What Is A Labyrinth?
Labyrinths have been found throughout history and the world in diverse shapes and sizes. Even though there are little bits of archeological facts to substantiate certain dates, we really do not know the origins of the meandering path or how labyrinths were originally used. The history of the labyrinth remains a mystery that historians are still piecing together with each new archeological find. And, the history of the labyrinth is being made right now, as people around the world discover and explore for themselves, this fascinating and ancient path.
Currently, the labyrinth is defined as a unicursal path that leads to a center, both physically and metaphorically. A labyrinth traditionally does not have false starts, dead ends, or high walls as you might find in a maze. You loose yourself in a maze and have the opportunity to find yourself in a labyrinth. A labyrinth evokes your creativity, while a maze activates your thinking mind. A labyrinth and a maze could be seen as two sides of the same coin. There are many contemporary labyrinths and some ancient labyrinths, which challenge the “unicursal only” rule.
Of all the diverse labyrinths there are two designs from antiquity that are the most recognized: 1) the Classical Labyrinth; 2) the Chartres Labyrinth from Chartres France. Since the mid-1990’s there has been numerous contemporary designs created that are not found in the historical record. The first to emerge of these new designs was the Santa Rosa Labyrinth.
The Classical labyrinth may have first appeared sometime between 3,000 to 5,000 years ago. It is near to impossible to carbon date rock carvings. However, a clay tablet with a labyrinth carved on the backside was found in the ruins of a store room of the palace at Pylos, Greece, dating c. 1200 BC (Jeff Saward, Ancient Labyrinths Of The World, p. 4).
The earliest recording of the labyrinth design to be made famous at Chartres Cathedral France, (c. 1201) appears in a manuscript from Auxerre France, around the ninth century (Penelope Reed Doob, The Idea of the Labyrinth: from Classical Antiquity through the Middle Ages, p. 49).
The Santa Rosa Labyrinth was created and copyrighted by myself in 1997. This seven-circuit labyrinth has quarter and half turns, as the medieval labyrinths, with the addition of a "heart-space" on the fourth path that is approached from all four directions. For more information on the Santa Rosa Labyrinth, please click HERE.
How is a labyrinth different than a maze? Currently, the terminology to describe a labyrinth is usually (but not always) a unicursal path, which leads to a literal or metaphorical center place. A maze has false starts, dead ends, and high walls. A labyrinth evokes your creativity, while a maze activates your thinking mind. A labyrinth and a maze could be seen as two sides of the same coin. And, there are many contemporary labyrinths and some ancient labyrinths that challenge the "unicursal only" rule.
The labyrinth has been steadily experiencing a resurgence in popularity since the turn of the millennia. The container of the labyrinth holds the entire spectrum of human feelings and emotions regardless of age, race, gender, or spiritual orientation. This walking, or finger, meditation allows for internal and external contemplation. In addition to meditation or prayer, the labyrinth is a place for playing and connecting with self and the company of others. There are many different ways to walk and explore the labyrinth. Find your own pace with the labyrinth. Let yourself experience sharing the path with others. While waiting your turn to walk, the position of witness is extremely important to yourself and those already walking.
Walking the labyrinth is an opportunity to let go of the past and come into the present moment of mind, heart, and feet connecting with the path beneath. The labyrinth is a place to find stillness, and a space to listen to your innermost thoughts. The goal of reaching the center is but a part of the journey. It is in staying present with every step of the path, both inward and outward, that meaningful truths are revealed. Within the twists and turns there is room to explore joy and sorrow, internal and external experiences, and to integrate the complexities of the times we live in.
Find out as much about the labyrinth as you can through your own experience. Explore the many diverse labyrinths that are available and enjoy stepping more fully into life with each encounter.
You can find a labyrinth near you by going to the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator