What is a Labyrinth?
Labyrinths are ancient, archetypal symbols that have been found throughout the world in diverse shapes and sizes. Even though there are bits of archaeological facts to substantiate certain dates, we really do not know the ultimate origins of the meandering path or how labyrinths were originally used.
What is the difference between a Labyrinth and a Maze?
Currently, a labyrinth is defined as a unicursal path that leads to a center, both physically and metaphorically. A maze has false starts, dead ends and high walls. You lose 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.
Because the labyrinth is based on patterns found in nature, our bodies resonate with these geometrical mandalas. Studies have shown that when the mind relaxes, the body relaxes. When the body and mind relax, there is room to become aware of our individual and collective spirituality, completing the connection of mind, body, and spirit.
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 have 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 nearly 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 can a Labyrinth be used?
A labyrinth can be used to feed your spirit, quiet your mind, meditate, pray, or dance. A labyrinth provides the space to let go and leave the burdens of life at the entrance, finding time in the twists and turns to connect with your creative genius.
You can also use the labyrinth to create ceremonies to celebrate or mark an important event in your life. Labyrinths are for discovery and practicing how to move in our everyday lives as we learn to listen to the voice of our heart.
You can pause at the entrance before entering, ask a question, and then enter the labyrinth, letting the answer emerge. Or, you can just allow yourself to be open to what comes from your experience. Sometimes, your realization may come later in the day, in your dreams, or through synchronistic events.
You can use the way into the labyrinth as a time of letting go, the center place as a point of receiving or illumination, and the journey back as an integration of your experience and insights before stepping across the threshold and back into life. Your new awareness and insights can be a gift to yourself, family and community.
When walking in the company of others, find your own pace. It is okay to pass another person who is going slower than you or to step to the side when you meet someone going the opposite direction.
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.
How to make a Labyrinth
Making a labyrinth can be simple... like drawing it on paper or in the sand, or complex... like the ones made by professional labyrinth makers, creating exact replicas of ancient and contemporary designs.
The diagram here shows you how to create the oldest labyrinth design, the Classical Labyrinth. Don't stop there. If you so desire, let yourself explore making other labyrinth designs that seem difficult or complex. You will find some of them to be very simple. If it does indeed become overwhelming, go back to the simplest design. Remember that your curiosity and intention are the most important gifts you bring to making a labyrinth.
You can make your labyrinth out of any material imaginable... chalk, rope, brick & sod, paint on cement, rocks in a meadow, or sand at the beach. Use your imagination!
All labyrinths, whether doodled in a notebook or cut with geometrical precision into stone, have something to teach us.
You can find a labyrinth near you via the World Wide Labyrinth Locator: www.labyrinthlocator.com