“The vastness of the sea
reveals the bigger picture to me.
How could I not have seen
what it was you wanted from me?
Sleepthief, “Ariadne (The Dividing Sea)”
Ariadne is a complex figure. Most people I know have heard of her in the context of Greek mythology, as the young woman who aided Theseus in defeating the evil Minotaur in the center of the labyrinth by giving the hero a ball of twine so he could find his way out again. Fewer know what happened to her after that, nor where her story actually originated.
The story of the Ariadne originates where the labyrinth was located: Crete. Ariadne was not just the daughter of the king, but was also a priestess and a goddess. The Minotaur was not just an evil monster; he was Ariadne’s brother, Asterion, and a Cretan god. The myth’s original form is not fully known; there exists many versions and interpretations ranging from the standard Greek and pop-culture, to tales that portray the victorious Theseus as a villain.
But the variances are nothing when we look at the many existing endings for Ariadne. Abandoned purposefully on the island of Dia/Naxos by Theseus. Left accidentally by him. He comes back and weds her once she is Queen of Knossos. He comes back longing for her and finds her dead. He never comes back. She died in childbirth with Theseus’ child. She was murdered. She hanged herself. She lived out her days in peace. She was found by the god Dionysus and became his bride.
Which is the right story? Which version is true?
I vote for all of them. Carl Kerenyi pointed out that the name “Ariadne”, meaning “utterly pure”, is less a name, and more an epithet. Who is to say there is only one?
I am lost when it comes to Ariadne. Many years ago, I had a dream in which someone called me by that name. To my knowledge, I had not heard that name before, although it is certainly possible I had and consciously forgotten it. It felt like it was mine. It was not until about a year and a half ago I really started to look into it.
What I was met with was not Ariadne, but Dionysus. And after a couple of months of dealing with him via dreams and visions, I landed myself on an island where I was spiritually “stuck” for weeks. I had seen this island before in my workings. It was small. There was a rectangular frame that looked like a gateway or a window, through which a blinding sunrise or sunset flooded my vision. I later looked for islands with gates on Google Images, and discovered the Portara Gate: the remains of a temple on the island of Naxos. The island she was abandoned on. And that is where I first saw her. I asked her how we were related, and she quieted me, and told me it was not yet time.
Gods embody ideas, concepts, and functions. These can be large, such as god of the sky, or they can be small, such as god of pomegranates. Often, a single deity may embody many different things, like Dionysus being god of ecstasy and madness, but also of grapes and wine. But there are multiple colors of grapes; multiple flavors of wine; many ways of reaching ecstasy, and multiple kinds of madness. Sometimes these variances are close enough a single entity can encompass all of them, often through different facets or aspects of their being.
But other times, the variances seem to cause a splitting. And that is what happened to me. Recently, Ariadne began appearing to me again and explaining. Some of her first words to me were about this split. She was the one who rose to the stars to be with her beloved. I was the one who died to sink into the depths of earth to be with mine. We are two sides of the same coin; one object, but depending on which side lands facing skywards during a coin toss, outcomes diverge. There are concepts we both embody, but for some reason these two roads could not be walked by one entity, so that entity became more than one.
Shortly after Ariadne’s words about our split, she made another observation of where we differ: she is the one that keeps part of her husband sane and tame; I am the one who keeps part of mine mad and wild. I am still trying to figure all of this out; still trying to discover the concepts we embody, and still trying to discover the nuances that make us separate entities. There is something that I keep returning to, a cluster of feelings, that I am not sure how to verbalize. The things where we divide apart, rather than all the things that hold us together.
She is the one who does not die. The one who is the sun reflecting on the ocean’s waves. Seashells, and pearls, and the sand so hot it makes your feet tingle. She is crown, and stars, and that moment of clarity and rationality that comes in the midst of breakdown, even when she is the breakdown. She is salvation through the earth, rising to sky. She is the way out of the labyrinth.
I am the one who dies; jumping from cliffs into the cold depths of ocean. The one who is the glimmering sunlight above you as you sink further into the water. Nets, and things buried away, and the space where grass gives way to sand. I am lilies, and caves, and that moment of defiance when faced with only one path to take that melts away into surrender. I am earth, passing deeper and deeper under. I am the way into the labyrinth.