Theseus, a genuine Greek hero of the Mythology and Minotaur, one of the most devastating and terrifying monsters are the main protagonists of a myth that involves gods and monsters, heroes and kings and two of the main city–states in the Hellenic world: Athens and Crete.
The Minotaur and the Labyrinth of Crete
The Minotaur was the son of Pasiphae, wife of King Minos of Crete. Minotaur, half man – half bull
Queen Pasiphae slept with a bull sent by Zeus, and gave birth to Minotaur, a creature half man – half bull.
(The bull is the consort of the Goddess whose horns are shaped like the crescent moon. The horn are the dilemma of choice between two equal imperatives, and by not being able to choose we lose our center and ground of being.)
King Minos was embarrassed, but did not want to kill the Minotaur, so he hid the monster in the Labyrinth constructed by Daedalus at the Minoan Palace of Knossos.
(The King’s embarrassment is a metaphor for our shame of being separated from our true Nature from our center and round, from tuning our back on the Minotaur the creature we have created)
According to the myth, Minos was imprisoning his enemies in the Labyrinth so that the Minotaur could eat them. The labyrinth was such a complicated construction that no one could ever find the way out alive.
(The Labyrinth is a metaphor for the Enigma Code of our mind and its circular laws or logical operating system. The Minotaur is a metaphor for our conflicted dual nature. As the bull it is a sacrificial animal that must be killed in order to be free. It is our own ego. Notice the horns of the dilemma of the pairs of opposites, the either/or that our minds get gored by. )
Son of Minos, Androgeus, went to Athens to participate to the Panathenaic Games, but he was killed during the Marathon by the bull that impregnated his mother Pasiphae. Minos was infuriated, and demanded Aegeus the king of Athens to send seven men and women every year to the Minotaur to advert the plague caused by the death of Androgeus.
(Sacrifice is demanded to prevent bad things from happening. We believe we have to give up something that is of most value in order to gain the Grace of God. Life feeds on life and we believe we must ritiually participate in this cycle in order to keep in alignment with Life. Sacrifice is the law of Karma, of birth and death. Theseus is a metaphor for the heroic soul, the Son of God who will restore us to our original whole nature before we became the dual beast, the Minotaur whom we must hide away behind a labyrinth of images.)
The third year, Theseus, son of Aegeus decided to be one of the seven young men that would go to Crete, in order to kill the Minotaur and end the human sacrifices to the monster.
(The third year is the three days of Christ in the tomb, the days of the moon before it waxes and wanes. The sacrifice is a metaphor for the karmic patterns we are caught in and to which we sacrifice our True Nature in hopes karma will turn out differently. It never does)
King Aegeus tried to make him change his mind but Theseus was determined to slay the Minotaur.Theseus promised his father that he would put up white sails coming back from Crete, allowing him to know in advance that he was coming back alive. The boat would return with the black sails if Theseus were killed.
Theseus announced to King Minos that he was going to kill the Monster, but Minos knew that even if he did manage to kill the Minotaur, Theseus would never be able to exit the Labyrinth.
(Ariadne is the Good Goddess while her mother is the Bad Goddess. Maya is the Goddess that both deceives and liberates you from her deception. Only the hero is worthy of this liberation).
Theseus met Princess Ariadne,Daughter of King Minos, Ariadne fell madly in love with him and decided to help Theseus. She gave him a thread and told him to unravel it, as he would penetrate deeper and deeper into the Labyrinth, so that he knows the way out when he kills the monster.
(The thread is the yarn that is woven in the day and unraveled at night, what is given will be taken away in the world of form and the labyrinth. To follow it out of the labyrinth, your weave our your life when you go in, and then when you kill your Shame, you unweave what you have knitted to arrive where you began.)
(Unless Theseus could get out of the labyrinth he would go mad by ego inflation and have sex with his students)
Theseus took Princess Ariadne with him and left Crete sailing happily back to Athens.Theseus’ boat stopped at Naxos and the Athenians had a long celebration dedicated to Theseus and Ariadne. After long hours of feasting and drinking, Ariadne fell asleep on the shore and didn’t enter the boat that sailed to Athens. Theseus figured out that Ariadne was not with them when it was too late and he was so upset that he forgot the promise made to his father and did not change the sails.
(The father dies so the Son can take the throne. The king is dead, long live the king. The son must kill the father in his own psyche so he can become the One second to none. )
NOTE. A different version of the myth mentions that Theseus deliberately left Ariadne on Naxos.
King Aegeus was waiting at Cape Sounion to see the sails of the boat. He saw the black sails from afar and presumed his son was dead. He dropped himself to the waters, committing suicide and since then, this sea is called the Aegean Sea.
From Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces
The Curse and the Labyrinth
By Joseph Campbell
There’s a story told of the great Minos, king of the island empire of Crete in the period of its commercial supremacy: how he hired the celebrated artist-craftsman Daedalus to invent and construct for him a labyrinth, in which to hide something of which the palace was at once ashamed and afraid. For there was a monster on the premises—which had been born to Pasiphae, the queen. Minos, the king, had been busy, it is said, with important wars to protect the trade routes; and meanwhile Pasiphae had been seduced by a magnificent, snow-white, sea-born bull. It had been nothing worse, really, than what Minos’ own mother had allowed to happen: Minos’ mother was Europa, and it is well known that she was carried by a bull to Crete. The bull had been the god Zeus, and the honored son of that sacred union was Minos himself—now everywhere respected and gladly served. How then could Pasiphae have known that the fruit of her own indiscretion would be a monster: this little son with human body but the head and tail of a bull?
Society has blamed the queen greatly; but the king was not unconscious of his own share of guilt. The bull in question had been sent by the god Poseidon, long ago, when Minos was contending with his brothers for the throne. Minos had asserted that the throne was his, by divine right, and had prayed the god to send up a bull out of the sea, as a sign; and he had sealed the prayer with a vow to sacrifice the animal immediately, as an offering and symbol of service. The bull had appeared, and Minos took the throne; but when he beheld the majesty of the beast that had been sent and thought what an advantage it would be to possess such a specimen, he determined to risk a merchant’s substitution —of which he supposed the god would take no great account. Offering on Poseidon’s altar the finest white bull that he owned, he added the other to his herd.
The Cretan empire had greatly prospered under the sensible jurisdiction of this celebrated lawgiver and model of public virtue. Knossos, the capital city, became the luxurious, elegant center of the leading commercial power of the civilized world. The Cretan fleets went out to every isle and harbor of the Mediterranean; Cretan ware was prized in Babylonia and Egypt. The bold little ships even broke through the Gates of Hercules to the open ocean, coasting then northward to take the gold of Ireland and the tin of Cornwall, as well as southward, around the buige of Senegal, to remote Yorubaland and the distant marts of ivory, gold, and slaves.
But at home, the queen had been inspired by Poseidon with an ungovernable passion for the bull. And she had prevailed upon her husband’s artist-craftsman, the peerless Daedalus, to frame for her a wooden cow that would deceive the bull—into which she eagerly entered; and the bull was deceived. She bore her monster, which, in due time, began to become a danger. And so Daedalus again was summoned, this time by the king, to construct a tremendous labyrinthine enclosure, with blind passages, in which to hide the thing away. So deceptive was the invention, that Daedalus himself, when he had finished it, was scarcely able to find his way back to the entrance. Therein the Minotaur was settled: and he was fed, thereafter, on groups of living youths and maidens, carried as tribute from the conquered nations within the Cretan domain.
