“The point of a maze is to find the centre. The point of a labyrinth is to find your centre.”
The ancient symbol of the labyrinth, being both the spiral and the circle wrapped into one, has long since represented wholeness.
Looking like something between a human brain, a map and a maze, the labyrinth is anything but; not a puzzle to decode, but the beginning and the end all rolled into one.
Labyrinths represent our spiritual journeys, seemingly confusing when viewed from an earthly and analytical place, yet woven with the loving care of higher wisdom and a deep awareness that echoes back to us our ancient selves and civilized holiness.
“Fishermen probably used labyrinths for protection against the perils of the sea, and probably also to increase their catch. Lapps and shepherds have used labyrinths for protection against wolves and wolverines, and it seems as if labyrinths have also been used as protection against other threats and as a remedy for mental illnesses.” ~ John Kraft.
The Cretan Labyrinth
The classical or Cretan Labyrinth holds seven pathways to its zenith and are the passageways that Theseus trod in his search for the flesh-eating Minotaur.
Dating back more than 4,000 years this Labyrinth decorated Cretan coins and in ancient Greece and to the present day represents the confrontation we must have with our shadows.
The monster within has a talent for destroying us and could be lurking around any corner of our lives.
Having slain the monster and put an end to the senseless slaughter or suffering of the other aspects of ourselves, the final and perhaps most trying challenge was to find our way out of the Labyrinth alive, mirroring similar beliefs of the dark night of the soul.
The significance of the seven circuits is that seven is the number of transformation. Seven is the number of chakras we must pass through to reach transcendence and is also the cycle of the number of years where the individual becomes reborn in their attitudes and habits.
The Labyrinth, though taking us in all sorts of directions ultimately leads to the centre and so, despite appearing cruel and merciless, actually puts a heavy emphasis on spiritual guidance, or the guidance available to us from our higher selves.
Three Stages Labyrinth
The three stages of the Christian Labyrinth unites the three stages of Purgation, Illumination and Union. Like the holy trinity, the individual releases or learns the lesson of humility (the Son) at the threshold to the Labyrinth, heralding new beginnings; at the centre they meet Illumination and clarity (the holy ghost/divine feminine), then on the way out reach the ultimate goal of Union, (the father/mother/balance of genders) where they integrate their knowledge and become Whole.
In entering the Labyrinth they give, or release old habits and outworn thoughts and on exiting they receive, taking on new insights and a greater wisdom and responsibility.
The Unity and Barbury Castle Labyrinths.
The Unity labyrinth in Portland is a modern Labyrinth, similar to the Yin Ying symbol in Chinese philosophy, was created to represent the union of two entities or energies. Like the afore mentioned Labyrinths, the Unity Labyrinth honours sacred geometry and a transformative element, weaving in the beauty of a naturally formed Labyrinth similar to those that have been found in crop circles such as at Barbury castle in Wiltshire.
One of the most famous crop circles found at Barbury castle in 1991 was something that looked very much like the holy trinity; three circles (including a ratchet effect in one of the Fibonacci spiral which many believe represents the misinterpretation of the sacred feminine and the message that we would/have entered a new era), surrounding a central and strongly defined spiral.
Many believe that the trinity and alongside images of treble springs and the Labyrinth emphasize balance and the reminder of the feminine aspect within that triangle. In this way Labyrinths, much like a more European Yin and Yang do symbolize the balance and integration of these two energies.
“The Labyrinth represents both a journey to our own centre and back out again into the world… at the same time as acting as a metaphor for the path we walk throughout our lives.”
The eleven-circuit Labyrinth of the Middle Ages became popular and celebrated in architecture such as the Chartes Cathedral in France where a floor Labyrinth was laid like a pavement maze for your sins to be walked away, pilgrimage or repentance style.
Like all other Labyrinths the spiral represented a journey that brought you closer to God or your higher self. The rosette design at the heart of the Labyrinth trigger lotus and other flower symbolism being the centre of enlightenment where we find our true selves and also the absence of self.
To walk on such a Labyrinth should be taken on like walking meditation; every step with heightened awareness and with attention to the shifts of weight within the body. The Chartes Labyrinth is floral both in the central as well as overall design; four segments create the whole piece and from above look like the four petals of a flower. There is a similar one at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.
The Lost Labyrinth of Egypt
As well as their healing properties and ability to cast the wanderer directly onto the spiritual path that always ultimately leads to their centres, many believe that Labyrinths contain the wisdom of their age. The lost Labyrinth of Egypt was located near the City of Crocodiles as described by Herodotus, who described in Book II of his Histories was more of a palace sheltering ancient secrets from the outside world:
‘It has twelve covered courts — six in a row facing north, six south — the gates of the one range exactly fronting the gates of the other. Inside, the building is of two storey’s and contains three thousand rooms, of which half are underground, and the other half directly above them.
I was taken through the rooms in the upper storey, so what I shall say of them is from my own observation, but the underground ones I can speak of only from report, because the Egyptians in charge refused to let me see them, as they contain the tombs of the kings who built the labyrinth, and also the tombs of the sacred crocodiles.
The upper rooms, on the contrary, I did actually see, and it is hard to believe that they are the work of men; the baffling and intricate passages from room to room and from court to court were an endless wonder to me, as we passed from a courtyard into rooms, from rooms into galleries, from galleries into more rooms and thence into yet more courtyards. The roof of every chamber, courtyard, and gallery is, like the walls, of stone.
The walls are covered with carved figures, and each court is exquisitely built of white marble and surrounded by a colonnade’
The Labyrinth was discovered in 2008 to not be the foundations, as previously suggested by Flinders Petrie an avid Egyptologist in 1889, but the roof. The Mataha Expedition scanned parts and discovered complex chambers and thick walls, plunging deep into the ground. The fabled Labyrinth did exist.
Labyrinths modern and old go on to be gentle reminders of the loving aspect of our spiritual paths and that we will always find our ways in to the centre, no matter how difficult challenges may seem. Labyrinths continue to be modest natural wonders and breathtaking architectural feats; giving in receiving in equal measure, encouraging us to mindfully take our time.
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