Hyacinth Helps Ariadne, a Historical Fiction
Copyright 7-24-2005 Frederick John Kluth, Kent Ohio.
This story is illustrated. Click on the links to see the pictures.
Ariadne was born into the family of Minos ruler of Crete three generations before the Trojan War. For a while Minos had the favor of the deities. After all he was the son of Zeus by Europa. When he became a man a goddess appeared to him while he was worshipping at a peak sanctuary. It was as though Pasiphae (She who shines) had ridden a moonbeam right to his side. Minos was so captivated with her that he requested her hand in marriage. When Minos married Pasiphae he thought she was a suitable mate to maintain the status of his position. After all she was a perfectly beautiful goddess who had the misfortune of having lost her domain. Minos gave her a new domain and made her his queen. In return she provided him with many children, Androgeus, Catreus, Deucalion, Glaucus, Acallis, Xenodice, Ariadne, and Phaedra. At least we know she was the mother of these children. But the difficulties Minos had with her are the source of many legends. Almost everyone is familiar with her relations with the Bull of Poseidon and how she gave birth to the Minotaur. We also know that she cursed Minos so that when he was with a lover he ejaculated serpents, scorpions, and other poisonous insects, thus killing his partners.
Because she cursed and was involved with other such manipulations some people refer to Pasiphae as a witch, but this is not true. A witch is a mortal woman who has the favor of a deity from whom she can call on for favors. In ancient Greece a mortal woman would call on Hecate. The realm of Hecate is luck and she could confer wealth, victory, and wisdom on those she favored. Because of her relation to Persephone and the underworld her skills were referred to as dark arts. Later the Devil took over her role in witchcraft. Pasiphae was a goddess herself so her arts were divine and not necessarily dark. Pasiphae was the queen of Minoan Crete an so had spiritual powers over this realm. She could affect luck too but she had to make a deal with Hecate to do it.
Few know of Pasiphae’s exploits before her raltions with the bull of Poseidon since those myths seem to be lost. We are fortunate that the Greeks worshipped Athena. This seems to have provided an essential rational basis to Greek myths that sometimes allows further information to be gleaned. Of particular interest to us here are those events that relate to the birth of Ariadne. We know that Pasiphae was her mother because she is reported to have given her birth. And Minos is reported as her father. But though he certainly acted as her father and may have even believed he was her father, his participation can be seriously doubted. The most incriminating evidence is the divine status of Ariadne. Some myths suggest she was mortal because she was supposed to have died after Theseus abandoned her on Naxos. Only then was she supposed to have been deified. The story makes a lot more sense if she was always a deity and was simply transformed. If she was always a deity then Minos could not have been her father. Both parents are required to be deities for the offspring to be a deity. Which deity was involved is easily deduced. Ariadne has many characteristics similar to Helen and so the evidence points to Zeus.
How Pasiphae came to be pregnant by Zeus is also easy to deduce. Many myths relate that Zeus had a wandering eye and a facility for impregnating women especially by rape. This is the rape that is an act of passion rather than an act of aggression so the young women were rarely injured. The myths also relate that the offspring of Zeus, when he coupled with mortal women were invariably heroes who were destined to bring honor and fame to the family of the woman involved. In fact these offspring were so valuable that unscrupulous parents would pamper a daughter to be as beautiful as possible, then just when she reached the peak of her beauty they would strip her naked and chain her up in some remote location such as the side of a mountain or a cliff by the sea. Her parents would then leave her there alone so Zeus would not be offended by their presence. The poor girls would shiver and wriggle and writhe in her agony and cry. Such a delectable morsel would prove too tempting for Zeus and he would rape the damsel and leave her pregnant. Later the parents would retrieve the poor girl after she had spent some time in the wilderness suffering from her ordeal. In fact it was their hope that she was suffering because that meant she had been raped as planned. It is not that the sex was not pleasurable. It just that the girl’s fear of what might happen and the idea that they had no say in the matter made their experience all the more embarrassing and miserable. The girl was not ready to celebrate but the parents could and did. They celebrated even more during her pregnancy and birth. Not surprisingly this technique worked very well. The main problem involved the parents’ inability to see the faults of the daughter and her beauty was simply not up to Zeus’ tastes. It was also true that sometimes the daughter would be simply eaten by a wild beast before Zeus got to her and the effort was futile. All that would be left was a few bones that they could place on the altar to sanctify their loss. In a few cases a monster would rape the daughter and she would give birth to a monster offspring. Fortunately the parents would only have to expose the child and it would be out of their memory. Minos would have done this to the Minotaur, except he was too fearful of Poseidon, father of the Minotaur.
Following this example the plan of Pasiphae was simple. Pasiphae would to take herself out to a remote location and strip herself naked. She would then bind herself to a rock. Then she could dance around in a pitiful way mimicking those poor girls who had been set out. Once Zeus noticed her she would be raped. Pasiphae had no fear of the monsters because she was a goddess. The only challenge was to accommodate a few other factors. Hera needed to be diverted so she would not interfere. And Zeus needed to be available to be seduced. Finally the identity of Pasiphae needed to be masked because she was a goddess. To get a better handle on these later problems Pasiphae decided to seek the help of a mortal of another time.
