Understanding LABYRINTHS

by Taffy Lanser

Labyrinths seem to be entering our consciousness with ever greater frequency these days. It could be simply the spoken word in conversation, or an article in a magazine or newspaper, or a piece on the television; they are becoming more and more part of our world.

A Labyrinth can be different things to different people-
--a puzzle, perhaps a game or a meditation, a power symbol or something sacred. A simple definition is that a labyrinth is a single path maze, having no false turns, with one way into the center and one way out.
It is an ancient symbol that has been around for thousands of years and is found in such diverse places and cultures as Europe, India, Native America, Scandanavia, the early Mediteranean and the British Isles.

Labyrinths have been a part of the course of human history from time immemorial. The legends, myths and tales from ancient times that remain with us speak of the course of human culture. They tell us of the needs of the ancients for order, beauty, balance, peace and understanding.

Though there are other forms of Labyrinths, the seven path classical Labyrinth is the oldest and most frequently found all over the world. There are seven concentric rings and seven turnings. The path to the center is neither straight nor direct. Following the pattern, one must thread every part in order to reach the center. The alternating back and forth motion seems to create a balancing effect. As in the natural world, the back and forth meander of a river slows and smooths the downrushing water, and the back and forth movement of a skier regulates the downhill speed. Something similar is happening in the Labyrinth, indicating why we experience a sense of balance and the feeling of being recharged when we walk it.

The process of finding the center of the Labyrinth as we proceeds back and forth through its pattern mirrors our own journey as we seek to find our own center--our own inner being. The Labyrinth is not only a symbol of the journey each of us must take in order to attain that place of balance and health on all levels, it is also a powerful tool in assisting our process.

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