Navigating the darkness with Ariadne’s thread

I have been reading Sarah-Jane Menato’s take on the story of Ariadne, who used her intuition and compassion to help Theseus slay the minotaur and escape the labyrinth by providing him with a thread with which to navigate his way through the darkness.

But Ariadne was not only driven by compassion; she was seeking her own escape; this was a act of collaboration.  She sailed away with Theseus, spending the night with him on a distant island.  When she woke she saw Theseus’ ship on the horizon.  The story goes that she was abandoned.  Fortunately, Dionysus, son of Zeus, arrived in his chariot to scoop up our heroine, carrying her off to be his wife.  A happy ending?


In her re-framing of the story Menato rejects the idea that Ariadne was abandoned by Theseus, preferring to see the story as one of mutual resourcefulness and choice.  She describes Ariadne’s actions in terms of “feminine energy”; she has come of age and realised that to be safe and autonomous she must use her strengths to create her own future.  Theseus has used his “masculine energy” to fight and adventure, and is now off doing his own thing.  They have enjoyed their collaboration and both are courageous in different ways.

It is interesting to consider “masculine” and “feminine” energy in the context of 21st century discussions about gender.  Menato is clear that they are not about being male or female.  However, she acknowledges that the dominant energy of the patriarchal world we live in is “masculine”; we value the driven, adventurous souls.  Many women (and I’m one of them) have dialed up behaviours which have enabled them to succeed in a world defined in this way. And yet, as we navigate an age of phenomenal change and uncertainty, the capacity to connect ideas, perceive need and collaborate to find ways forward are at a premium.  Are we entering into an age of “feminine” energy?

Late in 2018 the Dalai Lama called for women “…to be the mothers of the Compassionate Revolution that this century so desperately needs”.  His hope was that women can rein-in the violence and destruction wrought by mankind.  To my mind, that still defines women as “other” and different, even if the hope is that they can be a parallel force with men.  I’m not so sure my feminist destiny is to contain male power.  Like Ariadne, my feminine energy is not only driven by compassion, though it is undoubtedly present.

My sense is that this is time when feminine energy can and will come into its own, because this moment in history demands it.  If we come to respect and value our feminine energy as much as we do the masculine energy within us all well then there is hope, a thread perhaps, which we can follow to navigate through challenging times.

Nicola Jones

April 2019

  1. Athena was the goddess of war, compassion and reason, hence “Athena Professional”.