An Introduction to the Labyrinth

Dating back over 4000 years labyrinths have a long association with spirituality, ritual and sacred dance. The pressures and demands of modern society and our need for deeper meaning in our lives has led to a resurgence in interest in this ancient form.

The labyrinth symbol transcends religion, time and cultures and is a universal ‘tool’ that can assist the individual to reconnect with their inner self, spirit or God.  This is achieved through ‘Walking the labyrinth’. There is no one prescribed method to do this though some groups and individuals have developed certain approaches and methods and offer their services as  labyrinth ‘facilitators’ to guide anyone new to the practice.

Many labyrinths incorporate sacred geometry in their design to heighten the energy and walking experience (certain geometric forms and ratios that relate to organic and mineral elements of the physical world are described as possessing sacred geometry).

Labyrinth or Maze?

There is often confusion as to the difference between a labyrinth and a maze. This is understandable as in some contexts and languages the names are interchangeable. In the sense of structures created for walking on or through, a labyrinth is unicursal that is it has one path which will lead the walker without offering choices to the goal (at the centre in most designs). It may be a flat design or have raised ‘walls’ separating the pathways. A maze is multicursal and presents choices to the walker who must solve its puzzle to find the goal and will usually have high ‘walls’ to hide the pattern and create a greater challenge.

In summary it could be said ‘You enter a maze to lose yourself and a labyrinth to find yourself’. This is of course somewhat flippant. The experience of walking the labyrinth is often calming and restful and can be deep, profound and even life changing. Contributions to this web site from people who have walked the labyrinths created by The Labyrinth Builders are testimony to this.

 

Pavement labyrinth, Chartres Cathedral, France
Pavement labyrinth, Chartres Cathedral, France

Hedge maze, Williamsburg, USA
Hedge maze, Williamsburg, USA

Turf labyrinth, Hilton, England; Medieval design, 1660
Turf labyrinth, Hilton, England;
Medieval design, 1660