The first Labyrinth was thought to be constructed in ancient Greece for King Minos to hold the Minotaur, a creature said to be half man, half bull. A classic labyrinth has only a single path (unicursal) leading to the centre. The path is meant to be unambiguous and easy to navigate; once you reach the centre, you turn around and walk back out. It is thought that a labyrinth can be used for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation, enhancing right brain activity. (Labyrinth Society)
In Wicca, the labyrinth is thought to symbolize death and rebirth. Walking the labyrinth can be a mystical journey and symbolic pilgrimage out of the self, into the other realms, and back to Earth again. Another form of a labyrinth in Wiccan symbology is Hecate’s Wheel, the serpent’s power of rebirth, to the labyrinth of knowledge through which Hecate could lead mankind, and to the flame of life itself. (Wicca-Spirituality)
A labyrinth is different to a maze, which has multiple complex branching paths (multicursal) which forces participants to choose their direction, and can often lead to dead ends.
I’ve seen a labyrinth compared to the journey of life (“Despite the twists and turns, there is one path in, which is also the path out. Just like life.” Wicca-Spirituality). I’ve also seen it compared to a path of a Seeker towards Wiccan spirituality (“You join the Craft and eventually you reach the goal or the center or the Goddess… eventually you reach it simply because in Wicca, there are no dead ends.” Desert Henge)
I actually think life resembles a maze more then a labyrinth, kind of like a ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ book. Both mazes and labyrinths have twists and turns, often leaving the seeker anxious about where their path is leading them. However in life, it is not as simple as ‘one path’. You come to forks in the road, diverging trails, differences of opinion. You have to make decisions that sometimes change your life entirely – for the better or the worse. Some people come to the end of their path before others, which doesn’t always seem fair or just. And one thing I’ve learned with growing up, is you can never ever go back.
But I suppose if you step back and see the larger picture, everybody’s life can resemble a labyrinth. We are all born, we live, we die. Even though our lives are vastly differently, that cycle remains the same.
So whether our lives, or our spiritual journeys, take the shape of a labyrinth or maze, at least it is not a straight line. It always keeps us guessing, challenges us, sometimes scares us, and shapes us into who we were meant to be.
© A Year And A Day (2012)