Hyacinth was a young girl who lived in the 21st century in Kent, Ohio. Her parents were archaeologists and she, too, had become interested in ancient Greece. She had the additional asset of having studied the ancient language of Greece and was fluent in it. Except for the fact that Hyacinth was an early teen and Pasiphae was a mature women they looked very much alike. This meant that Hyacinth with her red hair in pigtails and her rosy complexion was almost perfectly beautiful and could easily seduce Zeus. If Hyacinth could lead Zeus to where Pasiphae waited a subtle exchange would allow Pasiphae to get what
she wanted. So Pasiphae decided to enlist Hyacinth to her cause. The fact that 3500 years separated Hyacinth from her mission was not a problem for the goddess. She existed beyond time and could easily move to a time when exciting things were happening. She traveled to the bedroom where Hyacinth was involved in a deep sleep. She woke her gently and spoke to her, “Hyacinth, I need your help. I wish to become pregnant by Zeus and you need to seduce him. It will be fun for you because you will get to dance at a banquet of the gods and you
will find it very exciting and interesting. You will have the honor of having seduced Zeus and I will be forever grateful. Further I will name you the godmother of the child that is born. I will call her Ariadne, which means “most holy.”
Hyacinth was surprised to see a perfectly beautiful young woman in her bedroom who looked very much like her. Hyacinth knew from her readings that ancient Greek goddesses did this
and she gathered from the conversation that this must be a goddess. She was not so sure this adventure was in her interest. Hyacinth did like to dance but what if she made a mistake? She had studied the Greek Myths and knew that the Greek deities could be unpleasant if things did not go their way. Zeus could easily fry her to a crisp with a bolt of lightening. But by the same token she thought arguing with a Goddess might not be productive either. The idea of being a godmother was at least appealing. Hyacinth was a little concerned that she was in the middle of her period and if she danced the blood would drip and spoil her costume. Pasiphae explained that this was all to the good because the
gods would consider this a blood sacrifice and would be even more appreciative. “I am to be sacrificed?” Hyacinth said with a shudder. Pasiphae replied. “You are to participate in a sacrifice ceremony. But all you will sacrifice is your beauty and charm. You will dance gracefully in a beautiful costume before the deities. You do not need to be embarrassed because the deities know all and see all. The dress that you will wear will be almost transparent gossamer as that is what the deities prefer. It will complement your dancing perfectly.
Because the goddess wore a crown with a crescent on it she thought the goddess might be Artemis. But Artemis would never want to become pregnant. Selene was another possibility. So Hyacinth asked about the crown. “Is that an image of the moon on your crown? No, it is the horn of consecration of Minoan Crete. I am Pasiphae, queen of Crete.” This did not help Hyacinth at all. How could she trust a goddess with such an outrageous record? But then it is generally not a good idea to cross a goddess once you have her attention.
So Hyacinth agreed to the plan even though she had plenty of reservations.
Hyacinth needed only to slip out of her bedclothes, climb on to Pasiphae’s back and they would take off. It was necessary to travel nude because she was not allowed to take anything with her that might spoil her travel through time. When she arrived at her destination nothing could reveal that she was a time traveler. So Hyacinth climbed on her back and they were off. With her braided hair streaming behind her Hyacinth was aware of a refreshing breeze that caressed her body. As they traveled Pasiphae spoke to her “You
have been chosen for a great honor. You will dance before the immortal gods and they will be enraptured by your grace. The mighty Zeus himself will be so taken by your beautiful movements that he will follow you and you will lead him to me.” After they arrived Hyacinth stood nude in the warm setting sun. She was on a broad ledge of Mount Ida high up on the mountain. This is where Pasiphae would display herself for Zeus. In the distance she could see a body of water glisten. Nearby were a spring and a pool where Pasiphae was bathing.
It was a pretty, secluded spot that was not too far from the location of the banquet. She was pretty embarrassed because her menstrual blood was dripping down her leg. As soon as Pasiphae was done bathing she remarked that it was time to prepare Hyacinth. After Hyacinth was bathed Pasiphae provided her with a natural sponge from the sea to stop the menstrual flow. This is the way the Greek ladies contained their menstruation in a way that avoided the taboos that ladies in other cultures had to put up with.
Pasiphae thought that Hyacinth should have some remarkable decorations that she would also wear so the two women would be easily confused. Pasiphae thought tassels would help. Several tassels would hang from a string around her neck. Tassels would hang from a string around her elbows and wrists. And finally tassels would hang from strings around her knees and ankles. When she wiggled and danced these tassels would add to the show. Around her waist she wore a string skirt much like a grass skirt but much thinner. Over her breasts she wore a shorter skirt that was called the girdle of Aphrodite. It actually covered her breasts with strings as it crossed over her shoulders. When she walked she was demurely covered. But as the whole outfit was made of nothing but strings and tassels she was not so sure she would be covered when she danced. In the dark if Pasiphae wore a similar outfit she would easily be confused with Hyacinth. Pasiphae showed Hyacinth the outfit that she would wear but Hyacinth did not see nearly as much string in Pasiphae’s outfit as was in hers. Pasiphae told her not to worry.
The reason the outfits were made of string is because weaving cloth on a loom had not been invented yet. The first weaving was done over ten thousand ago but it was weaving that went into baskets. Once string was invented basket weaving could be applied to string and looms followed. But before string was woven it was spun and then knotted. The garments that the ancient Minoans wore were probaly made in this way. A loose structure like a fishing net was formed of knotted string, then the openings were filled in with string that was simply knotted to the net. This fill was like fringe covering the garment. The resulting garment was decorative and protective but it did not cover as well as cloth later would. Inventions are commonly credited to men, but here are some inventions that must have been perfected by women. Basket-weaving, spinning, and weaving were the province of women for several thousand years.
A banquet time was chosen because Hera would be busy with the other guests. All Hyacinth would need to do was dance until Zeus was seduced and then run by the spot where Pasiphae waited. From that spot they would follow the path to the banquet not far away. Hyacinth was not a willing participant in the plan. She thought Pasiphae was taking a big risk with this plan. She was anxious about Pasiphae cheating on her spouse. But she did want to get home to her safe bed and she was not at all sure this would happen unless she humored Pasiphae. So she went along, streamers in hand. Pasiphae explained that she should dance as long as she could but that she would know when to run. Hyacinth was a bit confused by these instructions but went along with Pasiphae. Goddesses have a way of making things work out anyway.
Hyacinth wanted to know what the banquet was all about. She also wondered why it was not being held on Mount Olympus where the palace of Zeus was located. Pasiphae explained that Zeus liked to have banquets away from the palace because most of the deities had to live away from the palace and this was an easy way to get them together. And sometimes it was nice to get away. Here the lesser deities were more likely to enjoy themselves in a less formal setting. That way they could more easily share ideas and communicate. Deities
did not have any substance like wine to loosen themselves up but music and dancing sometimes accomplished the same thing. Also there was lots of good food. Gods and goddesses do not eat ordinary food. They eat ambrosia, the food of the goods. But ambrosia is not boring. It comes in many perfect shapes and tastes that are pleasing to the deities. Sometimes Zeus would give a speech and sometimes there was a guest speaker like Athena or Apollo. That way everyone was caught up on the latest news. Often poetry was given, as that was the custom in ancient Greece.
They arrived at the banquet at about dusk. It was a splendid, outdoor affair. Torches on long poles provided lighting. Special nymphs attended these that were guided by Hestia. Other nymphs served the food. There were many fine delicacies including roast meat, vegetables, fruits, bread, cakes, candies, and fruit-drinks. All were different flavors of ambrosia prepared in a perfect way. Many of the deities lounged on couches while the dogs of Artemis ranged underneath cleaning up the scraps. Following the Greek custom the food was layed out on tables at the same height as the couches. Some deities sat in chairs with food table beside them. The Muses were playing music but no one yet was dancing. Normally the Charities danced at these affairs but this evening they were not available this evening. Pasiphae talked to Iris and explained that Hyacinth was to dance for Zeus. Iris was delighted to hear this and took Hyacinth and introduced her to the musicians. The Muses were quite pleased with her outfit and that she had come to dance. They quickly identified a tune with which Hyacinth was familiar. The music started and Hyacinth started, slowly at first. She waved the streamers and applause erupted. She wiggled and twirled. She leaped and she swayed. The streamers whirled about her head and there was more applause.
Suddenly, when Hyacinth paused her skirt and girdle simply fell off. This exposed her entire body to view. She felt totally embarrassed but there was nothing to be ashamed of. Her breasts and nipples were well formed and her abdomen was tight and shapely. The color of her pubic hair flamed like her hair and was neatly gathered. But this was an unexpected happening that terrified her. Goose bumps rose on her nipples and her butt and her hair
stood on end. Hyacinth naturally tried to cover herself with her hands as
her costume had fallen into a hopeless web of knots. Zeus’s eyes got wide and he moved forward. Hyacinth knew that now was the time to run. Of course Zeus followed her. The path to Pasiphae was well marked and Pasiphae was waiting in the shadows. As Hyacinth passed she stepped into the shadows and Pasiphae stepped out. Now the outfits on Hyacinth and Pasiphae were truly identical. Zeus embraced Pasiphae and penetrated her as planned. He climaxed
quickly within her and she could feel the sperm approaching her womb. Hyacinth had gotten him terribly excited. When Pasiphae left him he was gasping on the ground. Pasiphae left him there and caught up to Hyacinth. In no time Hyacinth was back in her bed. Hyacinth was greatly relieved this ordeal was over and was glad to be safely back in her bed. But that was not the end of Hyacinth’s involvement with Ariadne that night.
