South with the Hot quality, West with Dry, and North with Cold; this preserves the polar oppositions. According to ancient tradition and alchemy, Air is primarily Moist, Fire is primarily Hot, Earth is primarily Dry and Water is primarily Cold. Thus we get East = Air, South = Fire, West = Earth, North = Water, which has the correct elemental polarities. The Quarter Wards (Air: Apollo, Earth: Artemis, Fire: Dionysos, Water: Ariadne) used here are analogous to the oppositions (Air: Zeus, Earth: Hera, Fire: Hades, Water: Persephone) given by the elemental associations in the cosmology of Empedocles (Kingsley 355). In this ritual, because of its "widdershins character," we reverse the organic cycle, starting in the West as the direction of Death, proceeding counterclockwise to North.
Macrobius (Somnium 1.10.11).
Lemprière's Classical Dictionary s.v. Styx.
Damascius associates Styx with the element Earth (Kingsley 123); Artemis is of course Mistress of the Animals.
The Pyriphlegethon is associated with fire (Pyri-) and is opposite Cocytus, associated with Water (Kingsley 97-8).
Dionysos naturally stands opposite Ariadne (associated with Persephone and Water); they are bride and groom in the Sacred Marriage.
Lemprière s.v. Acheron.
Damascius associates Acheron with the element Air, which is misty in ancient thought (Kingsley 123). Therefore, it is a natural place for Apollo, who thereby stands opposite Artemis. Honey would be a typical offering for Persephone/Ariadne, but Her association with water is too important to neglect; in any case, honey is traditionally associated with the heat of the Sun (Kerényi, Dion. ch 2). The association of the color yellow with the element Air is also common in contemporary practice.
Lemprière s.v. Cocytus.
Macrobius (Somn. 1.10.11); Lemprière s.v. Cocytus.
Throughout the ritual there is an implicit connection between Ariadne and Persephone (Kerényi, Dion. 103). The Quarter invocations end with Ariadne because She is the central figure in the ritual.
Kingsley (96-7, 123, 353-4). The Cocytus is reliably associated with the watery element (hence the water libation), the color blue (kuanos) and the Goddesses Demeter and Persephone (hence also Ariadne).
Kingsley (354).
The Rivers descend into Tartaros, the bottomless chasm formed at the beginning of time (Kingsley 126-7).
Athena and Poseidon are the guardians of Athens (here interpreted as the "Celestial Athens").
Plural imperative form (LSJ s.v. hilêmi).
The overall structure is that given by van Gennep for initiations: separation (voyage to Crete), liminal period (trials in Labyrinth), reintegration (return to Athens) (Marinatos 201).
This is based on Theseus' visit to Poseidon (Kerényi, Heroes 229); it is a preliminary blessing corresponding to Theseus' preliminary initiation in the element of water (Jaskolski 59).
The planet Venus traces a Pentagram in Zodiac by its positions as the Morning Star (Liungman, Dict. of Symbols 333-4).
As the Athenian children were fed and encouraged by their mothers before their trip to Crete.
Kerényi, Heroes 227-8.
A double-entendre on Mediterranean = Middle of the Earth.
The Great Year is eight years, called Enneatêris (Nine-year) or Enneôros (Nine-season) in the Greek inclusive system of enumeration (Kerényi, Gods 138). It is the shortest period that brings the lunar and solar years into (approximate conformity), e.g. so that the moon's first quarter occurs at midautumn (Frazer/Gaster §192), so it is the period that reconciles the Lunar and Solar Realms. As a consequence, eight-year terms for kings were common in the Greek world, after which their kingship had to be renewed (Frazer/Gaster §192). Sparta (home of the Shrine of Ortheia, Carter 1987, 1988), like Minos, operated on an eight year cycle (Deedes 27n1). The Great Year has important connections with Aphrodite, for the Pentagram of Venus rotates back to the same position in the Zodiac every eight years (and one day), which is two Sothis Years (1460 days) according to the Egyptians or two Olympiads according to the Greeks (Liungman, Dict. of Symbols, 333-4). Furthermore, Venus's sidereal period (225 days) is eight (lunar) months and it is visible as the Morning Star for 245 days and the Evening Star for 247 - each 8 (solar) months. Therefore, it's hardly coincidental that Ishtar (identified with Venus) is represented by an eight-pointed star (Schimmel, Myst. of Numbers, 157-8). It will be seen that the tribute is a sacrifice to the Great Mother Aphrodite/Asherah/Astarte/Ishtar.
From an old ballad quoted in Lockridge (p. 40).
Cf. "Hoc opus, hic labor est" (Aeneid VI.126).
An element of the Oskhophoria, based on the Theseus legend, and of rope-dances related to the Geranos (Knight, MLT 104).
Part of the liminal phase of initiations.
Kerényi (Dion. 182).
The Double Axe was called the "bull-slaying servant of Dionysos" and the God Himself was called "Double Axe" (Pelekus) (Kerényi, Dion. 190-3, Plutarch 2.302a). For more on the Labrys as symbol of sacrifice and renewal, including in the Diktaean Cave, see Dietrich (pp. 39-40). Arthur Evans suggested a connection with the Egyptian Ankh.
For the geneaology of Ariadne in clear graphical form (with bull, sun & moon associations) see Jaskolski (37).
A pervasive structure underlying this mythical complex is the Marriage of the Moon and Sun, especially in Minoan religion at Knossos; the Solar Bull mates with the Lunar Cow (Cook, v. I, pp. 521-545). We find this with Zeus and Europa, and her parents, Argíopê and Phoenix. The theme is later echoed with the White Bull and Pasíphaê (and her parents, Helios and Perseis), and with the Minotaur and Ariadne.
The meaning of her name, referring to the full moon (Kerényi, Dion. 116).
For Theseus offering the wool-wrapped olive branch to Apollo, see Plutarch's Theseus. For cake offerings at the Altar of Apollo Giver of LIfe, behind the Horn Altar, see Diogenes Laertius (VIII.13).
Epithets Hekêbolos, Apotropaios, Laossoos, Phoibos, Paiôn, Toxophoros, Daphnêphoros; see also Kerényi (Gods, 149).
Singular imperative form (LSJ s.v. hilêmi).
Horses are used magically to penetrate or seal Labyrinths; the horse, like the Bull, may be a fertility symbol at the center (Knight, MSTG 456, MLT 98, 108-9, 120). Horses are associated with Poseidon, who sent the Bull from the Sea, the father of the Minotaur; Poseidon is also the divine father of Theseus and the guardian of walls (Knight MSTG 452n39).
Plutarch, Theseus; see also Kerényi (Dion., 106-7). Furthermore, Aphrodite was an enemy of Pasiphaê.
"Ariadnê" is a Cretan-Greek form of "Ariagnê," which is an intensified form form of "Hagnê," and thus means "Most Pure," or "Utterly Pure," a title of Underworld Goddesses (Kerényi, Dion. 99; Otto 183).
Gilgamesh (SLU tablet III, column i, lines 15-17).
See Kerényi (Dion., 106-7).
E.g. as in Evans' reconstruction of the Corridor of Processions (e.g., Marinatos fig. 41).
The dance that Theseus initiated on Delos, in imitation of the winding path through the Labyrinth, was called Geranos. In Greek geranos means crane, and so the dance is often called the Crane Dance, and has been explained by reference to the formations in which cranes fly and common animal symbolism in initiation rites (Lawler 1946, pp. 115-7; Dowden 181). Euripedes' Helen (1478-87), in which the dancing chorus prayes to fly to Sparta as "Libyan cranes" (Lawler 1946, 116), hints at the Shrine of Ortheia at Sparta. Cook (I.481n9) notes an association between bulls and cranes in Celtic iconography. A more likely explanation is that geranos derives from an Indo-European root ger- meaning "to wind" (Lawler 1946, 1964a, p. 47; see also Oxf. Class. Dict. s.v. dancing); this also accords with the explanation of the Roman name of the Labyrinth, Troia, as deriving from a verb truare meaning "to run back and forth" (Heller 1946, p. 129). (However, there are alternative explanations of this name, discussed later.) I have hedged my bets by weaving both explanations into the text of the ritual.
Kerényi, Heroes 231; Gantz 266-8. The more Minoan practice would be to have Ariadne direct Theseus' actions from a stationary, superior and commanding position (Marinatos 187).
This initial meeting between Theseus and Ariadne is inspired by Gilgamesh (SLU version, tablet III, columns i-ii, vi).
A Linear B tablet from Knossos records "honey for the Mistress of the Labyrinth (Laburinthoio Potnia)" (Kerényi 89-90). According to Porphyry (The Cave of the Nymphs ¶8), honey is a ymbol of death; it's also a common symbol of rebirth (Biedermann, Dict. Symbolism s.v. honey; Cooper, Illus. Encyc. Trad. Symbols, s.v. honey). Honey offerings are often associated with dancing, and the dancing ground "represented the great realm of the mistress" in which the dancers honored her (Kerényi, Dion. 98). For honey and the new year, see Kerényi (Dion. ch. 2).
[Theseus image] For the gestures of salute of T and the P, see Marinatos (pp. 117, 173, figs. 41, 42, 83, 173)
Another gesture of salute (Marinatos 117).
