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Updated 21 April 2006

Unlike mazes, labyrinths have a single path, no dead ends, and one way in and out.  But the process of proceeding in and out of a labyrinth is surprisingly profound. "Embedded within each design is a pattern that somehow quiets our deep inner being so we can hear our own wisdom and the wisdom attempting to reach us. Whether walked or traced in sand, the labyrinth pattern is a powerful tool for reflection, meditation, realignment, and deeper knowledge of the Self." [1]

It has been said, for example [1], that, “All the great world religions contain teachings that articulate the journey of the spiritual seeker [e.g., The Fool’s Journey]; the path one must walk in order to grow in compassion and respond to the world with clarity and wisdom.”  A labyrinth can be thought of as a divine imprint -- a universal pattern “created in the realm of the collective unconscious, birthed through the human psyche, and passed down through the ages.  Labyrinths are mysterious because we do not know the origin of their design, or exactly how they provide a space that allows clarity.  

“Labyrinths can be found in almost every religious tradition around the world.  The Kabbala [Ha Qabala], or Tree of Life, found the Jewish [and other] mystical tradition[s] is an elongated labyrinth figure based on the number 11.  The Hopi medicine wheel, based on the number 4, and the Man in the Maze are just two of the many Native American labyrinths.” [2]  Many representations of labyrinths have been found, some dating back as far as four to five thousand years.  

The eleven-circuit labyrinths include the circular design of the Chartres Cathedral, whose design is from the tradition of the Knights Templar, which according to legend was carried from King Solomon’s temple to France.  There is even speculation that Chartres -- noted for having the distinction of no one being buried within the cathedral -- is also the final resting place of the Ark of the Covenant [See, for example, Laurence Gardner ].  The style is also associated with Freemasonry.

In addition to the geometry of the labyrinths, the Knights Templar and/or Freemasons of the 12th and 13th centuries included another design in their grand construction projects, but on a much larger scale. There are in great profusion the Cathedrals of Northern France which initially incorporated labyrinths and which -- astoundingly enough -- were placed in those cities which corresponded in their lattitude and longitude to the visible stars of the Constellation Virgo. These tributes to the "Notre Dame" (aka Mary Magdalen) included the cathedrals of Paris, Amiens, Reims, Chartres, Bayeux, and many others. This pattern matches the pattern of stars, but clearly can only be seen "from a distance." The labyrinth-goddess connection can also be seen!

A version of the Maltese tradition can be found in the Amiens Cathedral, northwest of Paris, France, while the seven-circuit labyrinths have been placed on everything from stone walls in Cornwall, England, to Native American pottery.  The seven circuit is typically closed as in the eleven-circuit variety, but the Native American version typically includes a “Man in the Maze”, and a decision point half-way into the Maze, where one can choose to either begin an exit, or to continue to the center.  

Chartres Labyrinth        Maltese Labyrinth          Anastazi Labyrinth

For purposes of The Library of Halexandria, the “labyrinth” which constitutes this website, is one which is much more flexible than the average.  It is possible, for example, to pick and choose, dropping in from above on any particular point one might fancy.

 Meanwhile, if you’re interested in more detail about labyrinths, one of the better websites is: <http://www.labyrinthos.net/>. In particular:  the webpage entitled: “The Centre of the Labyrinth” <http://www.labyrinthos.net/f_intro.htm> is an astounding, beautifully illustrated introduction to the (3500 year) history and symbolism of the labyrinth.   There is, in addition, Wikipedia, where it is noted that "a turf maze is a labyrinth made by cutting a convoluted path into a level area of short grass, turf or lawn. Some had names such as Mizmaze, Troy Town, The Walls of Troy, Julian's Bower, or Shepherd's Race." "As a group they were (and still are) commonly known as 'mazes', although the terms 'maze' and 'labyrinth' are no longer considered interchangeable. Unlike a maze, which is an entertaining puzzle with many dead ends, a labyrinth is unicursal: it consists of one path which twists and turns but leads inevitably to the centre." There is much more at Wikipedia. And of course, there is considerably more concerning the labyrinths of the Cathedrals of Northern France.


It might be mentioned that after the fall of Troy, the only Trojan prince to escape was the great hero Aeneas White Shield, who fled to Italy with his son in his arms and his father on his back.  Many years later his great-grandson, Brutus, was sent into exile, and, after liberating the descendants of Trojan captives, brought them to a fair island in the Northern seas to found a new kingdom - one that still bears his name - Britain.  Thousands of years later, Welsh shepherd boys had begun to cut a labyrinth pattern into the turf as they tended their sheep on the mountains.  They called these figures Caerdroia - meaning either City of Troy or City of Turnings - and said that it represented a plan of the city of Troy, defended by seven walls.  

Today, there is a renaissance of interest in the labyrinth as a spiritual tool by Christians, Pagans and the New Age movement.  “To walk a sacred path is to discover our inner sacred space: that core of feeling that is waiting to have life breathed back into it” through Symbolism, rituals, stories, Myths, and Archetypes, including the labyrinth. [2] It's a journey well worth taking!


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The Cathedrals of Northern France



[1] http://www.gracecathedral.org/enrichment/excerpts/esc_20010328.shtml

[2] Lauren Artress, Walking a Sacred Path; Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool, Riverhead Books, New York, 1995.



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