I love walking labyrinths.
There is so much about them that mirrors life’s journey. How we sometimes feel lost on our path with its twists and turns. How we don’t see the big patterns when we are inside them. How we journey again and again to the center of ourselves and back out again. How we sometimes interact with others on the walk and how sometimes we walk alone.
A bit about labyrinths. Labyrinths are not mazes. They are unicursal, meaning there is only one path. They come in many designs with lots of variations but there are two main styles – classical and Chartres. The classical seven-circuit style was first found on Crete 2,500 years ago. It was said that the labyrinth was built in Knossos to trap the fierce Minotaur. Theseus kills the Minotaur with help of Ariadne. I have always felt a bit sad for the Minotaur. Perhaps he is the beast inside each of us at the center of our journey. Maybe we’re meant to kill that beast. Or, maybe we’re meant to set it free. Or, maybe it just needs a hug.
The more complex Chartres’ style is found in the Chartres Cathedral in France and was created in 1225 CE. It is more associated with Christianity and is the style often found in Churches. They may be representative of a pilgrimage journey and in the 17th century it was popular to travel them on your knees. The more complex style means it’s harder to see the pattern. You really have to trust in the path and keep walking, even when you feel certain that you’ve made wrong turn or aren’t making any progress towards the centre or towards the exit!
Labyrinths for me have such a connection to the power of the earth. When you walk them, it’s like being plugged into a huge energy source. They have a presence that makes them feel alive. And, they have always had such a connection to the feminine spiritual connection. The hourglass shape made where two turns meet is called a labrys, the double-sided axe, a symbol of the Cretan goddess and of many goddesses. It is the representation of creation.
I have been to Knossos and I have also walked the labyrinth at Chartres.
I have walked labyrinths in many places and under many conditions. I have walked and danced and sang with joy and gratitude and the spirals of the labyrinth have been like springs under my feet giving me bounce.
I have walked with sorrow and grief and the labyrinth has accepted the flow of my tears like a river accepts water and rejoins it to the ocean.
I have walked labyrinths that are hundreds of years old, made of stone shined smooth by thousands of feet (and knees). I have created labyrinths while camping, marking off the paths with ropes that are unwound at the beginning of the weekend and gathered up at the end to wait for another year. And, as I did yesterday, I have walked labyrinths that are temporary, drawn on the sand of tidal flats and reclaimed by the sea in just a few short hours.
No matter what the circumstances of the walk, there is always the wisdom of the sacred journey. The reflection of life’s path. The reminder to walk each day with a similar awareness. No matter what the twists and turns.