A typical Minoan priestess gesture (Marinatos, p. 185, figs. 187, 194).
Gilgamesh (S, OB III.v).
Gilgamesh (SLU III.i.17).
Kerényi, Heroes 230. Gilgamesh promisses Queen Ninsun that he will kill Humbaba and remove Something Evil, hated by Shamash (the Sun), from the land (Gilgamesh, SLU III.i.29-30). Gilgamesh goes under the guidance of Shamash, as Theseus is guided by Apollo. For the connection between the labyrinth and rescuing a Goddess from the Underworld, see Knight (MLT 102-3).
Cf. SLU version of Gilgamesh (tablet III, column i, lines 25-26; cf. col. ii, ll. 13-14).
Enkidu (the companion of Gilgamesh) cuts off Humbaba's head (Gilgamesh, SLU; Black & Green 106); also this is a separation of the bestial from the human part, and a taming of the primal power of the bestial part, as also occurred when Perseus beheaded the Gorgon Medusa.
On the two great dangers of the labyrinth, in a medieval context, see Doob (126).
[starry Minotaur image] Asterios is commonly translated "the Starry One" (Kerényi, Dion. 105). The Minotaur is often shown with light colored spots, but there is disagreement whether they are stars or the marks on a bull hide (Cook I.493-4). Cook (v. I, p. 495) further observes that asterios can also refer to the Sun and Moon ("stars" in the widest sense), so Asterios may be the God of Celestial Lights. More generally, it may mean "glittering," and the root word astêr may lights and flames (LSJ). Hence here, the "shining One." Indeed, the Minotaur is a Solar Bull (Cook I.468-545), so the Minotaur and Ariadne correspond to the Sun and Moon. Various coins from Knossos show an eight-pointed star (or the sun), a crescent moon or a bull's head at the center of the Labyrinth (Deedes 10). Interestingly, in the shrine of Ortheia, the Goddess's consort, the winged "hero-god of herds and flocks," seems to be named Aristaios, "the Best" (Carter 1987, 382), a divinity associated with bees, honey and ritual dances for the turning of the year (Kerényi, Dion. 39-40, 77).
Deedes (27).
In some versions, Ariadne is spinning when Theseus comes to her and the use of the thread is her idea, not Daidalos' (Kerényi, Heroes 231).
Kerényi, Heroes 231.
The Stephanos (Crown or Wreath) is a typical gift which a groom gives a bride or vice versa; it represents the power of Aphrodite: passionate desire (Carter 1988).
The "Light of Zeus" (Dios Phôs) is Dionysos (Kerényi, Dion. 77-8).
Gilg. (SLU III.i.4-5; cf. OB
Gilg. (SLU III.i.25-26).
Gilg. (SLU
Gilg. (SLU
Gilg. (SLU
As depicted on the François Vase (Carpenter fig. 248).
As depicted on a seventh-century relief pithos (Kerényi, Dion. fig. 35).
For this prayer, cf. Gilg. (OB III.v; see also Gardner & Maier 124). Athena is often shown leading Theseus through the Labyrinth (Gantz 269).
A typical Minoan priestess gesture (Marinatos, pp. 185-7, figs. 188-193)
For this prayer, cf. Gilg. (OB; see also Gardner & Maier 124-5).
For this proverb, see Gilg. (SLU and Gardner & Maier (131).
Gilg. (SLU V.ii.24), a traditional metaphor for strength in numbers (Gardner & Maier 137). Likewise in medieval labyrinth dances, the canons assist the dean (Doob 126).
Recalling how Athena brings Nike.
The medieval labyrinth dance was typically a tripudium (dance in triple time) (Doob 124).
E.g. as on Munich Cup (Gantz 267).
Cf. "turn round towards the North" in ancient Egyptian dancing ritual (Deedes 26).
Both the north and the setting sun are images of death; the Dance of Death is also the Dance of Rebirth, and the Labyrinth represents the circuitous path to the Underworld (Jung & Kerényi, 133-5).
Kerényi, Heroes 231.
Normally, the only way to leave the Underworld is by exactly the same way by which you enter it.
Knight (Cum. Gates 136, MSTG 446) argues that the essential principles of the labyrinth are exclusion and conditional penetration.
The Goddess of the Upright Tree (or Post) had close associations with Eileithyia, the Birth Goddess (Carter 1987, 379), who has an important cave sanctuary, containing a sacred stalagmite, near Amnisos in Crete.
Generalizing from Minos' regeneration every Great Year. The quest is simultaneously a return to the womb, a revival of the Divine King, and a satisfaction of love (for Ariadne in this case) (Knight, Cum. Gates 147-8). The King-God regenerates himself by contact with the power of his ancestors in the Underworld (Deedes 42).