Ariadne was born shortly thereafter and was a beautiful baby. Goddesses are born fully empowered and educated but Pasiphae decided to raise her as a mortal. Pasiphae explained away the peculiarities that Ariadne encountered in her life. Ariadne already knew what her teachers told her and school games were boring because she already knew the result before they finished. But she would always make the best of a situation. There were times when her status information was threatened for example, she easily outshone the other girls at her initiation ceremony when she had to dance in the nude, but everyone, including her father, simply attributed this to his wonderful family background.
The incident with the birth of the Minotaur occurred shortly after she was born, and since she was a goddess, she knew perfectly well what was going on. The Myths say that Poseidon sent a bull to certify the claim of Minos to the throne. He was supposed to sacrifice the bull to Poseidon after he sat on the throne. But after he came to the throne he found the white bull too desirable to sacrifice. The result was, according to myth, that Poseidon had Aphrodite make Pasiphae fall in love with the bull to punish Minos. The truth is that Pasiphae herself wanted to punish Minos for his pomposity and inattention and did not mind making a deal with Poseidon. She was also an adventurous sort who liked the notoriety. It is not as though Aphrodite would have that much power over Pasiphae, another goddess. She knew she would not be injured by the adventure, unlike a mortal woman. She also knew that the offspring of the union would be a god. Unlike mortals who have sex and depend on luck to assure pregnancy and a healthy baby, deities conceive a baby in their minds and pregnancy and birth logically follows. Poseidon and Pasiphae conceived a complex god who has mystified modern readers. This is none other than Dionysus. This is not to say that the stories about Dionysus being the offspring of Zeus and Semele are wrong, false or misleading. Those stories must be interpreted in their own light. I am only saying that the story of Theseus and Ariadne makes a lot of sense if the Minotaur is identical to Dionysus. Otherwise this story makes very little sense.
We like to think of myths as windows to the past in which we can view the lives of the ancient peoples. There is no doubt that some myths can be used in this way. But some myths touch a deeper part of our soul and identify with our subconscious. They do this possibly because the ancient peoples were coping with mysteries of life that are still unfathomed. The myth touches our understanding in a sympathetic way. It sometimes even becomes a symbol of that understanding, as is the case of the Oedipus complex. For some reason the myths of ancient Greece are more likely to do this that any other mythical system. This may be because our culture grew out of ancient Greece. It may also be because of the logical nature of Greek myths that I alluded to before. Once the myth strikes this sympathetic chord it can become a mirror as well as a window. The way myths are interpreted from time to time reflects on the culture of that time. It may be that the Semele story struck a sympathetic chord at another time while the Pasiphae story makes more sense now.
For example the Theseus-Ariadne myth states that 7 boys and 7 girls with Theseus among them were sent to Crete to be fed to the Minotaur. Just the logistics of this makes it seem very unreasonable. Bulls are not known to be carnivorous and even so it seems unlikely that even a tiger would need all that meat. More likely is the possibility that the victims are used in some human sacrifice ritual and the victims met their end over time, perhaps over
a period of years. It is not unlikely that two victims were sacrificed every year for seven years. Some writers have suggested that the bull of the bull leaping pictured in the Minoan frescoes is the Minotaur and what the bull does is gore the victims as they are leaping. But there is no reason for the victims to be involved in bull leaping. Bull leaping is a highly skilled activity and there is no motivation to do it if the victims will just get
gored. One possibility is that each victim is tied to the head of the bull. The bull might try to gore the victim quickly just to get it off of its head. Another possibility is that the victims were tied to a stake in the bullring and the dancers enrage the bull until he gored the victims. Most likely is that the bull is the symbol of the Minoan religion and the victims are simply sacrificed in a religious ceremony. It is tempting to think of the eating as having the victims be involved in some sexually oriented religious ceremony
involving one male and one female before they are sacrificed. This possibility seems quite consistent with the ceremonies associated with Dionysus.
To a person deeply imbued in Christian morality the idea of forcing victims to be involved in sex and then killing them is abhorrent and awful. Yet the notion of sacrifice deals with a very basic notion of ritual protection and absolution. As Rene Girard points out the sacrifice goes forward to protect the community by deflecting evil on to the victim. In addition the participants are satisfied in proportion to the horror of the act deflected. We can easily prove that many in our society are very satisfied by gross sex acts that result in death even if the victim is innocent. This is just the point of the pornographic snuff movie. Many in the society reject the Christian morality by pursuing and paying for material which is simply pornographic and in which innocent people are humiliated and hurt. For the same reason it is easy to understand how some ancient people would be satisfied by a ceremony in which persons are forced to have sex and then are killed.
Furthermore there is the notion of fetishism. Originally the term was applied to objects to which primitive peoples have applied magic powers. A wand, a charm, or a potion are examples of this type of object. But a review of current racy literature reveals that it also applied to a sexual situation where an object is used. A dildo, a restraint, a whip, or a clip for the nipples are all part of so-called fetish scenarios. Apparently the term is applied not because of the power of the object on the person to whom it is applied, but rather its power on the viewer of the scene in which the object is used. The problem is that the viewer may be so taken with the object’s power that he may want to make the subject into a victim for his own pleasure. This is relevant to the sacrifice scenario because the victim of the sacrifice is at least constrained similarly to the fetish subject and this victim may be tormented in the sacrifice scenario because in addition to being a scapegoat the victim will tell no tales once sacrificed. The net result is that the activity is satisfying to the viewer regardless of the suffering of the victim. And the tale of the sacrifice is also satisfying.
