The Labyrinth is one of the oldest symbols of humanity and linked to the ancient culture of Goddesses, believed to be the oldest religion of the Earth.
The Neanderthal culture in East Europe is the first form of tribal society we have a notion of that used the Labyrinth for religious and spiritual purposes. They considered the labyrinth as a symbol of the great Goddess or primal Mother: it was the union between the physical world and the divine.
The labyrinth was in this way the womb of the Mother, and therefore in this culture dead bodies were laid down on the ground in the centre of a circular labyrinth made of stones. This was a representation of welcoming death, being offered to the great Mother and from her womb starting the process for the next life again, being reborn.
The word Labyrinth comes from Greek “labris” and indicates that it was born from the context of a dance, a ritual, maybe in spiral movement, and this could have been the origin of the meaning of the Labyrinth.
In ancient pre-Islam Arab cultures, the word labyrinth had the same root as “uterus” and the labyrinth was considered a symbol to enter the divine womb. The centre represented total unity, oneness and the surroundings represented the multiplicity and different forms of life.
In some Native Americans traditions, it was believed that God brought the world into being through a spiral from the centre of the Earth. In Hinduism the word Sutra has a connotation of a thread: bonding one world of the gods with the other, the physical reality and all beings.
This can be somehow compared to the thread that was used in the most famous Labyrinth’s story: the one of Crete, where Ariadne left the thread for Theseus to help him find his way out.
The centre of the labyrinth is of the most relevance, and it was said that only insane gods or monster would stay there. Again, as told in the story of Crete, the monster Minotaur was to be found in the centre.
“A labyrinth is a symbolic journey … but it is a map we can really walk on, blurring the difference between map and world.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking
Labyrinth – Meeting the inner monster, a journey about transformation
One cannot enter the labyrinth with a logical mind, but with the heart. Only those who are willing to leave everything behind to obtain wisdom, and find freedom through a higher understanding, can enter. The person entering the labyrinth is not the same as the one leaving it. And this is the whole purpose of it because it is about transformation: there is a symbolic death and a resurrection in the process.
The original labyrinth is not made with the purpose of getting lost but finding oneself through it. Sometimes the terms are confused with a maze, which is designed to trick you and make you get lost, with different entries and splits. These mazes were designed later around the baroque time to delight the romantic adventures of the aristocratic class.
The original Labyrinth, on the contrary, is designed in a unidirectional way; therefore, there is a destiny, a goal. Once you get in the centre, you need to undo the walked path to finish the journey and exit. This is about a personal journey: an initiation rite or passage ritual to the heart of the person walking inside.
Like the monster Minotaur which was indeed a product of Theseus inner desire for greed and power, every person meets its own monster or shadow in the centre of the labyrinth. As human beings are all different, so is our own personal labyrinth, our monsters and shadows.
However, the good news is, there is nothing to fear. Because the journey is an invitation for our own awakening, to encounter those parts of ourselves that need special care.
Walking the labyrinth for growth and development
The monster could be an inner jealousy that has being repressed for a long time and needs to be understood in order to be transformed and transcended; it could be an unconscious fear that one learnt by association during childhood and is waiting to be released.
The monster could also be an old wound that was buried and never again looked at and needs to be healed to regain the personal power and potential to be able to manifest inner desires. All labyrinths have a monster in their centre.
Like the god Anubis in the last trial before passing from death to the underworld, the test in the centre of the labyrinth is whether one can face one’s deepest fears, shadows or repressed desires.
By doing this Anubis is able to exit and move into a higher level of awareness, and therefore becoming free of old burdens, being able to forgive oneself and others, and finally find the way out without resentment: the resurrection where one can decide according to one’s heart instead of letting the inner monster or shadow decide.
The personal path in the Labyrinth is about ultimate liberation of old stories, social programming, learned conditionings and negative or hurtful habits that were not serving the true personal purpose or true call from the soul. This journey is about growth and development.
“Sanity is the thread through the labyrinth of the Minotaur. Once cut, or unravelled, all that lies in wait are gloomy tunnels unfathomable by any map, and what hides there is a beast in human form, wearing our own face.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, Frankissstein: A Love Story
My experience walking a Labyrinth alchemically
As a personal experience, I would love to share how I am working with the symbol of the Labyrinth alchemically. After living in Germany for 11 years and building my life there, I decided to go back to my home country, Spain.
For a while I have felt the call to a deeper understanding of my life and the meaning of the path I was on. I felt my life until this very moment was like the way inside a labyrinth. I studied and worked in every technical field, but something in my life wasn’t making sense.
I did not enjoy my job as an engineer and moved from one city to another in Germany, from one circumstance to another, and everything led me to encounter myself on a spiritual path. A big realisation was, the role that I played in society was not my true self, which made me unhappy. On the way I encountered many of my shadows and I decided to live in alignment with the call of my heart and my true essence.
I now know that this big realisation was the centre of the labyrinth, and my return to Spain, the way out of it. Here I will integrate all the lessons learned and will use them for a higher purpose, helping others enter their own labyrinths.
In this way I visualize the Celtic labyrinth in my mind, and I also sleep with it under my pillow, to guide me in my unconscious through this adventure and new phase of my life.
The way of out from the labyrinth is as important as the way in because it is on the way out that all lessons learned after meeting the monster are integrated and fully understood. Once we made our shadows our own allies, the way out is a beautiful experience before we share this path with others.
Like all pilgrims, who after their return have a lot of wisdom to share with the world in order to bring more light, awareness and love. This is how monsters can shine if we only understand them and give them a chance instead of condemning them. Indeed, they cannot be killed as they are part of us, they can only be healed and nurtured to expand ourselves and reach our fullest potential.
This is the oldest path of human history, the way into the divine womb where we find pure acceptance before we are born into the world.