The tribute takes place once each eight years, when Minos returns to the Diktaean Cave (where Zeus mated with Europa) to confer with Zeus and seek renewal(Jaskolski 40).
Knight (Cum. Gates 133) says, "the bull may be the monster who devours the ghosts of evil men." Psychologically, it's one's Shadow, which devours whoever denies it. Recall also that Minos is a judge in the Underworld.
Jaskolski (58).
Cf. Kerényi (Dion. 95).
For the Labyrinth as entrails, see Knight (MSTG 450n30, MLT 105) and Heller (1946, p. 123).
The Cretan Labyrinth (see Labyrinths, below) has seven courses.
"Hoc opus, hic labor est" (Aeneid VI.126), quoted again, here with its original significance: escape from the Underworld.
Jaskolski (60).
The labyrinth is associated with the proverbial coils of the River Styx (Knight, Cum. Gates 147); it is sometimes said to have seven coils, as here, although more commonly nine.
Jaskolski (161-2n12).
In medieval church labyrinths, revisiting but not crossing the central cross makes it like the Way of the Cross (Jaskolski 63); analogously here the blessings of the Four Rivers are acquired. We also find medieval labyrinths associated with the Four Rivers of Paradise (Lockridge 37), flowing with milk, water, honey and wine.
Jaskolski (16).
The connection with Troy may seem superficial, but it is profound (see e.g. Knight, Cum. Gates, chs. 5, 6, Maze Sym., Myths & Leg. Troy; Heller, 1946). Labyrinths throughout Europe are called "Troy," "Troy-town" and the like, or sometimes Christianized versions of the same ("Babylon," "Jerusalem" etc.). In ancient times the Troia was a sacred or magical horse ritual to reinforce or penetrate a system of magical defenses (Knight, MSTG 448-9, MLT 98-100). Heller (1946, 131-3) describes von Petrikovits' reconstruction of its dressage-like movements along the dividing lines of the Labyrinth. Like "Geranos," "Troia" may be related to an obscure verb truare meaning "to run back and forth" (Heller 1946, 129) and Ilion seems to some from a similar root weilô (Knight, MLT 99n3), which does not contradict the connection to Troy, since the city may have acquired this name from its famous magical walls (Knight, MSTG 454). Also, Theseus' son, Hippolytus ("Horse-unbinding"), was said to have been a king-god of Troy (Deedes 36); his name may refer to a Poseidon cult (Oxf. Class. Dict. s.v. Hippolytus).
Since ancient times (Tryphiodorus, 5th cent. CE) the Geranos has been compared to the dragging of the Wooden Horse into Troy and the Trojans to migrating cranes (Knight, MSTG 447n8; Lawler 1946, 125n39). For the connection of the Troia with magical dances (for winding or unwinding defenses), such as the Pyrrhic and Salian Dances, see Knight (MSTG 448, 451-2), and with the Geranos and other rope-dances, in which the rope is compared to that which pulled the Horse into Troy, see Knight (MLT 104). These armed dances are also connected with rites of fertility and (re)birth (Knight, MLT 107). Cf. also the dance of the Kourêtes at the birth of Zeus. Dance was an essential component of all the ancient mysteries (Deedes 25).
The widdershins (against the Sun) motion unwinds the defenses (Knight, Cum. Gates 90); the unwinding of the Clew reinforces this.
The eight regions of the Labyrinth (the center and the seven coils), correspond to the Earth and the seven planets, and also to the eight years of the Great Year that reconciles the Lunar and Solar Realms (Frazer/Gaster §192).
As in the Gnostic Descent of the Soul, and as Inanna gives up Her seven powers in Her Descent.
The longest way: Jaskolski (60). So also, in the Rosarium Philosophorum, the process of alchemical transmutation is described as the longissima via - the longest path (Eliade, Forge & Crucible, 163). For the general characteristics of a "true labyrinth" see Jaskolski (p. 11).
A reference to the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer, which is next to Corona, Ariadne's Crown (Lawler 1946, pp. 119, 127n46); Ophiuchus represents the path of spiritual ascent to the Higher Zodiac.
For the Geranos as a snake-dance (later a rope dance), which invokes the Earth Goddess for protection, see Lawler (1946, pp. 119, 126-8; 1964a, p. 63; 1964b, pp. 84-5). The dance may represent a fight (Geranomakhia) between the Cranes and the Serpent (Lawler 1946, 125n40), which is reminiscent of the Myth of Etana (Dalley 190-200), with its battle between the Eagle and the Snake, or the Indian legend in which the Garuda Eagle attacks the Nâgas (Snake-people); see Butterworth, Tree at the Navel of the Earth, 156-8.