During the time of classical Greece when the story of Theseus and Ariadne was written down the idea of a sacrifice was to provide a gift to the deity for whom the sacrifice was made. In the case of the 14 children the sacrifice of the children was a gift of the children to the god Dionysus. But this was not always so. In earlier times the meaning of a sacrifice was more like an initiation. In the case of males it was a change from child to warrior and father. In the case of girls it was the change from child to mother. In both cases the initiation was related to marriage. What was sacrificed was the child by being transformed to the adult. You might say the child was killed. Then the adult was born out of the child. This is almost a reincarnation. When the adults are created then they have sexual relations and a baby results. This is an act of fertility. In ancient societies this fertility is related to the fertility of plants and animals upon which the society depends. In ancient societies the death and resurrection were ritualistic but the result, the fertility was real and not necessarily related to a divinity. Later when the death became real and a gift to the deity the fertility was expected to be provided by the deity in return. The fact that 7 boys and 7 girls were provided suggests that some of the earlier notion of initiation remained in the myth, but the fact that the Minotaur ate them indicates they were a gift to please the god Dionysus that the Minotaur represents.
Interestingly the libation or pouring of the liquid as part of the sacrifice was an attempt to provide blood for the old dead soul in order to transform it to the new living soul. This primitive notion was changed into the idea that the liquid was actually a gift to the god as though the god actually liked the blood. Much has been made of the connection of the Minotaur and Dionysus to the Bull images of ancient Minoan times. This represents another change. Most probably the bull represents the force of life and the purpose of the Minoan religion was to perpetuate this life force. The story of the Minotaur has a strong relation to the Bacchanalian worship of Dionysus and so these two are identified. But the true meaning of this identification involves a ghoulish interpretation of a story that originally was intended to promote fertility. The worship of both these creatures involves the unmerciful rending of an animal or individual to satisfy what seems an unholy craving. But originally the process involved the death of an individual in one state and the birth of the individual in another. The rending is a modification of the first stage of the transformation with an epiphany of the god representing the individual in the second state. In this way fertility was assured.
The question is not whether Theseus and the other 13 children were going to be tortured and victimized, but rather how this would happen. Part of the appeal of the story of Theseus is imagining what might have happened to the children had Theseus not saved them. In addition to being eaten alive they could have been gored to death, cooked to death in a bronze coffin, or just stabbed and had their blood drained. The ancient Myths of Ariadne usually start with the arrival of Theseus and the other children on the Island of Crete. These children have been sent by Athens to Minos as tribute in recognition of his awesome military power and because his son died while on a mission to Athens. There are 14 children in all, seven boys and seven Girls.
The way they were chosen is also interesting. The available literature sometimes states that Minos actually chose the victims. If he did not at least an emissary must have. In either event it is unlikely the Athenians would be allowed to pick else the Minoans would have received the castoffs of Athenian society. At the very least the Minoans needed individuals who could function in a fertility ceremony. This would require pretty healthy children. And if they were not handsome the ceremony would suffer. So what was needed was a beauty contest like the one involved in the judgment of Paris. Because of the requirements the children must have been displayed in the nude. It would have been easy then for Athena to insert Hyacinth among the victims because she would have been easily chosen for her looks.
Athena needed help with this adventure so she paid Hyacinth a visit the same night after Pasiphae had returned her. When Hyacinth learned that she was to be a victim of the Minotaur she became a bit concerned. What if they did not defeat the Minotaur as planned. Athena appealed to her by saying that great deeds often required great risks and that the liberation of Athens was worth the risk. Athens would soon provide a foundation for liberty around the world. Hyacinth noted that the world would have to wait another 2000 years for this to come to fruition but it probably was worth the sacrifice. Many others also took this risk for so worthy a cause. So Hyacinth decided to go with Athena. Once again she had to strip herself of all her encumbrances and climb nude onto Athena’s back.
When they arrived in Athens it was early morning and they appeared in the corner of a market square before the vendors had set up. Soon a cloth merchant arrived and Athena purchased for Hyacinth a rectangle of cloth that would serve her both as a peplos and as a blanket and would be her only covering on her trip to Crete. This was not the fashionable dress of the time but it was very practical. In the center of the square a stage was set up. It was here that the girls would be judged. Soon girls began arriving and removing their clothes. Then they lined up on the stage. Athena put Hyacinth among them. As soon as the emissary arrived he began having the girls turn around, bend over, raise their arms, show him their teeth, and other activities that would help him decide. The girls were very somber and embarrassed. Of this batch only one girl was chosen and it was Hyacinth. While the other girls tried to console her, Athena handed her the material and she was taken to the waiting ship. There she found three other girls tearfully waiting for the ride to Crete. She tried to console them but there was not too much she could do without giving herself away.
