Last week I created a labyrinth in my backyard. It’s a simple three circuit labyrinth, very small and simply placed. I haven’t outlined the whole thing, and I’m not sure if I will or not at this point.
I merely placed large stones at the major points and turns, and hope to be able to ware the grass away where the path has been formed. So far it’s working out great and I should have a nicely seen path very soon. My experience walking it so far has been calming. I find it a very reflective process and even strangely liberating.
Doing research on labyrinth myths and folk beliefs leads one to believe that labyrinths were used not just for meditation and reflection, but also as a way to purge oneself of worry and evils. In the folk history of nothern europe one finds that these stone labyrinths were used to insure good fishing expeditions by trapping trolls or beings/spirits not conducive to such endeavors. Literally people would walk a labyrinth to trap a following negative spirit in the center…seems a bit metaphoric doesn’t it. They can also be, according to some sources, related to seasonal changes, that walking them may have emulated the awakening of the earth goddess in spring and her ‘greeting’ of the sky-god. This interaction would have been ritualized with a young woman being placed in the center and a boy walking the labyrinth in order to find and claim her to enact the drama of spring.
Again, the benefits of labyrinths seem pretty clear to me; They offer a time of reflection, a time to put aside worry, a time of meditation, and a time of focused seperation from anything and everything else in your life. It’s no wonder that one finds labyrinths all over Europe, in churches and at sites thought to be sacred to pagans. Whether or not pagans were using labyrinths prior to Christians in Europe or just alongside them is anyone’s guess, but certainly in the Mediterranean labyrinths were being discussed and utilized well before the Christian era.