Jaskolski (11, 77). Rebirth requires scrutiny of all the recesses of the psyche.
Cf. Kerényi (Dion. 92).
Cf. Kerényi (Dion. 93).
Gilgamesh (OB III.iv; see also Gardner & Maier 107).
Humbaba is protected by "seven layers of terrifying radience" (Black & Green 106); the Minotaur is protected in the seven walls of the Labyrinth.
Cf. Gilg. (SLU IV.v.45-46).
The Minotaur is called Asterios, the Glittering One. Also, some coins from Knossos show a star in the middle of the Labyrinth (Sears, Grk. Coins 1, pp. 292-4). The star or rosette is a sign of royalty (Deedes 22).
Asterios means "the Celestial One," which seems to be a reference to the Sun (Cook I. 468, 477, 490-2).
Cook (I. 479, 491-2).
See Jaskolski (56) for the Minotaur as monstrum sacrum.
On Humbaba's "terrible" or "alien" appearance, see Gilgamesh (OB III.v).
Cook (I.491).
Ariadne, like Medeia, is a grandaughter of the Sun responsible for the death of her brother (Kerényi, Heroes 230).
Cf. Gilgamesh (SLU II.v.1-2); Humbaba guards the throne of Irnini, a form of Ishtar = Astarte = Aphrodite. There is often a Holy Maiden (especially Persephone) at the center of the Labyrinth, who is won by the Hero that can find Her and bring Her out. Alternately, he wins the Maiden (e.g. Ariadne) by bringing back some treasure from the center. She confers the hope of a return to the Light. See Knight (MSTG 450n30, MLT 106) and Kerényi (Dion. 118). Pasiphaê, Aphrodite and Isis are all aspects of the Mother Goddess associated with the Tree (Deedes 28). In iconography, the Tree is interchangeable with the "bare-chested, flouncy-skirted goddess," a Goddess associated with Life, Fertility, Love and the Sea (Carter 1987, 377-8). Likewise, Cook (I.537-8) argues that Europa was originally an Earth Goddess and a Huntress and only later a Lunar Cow Goddess.
Humbaba is like a "raging wild bull" who guards the sacred forest (Gilgamesh, SLU IV.v.47, 49). The Tree represents consort of the Bull-God (Carter 1987, 376).
Many adolescent initations involve a confrontation with some animal; see Dowden, Death and the Maiden.
Catching by hair and sacrificing to Poseidon: Kerényi, Heroes 231. Poseidon is ruler of the oceanic depths, a common symbol for the unconscious psyche.
Gilgamesh (SLU III.i.2-5).
Theseus undergoes a complete initation, proving himself worthy to be king, the others undergo a lesser initation into adulthood (Jaskolski, 58-9, 78).
Gilg. (SLU II.v.3). His roar is abûbu, the "flood weapon" (Dalley 317).
These terms, Agôn (Contest), Pathos (Suffering) and Threnos (Lamentation) refer to the primary components in the general Passion of the Year-Daimon, of which the Labyrinth Ritual is an example (Harrison, Themis 343-4).
Cf. Gilg. (SLU V.i.1-2, 6).
Gilg. (SLU II.v.4).
Gilg. (OB III.v).
For initiations in a Cretan cave by means of the Thunder Stone, see Kerényi (Dion. 86). For a stone in the hands of the Minotaur see Gantz (265).
In Minoan iconography the victor usually appears on the left (Marinatos 215).
Cf. Gilg. (SLU IV.v.43-44).
Tree-shaking seems to have been a part of Minoan initiation rituals (Marinatos 185-7); in the Geranos on Delos, the participants held their hands behind their backs and gnawed the sacred olive tree (Lawler 1946, p. 114; Oxf. Class. Dict. s.v Delos). On Cypriot pots, the Bull may chew the Tree (Carter 1987, 378).
Flagellation was a part of the Delian Geranos (Lawler 1946, p. 115; Oxf. Class. Dict. s.v Delos), and there was whipping of the ephebes at the Ortheia Altar (Carter 1987, 381).
The Shadow is a necessary complement to the conscious persona.
Repression of Shadow.
Projection of Shadow.
The Unconscious is a source of vital energy.
Because his face is an image of the path through the Labyrinth. Initiation cannot be completed without a confrontation with the Shadow.
See the Hittite text in Gardner & Maier (147).
So also in Gilgamesh, the Hero (conscious mind) draws strength from the Shadow (Gardner & Maier 28).
The Shadow must be acknowledged and integrated into the personality in order to avoid projection or "possession" by it.