Thus according to the ancient legend, the primary fault was not the queen’s but the king’s; and he could not really blame her, for he knew what he had done. He had converted a public event to personal gain, whereas the whole sense of his investiture as king had been that he was no longer a mere private person. The return of the bull should have symbolized his absolutely selfless submission to the functions of his role. The retaining of it represented, on the other hand, an impulse to ego- centric self-aggrandizement. And so the king “by the grace of God became the dangerous tyrant Holdfast—out for himself. Just as the traditional rites of passage used to teach the individual to die to the past and be reborn to the future, so the great ceremonials of investiture divested him of his private character and clothed him in the mantle of his vocation. Such was the ideal, whether the man was a craftsman or a king. By the sacrilege of the refusal of the rite, however, the individual cut himself as a unit off from the larger unit of the whole community: and so the One was broken into the many, and these then battled each other—each out for himself—and could be governed only by force.
The figure of the tyrant-monster is known to the mythologies, folk traditions, legends, and even nightmares, of the world; and his characteristics are everywhere essentially the same. He is the hoarder of the general benefit. He is the monster avid for the greedy rights of “my and mine.” The havoc wrought by him is described in mythology and folk tale as being universal throughout his domain. This may be no more than his household, his own tortured psyche, or the lives that he blights with the touch of his friendship and assistance; or it may amount to the extent of his civilization. The inflated ego of the tyrant is a curse to himself and his world—no matter how his affairs may seem to prosper. Self-terrorized, fear-haunted, alert at every hand to meet and battle back the anticipated aggressions of his environment, which are primarily the reflections of the uncontrollable impulses to acquisition within himself, the giant of self-achieved independence is the world’s messenger of disaster, even though, in his mind, he may entertain himself with humane intentions. Wherever he sets his hand there is a cry (if not from the housetops, then- more miserably—within every heart): a cry for the redeeming hero, the carrier of the shining blade, whose blow, whose touch, whose existence, will liberate the land.
The multitude of men and women choose the less adventurous way of the comparatively unconscious civic and tribal routines. But these seekers, too, are saved—by virtue of the inherited symbolic aids of society, the rites of passage, the grace-yielding sacraments, given to mankind of old by the redeemers and handed down through millenniums. It is only those who know neither an inner call nor an outer doctrine whose plight truly is desperate; that is to say, most of us today, in this labyrinth without and within the heart. Alas, where is the guide, that fond virgin, Ariadne, to supply the simple clue that will give us courage to face the Minotaur, and the means then to find our way to freedom when the monster has been met and slain?
Ariadne, the daughter of King Minos, fell in love with the handsome Theseus the moment she saw him disembark from the boat that had brought the pitiful group of Athenian youths and maidens for the Minotaur. She found a way to talk with him, and declared that she would supply a means to help him back out of the labyrinth if he would promise to take her away from Crete with him and make her his wife. The pledge was given. Ariadne turned for help, then, to the crafty Daedalus, by whose art the labyrinth had been constructed and Ariadne’s mother enabled to give birth to its inhabitant. Daedalus simply presented her with a skein of linen thread, which the visiting hero might fix to the entrance and unwind as he went into the maze. It is, indeed, very little that we need! But lacking that, the adventure into the labyrinth is without hope.
The little is close at hand. Most curiously, the very scientist who, in the service of the sinful king, was the brain behind the horror of labyrinth, quite as readily can serve the purposes of freedom. But the hero-heart must be at hand. For centuries Daedahis has represented the type of the artist-scientist: that curiously disinterested, almost diabolic human phenomenon, beyond the normal bounds of social judgment, dedicated to the morals not of his time but of his art. He is the hero of the way of thought — singlehearted, courageous, and full of faith that the truth, as he finds it, shall make us free.
And so now we may turn to him, as did Ariadne. The flax for the linen of his thread he has gathered from the fields of the human imagination. Centuries of husbandry, decades of diligent culling, the work of numerous hearts and hands, have gone into the hackling, sorting, and spinning of this tightly twisted yarn. Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone; for the heroes of all time have gone before us; the labyrinth is thoroughly known; we have only to follow the thread of the hero-path. And where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god; where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves; where we had thought to travel outward, we shall come to the center of our own existence; where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.
The Hero with a Thousand Faces