What is a Labyrinth?
The labyrinth is much discussed and asked about these days. Where does it come from? Why does it look the way it does? How was it used originally and why would we want to walk it today? Those of us walking it in our yards and bringing it on canvas to others are finding much deeper questions and sacred responses.
It is true that the labyrinth is often confused with a maze. Just the word, labyrinth, brings to mind a puzzle to be deciphered with dead ends and no exit. For some, labyrinth evokes the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur. The sacred labyrinths of Crete and Chartres being walked by many today hold no tricks; they are unicursal paths. Hence, the only decision needed is when to enter. Once that first step is taken, the path takes you to the center and back out again. This simplistic design is the first hint of the labyrinth’s power.
In Chartres Cathedral, the labyrinth remains. It is an integral part of the Cathedral’s grand design, and contributes to the sacredness of the space. The stones that make up the path are not painted with the pattern as you might imagine; rather, the stones comprise the pattern. The path is laid out in eleven concentric circles intricately woven in a sacred geometric pattern. It is surrounded by twenty-eight semi-circular lunations per quadrant, creating a third of the year’s lunar calendar around the labyrinth’s perimeter.
Still the question remains, why walk the labyrinth now? In its simplest form the labyrinth is a walking meditative path. It can be used individually as an alternative to sitting meditation. Because it requires no figuring out, one can simply walk, allow the mind to quiet, and let the body take over. We may walk, dance, or crawl the path, doing what the body calls forth; there are no rules, there is no right or wrong way. The labyrinth is also widely used as a group meditation activity. Walking on a painted canvas that is a replica of the Chartres labyrinth or outdoors between the stone outlines of the Cretan labyrinth pattern evokes thoughts of our interactions with each other on life’s journey. It becomes a metaphor for life.
My Labyrinth design is technically called a "7 Circuit Labyrinth" and it's a my own custom mini-version of the "11 Circuit Medieval Labyrinth." A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity. Labyrinths appeared as designs on pottery or basketry, as body art, and in etchings on walls of caves or churches. The Romans created many primarily decorative labyrinth designs on walls and floors in tile or mosaic. Many labyrinths set in floors or on the ground are large enough that the path can be walked. They have been used historically both in group ritual and for private meditation.