The metaphor is from Epic of Gilgamesh (OB IV?; Dalley 148) and the Sumarian Gilgamesh and the Land of the Living (Gardner & Maier 145).
The Bull-child/Dionysos must be dismembered (Kerényi, Dion. 116); it is torn apart by the Great Mother to nourish new life (Jaskolski 39-40). Deedes (22) compares the dismemberment of the bull and the lamentations of Ariadne to Osiris and Isis; in this ritual the Bull is resurrected as Dionysos. So also in an alchemical poem attributed to Theophrastus but composed between 700 and 900 CE, we are told to slay the spotted dragon, dismember it, and cut out of it the brilliantly white Stone of Transmutation [C. A. Browne, "The Poem of the Philosopher Theophrastus upon the Sacred Art," Scientific Monthly 11 (Sep. 1920): 193-214, pp. 204-5].
See Gilg. (OB IV?; Dalley 148) and Gardner & Maier (145).
Jaskolski (19).
Gilgamesh and Enkidu pin down Humbaba with their feet (Black & Green 106). In this way the Beast is subdued.
For alternating sorrow and bliss as Ariadne's theme, see Otto (182).
The typical result of the Theomachia, for example Perseus/Sea Monster/Andromenda, Kadmos/Great Sepent/Harmonia and of course Theseus/Minotaur/Ariadne (Carter 1988, 98).
Cf. Kerényi (Dion. 96). A reorientation in the enter of the personality.
Although Gilgamesh and Enkidu cut down the sacred trees (Gardner & Maier 145-7), here Theseus and the Paides bring back its power. Alternately, Theseus could bring back the Xoanon, the ancient wooden effigy of the Goddess, to Ariadne. This is supported by the fact that Ortheia, the Goddess of the Upright Tree, corresponds to Aphrodite (via Asherah and Astarte) (Carter 1987, 378).
The Worthy Bull is Dionysos, "archetypal image of indestructible life" (Kerényi, Dion. 182).
Kerényi (Jung & Kerényi 123-5, 127-9) discusses Persephone's connection to the uniqueness of the individual as opposed to the impersonal force of universal Life (Zôê) represented by Demeter and, in our case, the Tree of Life and the Minotaur. Complementary to the "individual beauty" of Ariadne is the uniquely monstrous Minotaur. "What we conceive philosophically as the element of non-being in Persephone's nature appears, mythologically, as the hideous Gorgon's head, which the goddess sends forth from the Underworld and which she herself bore in her archaic form" (p. 127). See also Kerényi (Dion. 124): Zôê needs Soul to transcend the seminal stage, represented by the Tree of Life.
The Spirit (as Zôê) is masculine, the Soul feminine in the Greek and Minoan traditions (Kerényi, Dion. 125).
Kerényi (Dion. 124).
For the Butterfly (and Bee) as symbols of rebirth and its connection to the Double Axe, see Dietrich (p. 39). The identification of the Soul and the Butterfly seems to date from the sixth century BCE (p. 39n80). See also Kerényi's Hermes: Guide of Souls for more on the Butterfly.
In general, maze dances are protective (Knight, Cum. Gates 73), especially when they proceed deosil (sunwise); the rewinding of the Clew reinforces the binding power. With regard to the Underworld; the Trojan game is also associated with funeral rites, see Knight (MSTG 456-7).
For the "sacred seals or veils" (hiera krêdemna), see Knight (MSTG 457n63). Likewise medieval labyrinth dances restore cosmic harmony through their circling (Doob 125).
Cf. Atwood (pp. 35-6) on Ariadne's golden thread: "the metaphorical 'winding into a ball' aptly illustrates the nucleating of the Light diffusedly latent in man under the concentration of his spiritual energies to effect an alliance with their source, until at length that Light becomes polarized within him, consolidating into a 'philosophical stone,' a quasi-objective substantiality destined to become for him a vehicle of consciousness and his new body of regeneration."
The following narration of the Soul's passage through the planetary spheres and the attributes it acquires from each is based on Macrobius (Somnium 1.12.14). The spheres are in the normal order, from center to periphery: Earth (Monster's Lair), Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, and the surrounding Fixed Stars (outside the Labyrinth). However, because of the winding path through the Labyrinth, the planets are visited in the order Earth, Venus, Mercury, Moon, Sun, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Fixed Stars.
In medieval labyrinths the center represents the eighth sphere, the fixed stars (Doob 131), but it it belongs at the periphery, with the center representing the descent into matter (the Earth).
In ancient times the birth canal was conceived to be convoluted like the intestines; the child had to find its way down it (Jaskolski 45). The Thread of Ariadne corresponds, of course, to the umbilical cord (Jaskolski 163n5, Knight, Cum. Gates 106, MLT 111). A connection is made between the Khoros (Dance) and Khordê (Gut, Cord) (Knight, CG, loc. cit.).