Before the day was out the rest of the children were in place. They were to sail the next morning so they had to spend the night with the ship. They ate a meal prepared by the sailors right on the beach and when the meal was done they were instructed to sleep on the sand. All Hyacinth had to cover her was that single piece of material, but the other children were no differently supplied. Hyacinth slept well and was awakened by the sound of sailors preparing the ship to sail. It was one of those ships with twenty oars and a single sail. Because there was a wind no one needed to row. Perhaps 15 sailors would accompany the children because they would bring the ship back. Prevailing winds would dictate that rowing would be more likely on the return trip.
The trip to Crete was a somber affair because the children assumed the worst. Only one of the boys remained cheerful. This, of course, was Theseus. He had been in difficult positions before and had always prevailed. Hyacinth was able to talk only a little with the other children but because they were so preoccupied with their own thoughts they took no notice of her. In those days the trip was a two-day affair with an overnight stop on the island of Naxos. Naxos was preferred because of ample water and a fine beach. The ship was actually pulled upon the beach at night while the passengers and crew slept on the beach. After they arrived they had sort of a beach party where food was prepared and served from provisions on the ship. After the meal they told stories long into the night. They were pleased that Hyacinth could tell so many stories of the gods and goddesses. At such a time these stories were very consoling.
One of the girls confided to Hyacinth that her family was very poor so she had not got to hear very many stories. One of her cousins had told her that at their house a bard came at least once a week to tell the family stories after the evening meal. In her family her father was an invalid who could only paint pottery. She had to cook while her mother made and fired the pots at her husband’s direction. The other four children helped with the
crops. They had a house with several rooms and a courtyard, but that she had spent all her time in the courtyard. In all the years of her short life she never left her house and now when she gets a chance to see the world she is going to be eaten alive by a monster. Hyacinth was quick to ask how her family was going to get along without her cooking.
Another girl was from a rich family and she would have become a priestess. Priestesses could go where they wanted and pretty much do what they wanted. Their only obligation was to perform ceremonies at infrequent festivals. They could make a lot of money by consulting and casting spells. If they were any good at forecasting the future they cold make even more money. With the money she could go to the market and buy jewelry, silks, and fancy hairdos. With a little luck she would be invited to some great parties. But instead of all this she was going to be eaten alive by a monster. This is not what she hoped for.
Meanwhile the Cretans were preparing for their arrival. The arrival of the children from Athens formed part of the most important festival in Crete that culminated in a magnificent pageant in the Labyrinth. The Minotaur was the focus of this festival and he represented the culmination of the Minoan Religion. The sacrifice of the children to the Minotaur certainly represented the domination of this religion over the whole Aegean region. Another part of the festival would be the selection of the queen who would eventually become the mate of the Minotaur. The sexual union of the Queen and the Minotaur would assure the fertility of the crops for the coming year. The queen would then become a priestess of the Minoan religion. The selection of the queen involved another beauty contest. But this one was anything but humiliating. All the Minoan girls of the right age were eager to participate because they could dress in their finest clothes and show off. The young men of the community would attend the showings and they would be able to meet the girls they liked. The showings were repeated until the most beautiful girl in the land was chosen. This year Ariadne would be able to participate. She and her mother looked forward to the event with great excitement. Ariadne had to participate in numerous showings as she competed with successively more beautiful girls. Finally it was time for the last showing with the ten most beautiful girls in the land. Fortunately Ariadne was a goddess and perfectly beautiful and was easily selected.
Ariadne then had to participate in a number of rituals and processions as were suitable to her position. One of her duties was to greet the children from Athens, as they were to be part of her retinue. This was not a particularly cordial event as the children were little better than slaves whose days were numbered. Yet she needed to meet them so she could use them to best advantage. When news of the arrival of the ship from Athens came she went down to meet the ship. She was there to watch them come down the gangplank. They were a pretty somber lot. She was surprised that not all of the faces wore frowns. She also noticed that these two had that special glow that meant that they were favored by a deity. She was puzzled by this.
Ariadne had to perofom and initiation ceremony of each of the children. Each of the children was stripped and stung up in turn at a propylon – a gate marked by two columns. There she had to whack them with a special wand that would gurantee fertility. She noticed their reaction and judged their fitness for further participation. This also gave her an opportunity to talk privately to the children if she so desired.
First she introduced herself to Hyacinth. She was cool but she was quite surprised at what Hyacinth said to her. “I know you. I helped your mother get pregnant with you. In fact I am your godmother, Hyacinth.” Pasiphae had told Ariadne of her godmother and Ariadne was shocked that this girl knew of these things. How could a girl her own age be her godmother? And yet she knew the name of her godmother. It is not a good idea to get too close to a victim because you will be sadly touched by their loss. And yet Hyacinth was already very close. After finding out about each other the conversation turned to the other child that did not seem that unhappy. Was he some other relative of Ariadne? Hyacinth said he was not, but she knew what else to say. She described how brave and handsome he was and how suitable he would be as a mate compared to some silly half-bull. Soon Ariadne had to talk to Theseus herself. Hyacinth had prepared Ariadne so that once Theseus was standing nude in front of Ariadne she was entirely captivated. Some say that it was Aphrodite who brought to Ariadne but in fact it was Athena through Hyacinth.
