Thursday, 5 July 2018

Witchlines: Ariadne Wakes

The second unit of Witchlines has been leading us into the wild places of myth, where, as Sylvia Linsteadt says, ‘we will attempt to unravel the weave of patriarchy from three old stories, and examine what we are left with—a luminous spool of gold extending back through the ages’.

The first tale we explored is that of Ariadne and the Minotaur, and here is my first creative piece. In it, Ariadne wakes on the island of Dia, and tells us what she remembers of the labyrinth, the Minotaur, Theseus, and Dionysus.

Ariadne Wakes

The salt-hiss of the sea. The scent of flowers. Cold skin cradled by sand, and unyielding stone; then warmed by the rising sun, and the touch of a hand that caresses my brow. I emerge from sleep.
I do not know where I am. I do not remember.
Only … the darkness, the torches. The laughter as the maidens and youths danced, stepping briskly, swaying and clapping. The young men taking the hands of the girls, sweeping them on, hands clasped, arms entwined, fingers touching fingers. Smiling faces on the verge of knowing. 
Inwards they circled, through the gloom of the deepening evening, all radiant in the firelight—heads garlanded with leaves and flowers, bodies lithe and moonlit. The dance spiralled, curved in on itself, like a bull’s horn, twisting, turning. And in the very centre I stood with him—masked and horned. He was like an old bull—huge and hairy, with staring black eyes—and we stood there, side by side, under the moon, waiting for the ecstatic dancers to reach us, to find the way.
It was the most beautiful of the youths who came first, unwinding the golden thread I had spun, the thread that binds all, that ties us to the earth, that we dance with, over, under and through; and with the sword I had given him, glittering like copper under the moon, the young man took the horn of the bull in his fist and slit the taurine throat. 
What happened next is a blur of red and dancing limbs. An intoxicating fall into darkness. A sleep of death.
Until I am awoken by the sun, by a man’s hand, by a warmth that fills me up after the cold blackness of night.
I open my eyes, and on the horizon, just slipping over the edge, is a ship. It means nothing to me that I can remember; for here, by my side, is the bull—horned as ever, but now a young calf, with a soft muzzle and wild, kind eyes. The fragrance of spring flowers enfolds me.
I do not know where I am. But I know I am where I am meant to be—with him—shining in the morning sun.

I feel reborn.

Europe Dancing by Bulgarian artist, Emilia Bayer (Source: Wikimedia Commons)


  1. oooh, this is an interesting and complex spin on this old tale... and i like it. i always felt rather sorry for ariadne, used and discarded by theseus; and sorry too, a bit, for the minotaur. this is much more satisfying...

    1. Yes, I wanted to make it far more positive for Ariadne. And in the readings I detected the hint of a link between the Minotaur and Dionysus—both being associated with bulls, and stars (or brightness). Since Dionysus is the 'vegetation god', who must die and be resurrected each year, I decided that the sacrifice of the Minotaur was in fact Dionysus' own death, in a way, and the event that would lead Ariadne to find him, and her rightful place.

  2. Lovely writing. I've always loved this old tale, and when I was young I felt so sorry for Ariadne, but as I grew older and deeper into mythology, I understood she had the best happy ever after anyone could want.

    1. Thank you, Sarah.

      It's interesting. There are a few different endings to the story, some much worse for Ariadne than others. But seeing as we are trying to delve beneath the patriarchal layers to see where, perhaps, the beliefs and iconography have originated, I wanted to create a more positive spin on things. Theseus is, after all, a later insertion into the tale, so I saw him more as a means to an end, than a crucial character. Ariadne, as the Lady of the Labyrinth/Underworld, is always meant to end up with Dionysus.


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