Introduction to the Labyrinth-part 3
The Divine Feminine and the Labyrinth
The Labyrinth is an archetype of the Divine Feminine. It has long been associated with ancient Mother Goddesses,the womb, a serpent, a regenerative place of death and rebirth and of transformation. Women who have been oppressed by patriarchy need to have a safe space within which to heal and reclaim their power. The Labyrinth provides that space, leading to a collective healing for all women. The Labyrinth conjures up many different and varied analogies that encompass the Sacred Feminine.
One common image is the Labyrinth as womb of the Great Mother. The entrance, which we can refer to as the labia, is a threshold, protects the sacred space within from the harshness of the outer world. The gentle back and forth motion of the walker reproduces the floating sensations experienced in the womb.
The center of the Labyrinth offers a safe space for transformation and rebirth. We may die to old beliefs and/or old patterns which may cause discomfort. The center of the Labyrinth is a nurturing environment in which to experience the struggles of growth and rebirth. It is also the place of pure, raw potential.
As we leave the warmth of the womb, we follow the path of the birth canal back out to the world. We may feel as vulnerable as a newborn. It can take time to integrate our newly created self. But we can return to the Labyrinth to renew any time, and once more feel Her embrace.
Another analogy we can use has the Labyrinth corresponding to the phases of the moon. At the entrance, we are in light. The path toward the center is like the path of the waning moon. Each step takes us deeper into ourselves. Like Inanna, we cast off parts of ourselves, until we arrive, naked, at the center, the place of the Dark Moon. This is a place of stillness, we remain dormant, until it is time to leave. The journey out corresponds to the waxing moon. Our light grows stronger and brighter, each step bringing us closer to full, until we emerge into the world.
The analogy, offered by Sig Lonegren, likens the Labyrinth to Cerridwen’s cauldron. As we walk the meandering path, we mimic the stirring of the cauldron. We may stir up stuff that has settled on the bottom, forgotten or denied. These can be old emotional wounds, recurring issues we’ve ignored or other matters that are needing to be looked at. We can allow these issues to rise to the surface as we walk. When we explore them honestly and with compassion, profound healing can occur.
The Labyrinth can experienced as a coiled serpent, and the act of walking uncoils the snake, freeing up blocked energy and allowing Kundalini to flow. We may also look at the coiled snake as potential energy. The act of walking raises energy which can then be directed toward healing, magick or sending out positive energies.
The Labyrinth can be utilized as a container to hold women’s stories, a space for women to gather in order to reclaim their power. The Labyrinth can be a place for collective healing of all women through the ages, as well as the personal healing that each of us needs. Often both types of healing occur at the same time.
The center of the Labyrinth is the realm of the Dark Goddess, the Primeval Void, Sloth Woman. It is a place where women can explore the parts of themselves that have remained in the shadows, often as a result of the oppression women experience within patriarchal culture. When we enter the Labyrinth with intent, we give ourselves permission to be who we are, we can shine light upon our dark aspects and bring them to consciousness. When we are able to acknowledge our darkness, we can choose what we want to integrate and what to discard. The Dark Goddess teaches us that there are alternatives to slaying the Minotaur.
Myth of Theseus and the Minotaur
In Homer’s Iliad, the Labyrinth is referred to as the dancing floor. It was created by Daedalus as a gift for Ariadne. Within the Labyrinth young people would dance together, holding hands. It was a joyous place of initiation, but eventually gained notoriety as the place that housed the dreaded Minotaur.
In the Greek myth, the young hero, Theseus, descends into the Labyrinth, aided by a ball of thread given to him by Ariadne. Theseus unravels the thread as he wanders the path to the center. At the center, he slays the Minotaur and then follows the thread back up to the surface.
The myth is a typical Hero’s Journey involving a Descent to the Underworld, a Conquest, and an Ascent. The notion of conquest is a patriarchal concept and the myth may have been describing the conquest of Crete by the more aggressive, male-dominated Greek culture.
Minoan Crete was a Goddess-centered society, Ariadne was known as the Mistress of the Labyrinth, and may have been the original Minoan Mother Goddess. The Minotaur, whose name is Asterion, (star) is half man- half bull. Bulls were sacred to the Goddess. The actual Labyrinth in Crete was likely a place of initiation, with initiates facing a symbolic death and rebirth.
In the myth, Theseus relies on the Goddess to show him the way. In some versions, along with the thread, Ariadne offers Theseus a lamp to light his way, much like Hecate does for Persephone when she descends to the realm of Hades.
The myth is also about missed opportunities. The Goddess met Theseus at the threshold, She provided safe passage and a lamp to light the way. Theseus chose to slay the Minotaur, but what can be learned if the monster is killed? Ariadne waited for Theseus to emerge, She loved him unconditionally, even though he eventually abandoned Her. Theseus did not recognize the important role the Goddess played in his initiation into the Underworld. How different the myth would be if the Goddess were given the proper respect due Her.
The Minotaur is a metaphor for the dark aspects within all of us. We can cultivate curiosity towards them rather than deny or suppress them. We can invite Ariadne to walk with us, shine Her lamp upon the Darkness and assist us to face that which we fear the most.
What does your Heroine’s Journey look like? What does the Minotaur represent in your life? How did it come into being? How does it manifest in your life? What can you learn from the Minotaur? What are its strengths and how can you integrate them into your life? Write your personal Labyrinth myth.
Shaindel Senensky, Sylvia Healing and Empowering the Feminine