Soon Ariadne could think of nothing else besides Theseus. How would she free the children so that she could have Theseus all to herself? There was nothing she could do now because there were so many people around looking forward to the big celebration in the Labyrinth. But Ariadne knew that the children would be taken to the Labyrinth and left there overnight with the Minotaur. She had an idea. She would go to Daedelus to bind out how the children could escape the Labyrinth. He had designed the Labyrinth and he had been friendly to her before. It was he that suggested to her the ball of string. This was the so-called thread of Ariadne. She gave this ball to Theseus, so that he could use it to find his way out of the labyrinth. It is a proverbial symbol of the principle that guides learning and knowledge.
It was imperative for the children to be virgin when they were sacrificed. This did not mean that they had no sexual experience. It meant rather no Cretan had a love claim on them. Once a person had a love claim it was too likely that the lover would seek vengeance if the object of their love were killed. The whole purpose of a sacrifice of reducing violence by diverting it would be destroyed. For this reason the children would have to be moved in secret, probably in a closed sedan chair so they would have no opportunity to socialize. The sedan chair seems to have been the main mode of transportation for the upper class in spite of the fact that there are few, if any illustrations of them. Interestingly there are few men, if any available on the Cretan mainland. Most of the men were at sea trading and controlling the sea-lanes. The royal slaves that carried the sedan chairs would have been petite girls with hourglass figures, black curly hair, and not a stitch of clothes because they were royal slaves. Ariadne probably had retainers with her to enforce her orders but they may have been women dressed like Amazons and fully armed.
Ariadne herself would have been dressed in a vest that revealed her nude breast and a flounced and fluffy skirt that was pulled tightly at her waist by a girdle band. The nude slaves carrying the sedan chairs containing the children, followed by Ariadne’s retainers would then proceed to the Labyrinth where they would be secretly unloaded. The Cretans were fond of ritual so a ritual was involved her as well. The proceedings would have to await Ariadne, the queen of the Labyrinth. It was during the preparations for this event
that Ariadne passed the string to Theseus. What happened next was well described by Homer: “Hereon there danced youths and maidens whom all would woo, with their hands on one another’s wrists. The maidens wore robes of light linen, and the youths well-woven shirts that were slightly oiled. The girls were crowned with garlands, while the young men had daggers of gold
that hung by silver baldrics; sometimes they would dance deftly in a ring with merry twinkling feet, as it were a potter sitting at his work and making trial of his wheel to see whether it will run, and sometimes they would go all in line with one another, and much people was gathered joyously about the green. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them when the man struck up with his tune.” (Iliad, (Book XVIII)
What the Labyrinth was is not at all clear from the ancient myths. The oldest myths describe it as a dance floor, even grassy. It is the later myths that describe it as a maze. The most likely interpretation is that the dance floor was surrounded by the palace at Knossos. As the palace evolved the structures surrounding the dance floor became more elaborate and the passages to get to the dance floor became more circuitous. This added to the maze idea. In addition the dances performed were line dances and could have followed maze patterns on the floor. The children would have to be confined to apartments adjacent to the dance floor if they were to be available for sacrifice and this led to the notion of the labyrinth being a place of confinement. The Minotaur may have been a bull headed monster, he could have been a person with a mask, or he could have been a bull but in any case he was close to the children after they arrived.
The Minotaur may not have literally eaten the children. More likely is that he required them to participate in various festivals. He may have even required them to perform various sexual acts to promote fertility at the festivals. But eventually they were the victims of a human sacrifice. In this way it was that anyone who entered the Labyrinth never escaped.
Just how Ariadne felt hostility against the Minotaur is not hard to figure either. Judging from what happened later the best explanation of her situation is that her father had arranged her marriage to her half-brother the Minotaur. It is easy to understand that Ariadne did not like the idea of an arranged marriage. So she felt she should scuttle the object of her displeasure. This fit very well into the plans of Athena.
With the help of Athena, Ariadne, and the other children, Theseus was easily able to kill the Minotaur. What he and Ariadne did not know was that he had killed a god that was to be reborn anew. By using the thread provided by Ariadne Theseus led the children out of the Labyrinth. Ariadne then provided them their clothes and took them to their ship. The only reason that the ship was available is because it took time to make preparations for the trip home. All boarded the ship in a celebratory mood.
The ship set sail with the fifteen sailors, fourteen children, and Ariadne. Hyacinth knew that Ariadne would fall in love with Theseus. But she also knew that he would not be able to carry her to Athens. Ariadne was so beautiful that Theseus did not want to give her up. Hyacinth explained that she had been chosen to be the mate of Dionysus. Theseus would not do well if he was to cross Dionysus. He might even be torn to pieces. Theseus finally came around to Hyacinth’s view. At that time the ship was off the island of Naxos. What Theseus did was a surprise to Hyacinth. He ripped off Ariadne’s gown that he had given her and tossed her overboard. Her beautiful nude body
could be seen sinking into the waves as the ship passed the island. Hyacinth was not concerned because she knew Ariadne would be all right but she thought Theseus was abrupt and violent. Had Ariadne responded as a goddess she might have taken revenge on Theseus. But she had been raised as a mortal and responded as a mortal. This was important to keep in mind for the events that followed.
Ariadne was shocked by what happened. She knew that what she had done was bad because her brother had been killed. She also knew that leaving her family was bad because she had disappointed her father and mother and severed communication. She loved Theseus and she had been thinking about what life would be like with him. It was bad enough to be dumped by a lover but she had been dumped in the sea without any clothing. This was very humiliating. All she could think about was her humiliation. It was bad enough to think about what would happen on the shore but how would she explain this to her mother. There was the double humiliation of trusting Theseus and then realizing what a poor judge of human nature she was. She was so humiliated that she began crying. She cried so hard that she had no sense of what was going on around her.
What the people on the ship did not know was that the inhabitants of the island of Naxos were celebrating a very important event. The people of Naxos did not yet know that the Minotaur had been slain. But they were aware of a difficult state in the world. So they got together and began praying. They were so devout in their payer that an epiphany occurred. What they had done was bring to life the dead Minotaur as Dionysus. The god that appeared before them was Dionysus himself reborn. They were delighted so they planned a suitable celebration for the new god. And altar was set up, the stage was set, and food began to be prepared. Finally two young men were assigned to find a suitable sacrifice victim. As it happened they wandered toward the beach. There on the beach lay the nude Ariadne washed up by the waves. They approached her and wondered if she was still alive.
When they got very close it was obvious that she must be alive because she was crying. They remarked at her beautiful body and complexion and gently inquired of her name. The only response that she gave was to cry. They looked at each other. Her was a very suitable sacrifice victim. They had hoped for a rabbit or perhaps a deer, but a nubile young woman would be the best possible sacrifice victim. She seemed to have come in from the sea so they doubted anyone on Naxos would know her and so there was no possibility of revenge. Her distressed state indicated that it would not be difficult to prepare her for sacrifice. In fact she might just lie there waiting for the priests knife. This would prevent an ugly scene during the sacrifice. So without any further ado they picked her nude body up and carried her to the altar that had been prepared.
Ariadne was laid upon the altar and continued crying. She made a beautiful offering and just lay there. The ceremonies began. Well-dressed dignitaries formed a procession that led to the altar while the common people lined up in rows before the altar. A chorus sang beautiful music. A pair of priestess held bowls to catch the blood as it poured from the throat of Ariadne. Finally the priest raised his dagger and plunged it into Ariadne’s waiting throat. Then something horrible happened. No blood came forth. Instead it was a pale liquid almost like water. Nothing like this had ever happened. They shrank back in horror. They screamed and they hollered. They made enough commotion to raise the dead. So naturally they attracted the attention of Dionysus. He came and observed what had happened. The worshippers apologized profusely and pointed at Ariadne. What Dionysus saw was his own sister and betrothed. He rushed to her side and lifted her up. The bleeding stopped and she regained consciousness. As a goddess she was in no danger of dying. When a goddess is stabbed she bleeds ichor and not blood. And her wound heals quickly and she recovers. Rather than being mad at the worshippers he thanked them. It was they that had brought him to his beloved. They were stunned but quickly congratulated themselves on their good luck.
Today many people equate Dionysus with licentiousness and the Devil. This is quite wrong. The ancient Greeks had no concept of the devil. Every deity was capable of good and evil. But in general evil arose because the deity lived outside of time. Deities work out a divine plan, which they understand but is beyond the understanding of man. Sometimes this plan results in pleasure for man and sometimes pain. Whatever causes pain is considered evil. Dionysus is the god of life and its continuation. He is thus the god of the experience of life, both the good and the bad. He is the god of tragedy and comedy. That he is called the god of the vine is only a tribute to the importance of wine in the lives of some people. He provides the opportunity for drunkenness but he does not require it. He provides the opportunity for orgiastic behavior but he does not require it. These things are just experiences that are part of life.
The Minotaur can be equated with Dionysus and he was killed. But death and rebirth are part of the continuity of life. And it is the women who are involved with the birthing process who call for Dionysus to be born again. Because of the birthing process women are more sensitive to the experience of life. Women on Naxos called for him soon after he had died. By the time Ariade arrived at Naxos the women had provided him a throne from which he could rule. Once he was enthroned the celebration could begin.
Theseus and the children returned to Athens. Sadly Aegeus, the king, misinterpreted the color of the sail of the ship and thought the children had been killed. He was so distraught he committed suicide by jumping from a high wall into the sea. For this reason the sea was name the Aegean Sea. The other citizens waited and feted the children when they found them alive. Theseus became king and the other children went home to their families. All except Hyacinth who went to the temple of Athena and lay down next to the altar nude on the material Athena had provided. Hyacinth quickly fell asleep and was transported to her own time. In spite of the fact that she spent 5 days in ancient times the goddesses only
disturbed her dreams for a single night.
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