Cf. Gilgamesh (SLU VI.i.7-20).
Maze dances (widdershins!) were a traditional part of marriage rites, and Evans (Palace of Minos III, 74-8) reports that they were still performed in Crete in his time. Often the ritual represents an approach to the maiden in the center (Knight, Cum. Gates 132, 137), here represented by the Goddess in the Tree of Life, which was also common in ancient Greece (Carter 1987, 1988).
Cf. Gilgamesh (SLU VI.i.24-32).
The Robe, like the Crown or Wreath, is a typical marriage gift; in rituals of this sort it may be hung on the Tree dedicated to the Goddess (Carter 1988, p. 93). The Robe, in particular, may be used to cover the marriage bed. Carter (op. cit.) makes explicit connections with the Ariadne-Theseus myth.
Kerényi, Dion. 109.
The name of the island, "Dia," seems to be connected with Latin Dea, Dia and Diana, all signifying the light of the Full Moon (Kerényi, Dion. 122).
For Athena ordering Theseus to abondon Ariadne, see Kerényi, Heroes p. 233, fig. 56; Carpenter fig. 249.
Theseus was destined to pursue "the light," the full moon: Aigle, Phaidra (Kerényi, Dion. 102, Heroes 234).
In some versions of the myth, Theseus' sorrow at having to leave Ariadne is the reason he forgets to change the sail, which leads to his father's suicide (Kerényi, Heroes 234).
A gesture of the "Young God" in Minoan iconography (Marinatos pp.171-4, figs. 170-2, 174).
For Dionysos coming from the sea and "raving with His bull foot," see Kerényi (Dion. 182).
On Artemis' "punishment" of Ariadne for her lost virginity (death in childbirth), see Kerényi (Dion. 101, 108-9, Heroes 230) and Gantz (115-6). In many ways the story of Ariadne parallels that of Koronis (Kerényi, Dion. 103, Heroes 235). Ariadne, Koronis and Aigle (Ariadne's "full moon" sister) are all named as nurses of Dionysos (Kerényi, Heroes 235). Ariadne is not abandoned, but instead agrees to a Hieros Gamos with Dionysos (Paris, 39-44).
Grabbing by the wrist is an erotic gesture, especially in a Hieros Gamos (Marinatos 190-1).
Kerényi (Dion. 109).
Ariadne is immortalized by the mercy of Dionysos (Kerényi, Dion. 109).
As the constellation Coronis.
The Portal of Immortality (Porphyry, Cave of Nymphs ¶¶12-13).
For the apotheosis of Ariadne, see Kerényi (Dion. 123-4).
Otto (181).
Again, an erotic gesture in the Hieros Gamos (Marinatos 190-1).
Kerényi (Dion. 124-5).
According to some myths, Ariadne became Queen of Crete after Minos' son (Kerényi, Dion. 102).
Kerényi (Dion. 102).
Theseus made peace with Queen Ariadne of Crete (Kerényi, Dion. 102). Recall that the Eight-year Great Year reconciles the Lunar and Solar Worlds (cf. Frazer/Gaster §192).
For Ariadne's connections to Aphrodite, see Otto (182-3), who calls her "the mortal Aphrodite."
See Dowden (181) for a possible explanation of Geranos as "Crane Dance." On Delos cranes were sacred, probably to Leto, who is associated with the Geranos (Lawler 1946, 117, 123); Leto is the Great Goddess, mother of Apollo and Artemis (who together made the Horn Altar).
For the Crane Dance and the worship of Ariadne Aphrodite see Plutarch (Theseus) and Kerényi (Heroes 234).
This offering discharges Theseus' vows to Apollo; it was reenacted at the Puanepsia festival (Plutarch, Theseus).
Plutarch, Theseus.
Theseus represents a new, more inclusive social order (Deedes 29). The ritual killing of the old king (both the Minotaur and Theseus' father Aegeus) is a theme here (Deedes 29-30).
See Plutarch (Theseus) and Thucydides II.15 for his goals of peace and prosperity.
Dionysos is born prematurely (e.g. from Semele's womb), and the Minotaur is a premature child of the Underworld. The Man-Beast and the Mistress of the Beasts both represent a transitional Life-form, between the Seed (the Tree) and the God in Human Form (Dionysos and divinized Ariadne); see Kerényi, Dion. 119-21.
For the calling of Dionysos "in the Marshes" (en Limnais) and the drinking of the new wine (gleukos), see Kerényi (Dion. 290, 292). The Marshes are a gateway to the Underworld (loc. cit.). At the beginning of November the wine has been fermented 40 days; although the fermentation is not complete, it is already intoxicating. Dionysos protects life (like the wine) when it's yet unformed and little more than Zôê (Kerényi, Dion. 293-5).
This was the paradoxical cry when the libation was poured at the Oskhophria, in celebration of Theseus return (Plutarch, Theseus). We also have woe for the death of the mortal Ariadne and joy for the immortal Ariadne (Kerényi, Dion. 123).
For souls as birds flying around the vast central chasm, see Kingsley (137n17). According to Macrobius (Somn. 1.12.8) souls pass through the Crater on their way to rebirth. The use of the "cranes" simile reinforces the comparison of the long-legged, dancing children to cranes, which Dowden (181) (and many others) think is the origin of the term Geranos; see Lawler (1946) for an alternate explanation.
For the cyclic "breathing" of the Underworld Rivers, see Kingsley (79, 126, 142); it is also mentioned in the Phaedo.
Kingsley (127).
See Cirlot's Dict. of Symbols (127) for the Four River's reversing direction and flowing back out toward the circumference to unite in the One.
The North is Cold and associated with Water and the phlegmetic humor (yellow bile), which is cautious, calm and cool (e.g. Williams, Ren. Tarot 141).
The East is Moist and associated with Air and the sanguine humor (blood), which is warm, energetic and sensible (e.g. Williams, Ren. Tarot 141).
The South is Hot and associated with Fire and the choleric humor, which is passionate (e.g. Williams, Ren. Tarot 141). See also Macrobius (Somn. 1.10.11).
The North is Dry and associated with Earth and the melancholic humor (black bile), which brings introspection (e.g. Williams, Ren. Tarot 141).
Nilsson (29), Parke (75-7), Simon (75-7, 107).
Plutarch, Theseus.
The Oskhophoria is in thanks to Athena, Dionysos and Ariadne (Kerényi, Dion. 102). See also Plutarch's Theseus.
Nilsson (34-5), Parke (77-81), Simon (89-92).
Porpyry (On the Cave of the Nymphs ¶¶11-13).
Souls ascend to Heaven through the South Gate, the Portal of the Sun, associated with Capricorn, because heat dissolves them and sends them upward (Porphyry, The Cave of the Nymphs ¶¶12-13). For completeness, it should be mentioned that the East Gate is associated with the Celestial Gods as the West is with the Chthonic Dieties (¶13).
In the myth, after escaping from the Labyrinth, Theseus plays the lyre, and leads the Paides in a dance, before Ariadne (Kerényi, Heroes 234)
For the song, see Plutarch's Theseus.
These Labyrinths may be "left handed" or "right handed" - the mirror images of each other. Ancient images of the Labyrinth seem to be about equally of the two forms. I have chosen to use the left-handed form because (1) it begins with a turn to the north and a widdershins path and has a final widdershins approach to the Minotaur, all appropriate to the theme, and (2) it agrees with the shape of divinatory livers. The names of the Labyrinths are my own, chosen by Isopsêphia.
Heller 1946, p. 125.
Kerényi, Dion., p. 96.
Jaskolski, pp. 8, 12.
Heller 1946, pp. 129-30.
Nigel Pennick, p. 155.
Heller 1946, pp. 124-5.
Heller 1961; Jaskolski, p. 10; Kerényi, Dionysos, p. 97.
Heller 1961, pp. 60-1, pl. 33 (9-11); Kerényi, Dionysos, p. 97. It should be noted that a Labyrinth was central to the most ancient rituals on the Acropolis (Deedes 30).
Heller 1946, p. 126; Matthews, pp. 45-6.
Heller 1946, p. 125.
See Matthews, fig. 70. [Babylonian divination liver]
See Black & Green (fig. 8, p. 17), Carter (1987, 1988).
Heller (1961, p. 60), Matthews (45). The Labyrinth fresco discovered by Evans at Knossos is dark red on a pale yellow backgrouns (Kerényi, Dion. 95). Medieval church labyrinths are often black on a yellow ground (Lockridge 35-6). One of the Christian Roman emperors has a red robe decorated with a golden labyrinth (Cook I.482n1). Note also the colors of the Hagios and Thêrion Labyrinths, described above.
Black & Green (fig. 8); Carter (1987, 365, 365n46)
Vergil (Aeneid VI.20ff) hints at this, when he described the Labyrinth on the entrance to the Cumaean temple of Apollo by the cave of the Sibyl (Knight, MLT 115-6).
For the lopsided face see Carter (1987, 364-5).

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Last updated: Mon Feb 21 12:01:58 EST 2000