Introduction to Labyrinths
                 History of Labyrinths
                 The Classical Labyrinth
                 The Chartres labyrinth
                 Walking the Labyrinth
                 The Benefits of Labyrinths


Introduction to Labyrinths:
A labyrinth is an ancient, sacred, archetypal pattern that has been found throughout the world in many forms and sizes.  Labyrinths have a single path to and from the centre.  Labyrinths are one of the few archetypal patterns that we can physically interact with.  Labyrinths are enjoying a resurgence in popularity as tools for meditation and healing.  The process of walking the labyrinth helps many people become more centered and balanced.

Labyrinths are different from mazes. Labyrinths are unicursal, which means that they have one well-defined path that leads us into the center and back out again. There are no dead ends or paths that divide.  A maze on the other hand is a puzzle to be solved: a left brain task that requires an active mind, logic, analytical skills, and problem solving abilities.  A labyrinth is a right brain task involving intuition imagery and creativity.  With a labyrinth there is only one choice: the choice to enter or not.

History of Labyrinths
Labyrinths have been found in almost every part of the world and used in many cultures over the past 5,000 years.  Their origin is a mystery.  The oldest labyrinths in the world are difficult to date because they are carved into rocks mainly around the Mediterranean area and in particular Gallicia in Northern Spain and Val Camonica in Italy.  One of the oldest dateable labyrinth, found inscribed on a clay tablet from Pylos, Greece, dates back to 1200 BCE.  This labyrinth was of the seven circuit classical design, one of the two main labyrinth designs along with the Chartres labyrinth.

The Classical Labyrinth
This is the classical labyrinth. It is an ancient design and is found in many cultures around the world.  This design was found on Cretan coins, on Hopi Indian sacred places and on the Hollywood Stone in Ireland.  It has seven circuits, which can correspond to our seven chakras, the seven colours of the rainbow, and the seven musical notes.  Even when seen for the first time, it seems to have a familiarity for many people. 
There are a number of variations of this design mainly by the additon of groups of four circuits giving totals of eleven and fifteen circuit labyrinths that are similar in shape to the original seven circuit classical labyrinth.
Labyrinths can be refered to as 'right-handed' or 'left-handed' depending on which way the first turn in the path goes. 

                          Left-handed labyrinth                          Right-handed  labyrinth

The Chartres Labyrinth:
The Chartres labyrinth is found in the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Chartres about 80 km south west of Paris, France.  It was installed in the cathedral around 1205 AD.  It is circular in shape with eleven circuits.  It is approximately 12.5 meters across.  It is constructed of contrasting black and yellowish white stone.  The whitish stones form the path about 15" wide.  There is much symbolism associated with the Chartres labyrinth.  The labyrinth incorporated the shape of the cross as seen by the positioning of the labyrs'. 
      Rose Centre:The Rose is often used as a symbol
      for Mary, Mother of Jesus, to whom the cathedral
      is dedicated.  The six petals of the rose are
      sometimes taken to represent the six realms:
      Mineral, Plant, Animal, Human, Angelic, Divine.
      Lunations: The semi-circular shapes around the
      labyrinth are called lunations.  There are 112
      lunations in total around the edge of the labyrinth. 
      Each quadrant of the labyrinth has 28 lunations,
      which suggests that it may have some
      connections with the lunar cycle.

Walking the Labyrinth:
People walk the labyrinth for many different reasons: For balance; to centre themselves; to increase their awareness; to connect to their higher selves; to balance their chakras, for grounding, and to bring peace.  It is usually helpful to have an intention before you walk the labyrinth.  Your intention can be looking for an answer to a question, or just seeking a way to find balance or improvement in some area of your life.  The experience of walking the labyrinth is different for everyone, and differerent each time you walk one.

There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth.  Do whatever feels right for you.  Children love to run the labyrinth.  Try it - it can be very liberating!!  Many people divide the walk into three parts, or the three 'R's: Releasing, Receiving, and Returning.  On the walk in focus on releasing whatever is on your mind: your tensions and worries or whatever is occupying your thoughts.  When you reach the centre rest and allow whatever thoughts or answers come to you.  On the walk out focus on returning to your everyday life with the wisdom that you have received.  My own preference is to start the walk with an intention, hold that intention during the walk, and then be aware of whatever insights that might come to me.

Why use a Labyrinth:
There is no doubt that many people find walking a labyrinth of benefit.  Many labyrinths seem to have been specifically built to be used in a spiritual manner.  In walking a labyrinth you are experiencing an ancient archetype symbolic of wholeness and life's journey.  Labyrinths can bring  a heightened awareness that leads to psychological and spiritual growth.  A labyrinth walk is a walking meditation that promotes relaxation and release of stress; it is a way to get in touch with your inner self, and gives you the opportunity to seek answers to your questions.

Much of what you gain from a labyrinth depends on the setting and location of the labyrinth allied to how you prepare for your labyrinth walk.  In building a labyrinth you are creating a sacred space, so the location and setting for your labyrinth can enhance the benefits of the labyrinth.  Walking a labyrinth empowers that space.  Your intention while walking the labyrinth and your openess to insights can all contribute to your labyrinth experience.

For more information about constructing and using labyrinths please contact us .

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