What Do You Really Know About Labyrinths?
Labyrinths are amazing and versatile tools. People who walk them often experience an almost magical meshing of their analytical or rational mind with their intuitive and spiritual consciousnesses. From this altered state of consciousness, we can amplify our intuition, clarify complex questions, create incredible possibilities, and connect deeply to Spirit.
One of the questions that people have about labyrinths is how do they work?
Early peoples lived in vivid realization of the Great Mystery through their intimate relationship with the four directions, the seasons, the sun, the moon, the stars and planets, and other natural forces. By tapping into energy dynamics that today are inaccessible to us, they created sacred spaces like the great pyramids, the Mayan temples, Stonehenge, and labyrinths. We don't know how labyrinths came into being with the technology known at the time, nor do we know how they appeared in distant areas on the earth at about the same time. Furthermore, we don't know what purpose they served in the ancients' lives. By walking a labyrinth, however, we can intuit and even experience the energy those early inventors harnessed.
In an almost universal response, adult modern labyrinth walkers perceive the labyrinth as sacred space. The purpose of sacred space is to amplify the connection to Spirit, the Sacred. Pythagoras (580 - 500 BC) claimed, "Number is the within of all things." From Neolithic times up to the Protestant Reformation, sacred spaces around the world were constructed using the principles of Pythagorean or Sacred Geometry, a system of ratios and numbers in relation to the number one (the One). Labyrinths, too, were constructed of Sacred Geometry proportions.
Prehistoric labyrinths were predominantly circular. When the ancient builders embedded Sacred Geometry ratios in the circle, they created a resonance field, the vibrations of which could be physically perceived by stepping into it. They also aligned the placement of the labyrinth with the sun, moon, or planets, and typically located them at power centers, beams of charged Earth energy lines.
Circles abound in Nature. In almost every human culture present or past, the circle has represented not only the home but the sacred, the One.
Observe the structure of the ancient seven-path labyrinth. Notice that it contains a semi-circular center, surrounded by seven paths contained within the boundaries of a larger circle. Ancient peoples were astonishingly knowledgeable about astronomy. It is believed that they experienced the Earth as the center of the Universe with the seven planets known to them orbiting around it. I marvel at the synchronicity with the seven paths leading from the labyrinth's center.
Since recorded history, the number seven has been associated with mysticism, magic, the sacred Sabbath. Seven is considered the virgin number because it cannot be divided by any number except itself and one. Ancient peoples believed that the world was ordered and harmonious. They had discovered the seven-note scale and used musical vibrations to calm and heal. Their life was ordered around the moon cycles of 28 - comprised, of course, of four weeks of seven days.
Walking the labyrinth connects us to these energies at a subconscious, kinesthetic level. Even more astonishing and, to me, more intriguing, is the idea of geomancer and labyrinth builder Richard Feather Anderson. The labyrinth, he says, contains the eight patterns intrinsic to every living system in Nature. Each pattern is Nature's way of doing something in the most efficient way.
What are these eight patterns?
• Sphere - the shape of the labyrinth. The sphere or circle is Nature's means of efficiently enclosing the largest space. Our heads, eyes, and fists are our bodies' examples of spheres.
• Explosion/radial - imagine the ripples radiating from a drop of water. Using photographs, Anderson demonstrates that a drop of water falling into a larger drop of water breaks into 7 radiating ripples! In the labyrinth, the radial occurs in the concentric pattern of the seven paths. Kinesthetically we experience it in the tight turns.
• Meander - the next time you fly, look down at the river patterns and you will see vivid examples of meanders. Nature forms the meander to curb erosion by controlling the speed and amount of water flowing in the river. The meander in the labyrinth is the pattern of the path walked.
• Spiral - think of the unfolding of a fern or the shape of a tornado. The spiral demonstrates Nature's way of efficiently utilizing energy to grow. It is the archetypal energy pattern of Creation from planetary to electron movement. Ancient peoples' symbol for eternity was the spiral. Follow one of the four end points of the labyrinth path and you will see the spiral.
• Double helix vortex - think of the movement of a canoe paddle in water. It forms double helix vortex eddies.The double helix spiral, appearing in every culture, signifies organic growth, death, and rebirth. Anderson pulls apart the two spiral threads of the labyrinth to make a three-dimensional form, a double helix - the same formation as human DNA!
• Close packing - think of your brain or your intestines. Close packing is Nature's way of attaining the greatest efficiency of mass in the smallest amount of space. The paths of the labyrinth demonstrate close packing. The labyrinth path forces you to traverse every available space within it before you reach the center.
• Alternation - remember waves hitting the shore, alternating left to right, in and out. Alternation is Nature's way of revitalizing and cleansing water. Proprioceptively we experience alternation following the labyrinth's path which alternates from left to right, top to bottom, in and out.
• Branching - like leaves on a tree, grapes on a vine or the lungs in our body, branching is Nature's way of optimizing her life-giving qualities by maximizing the surfaces of exchange. Somewhat harder to discern in the labyrinth, branching is found by cutting a diagonal through the cross where the paths intersect.
Walking the labyrinth is a whole body experience of these fundamental building block patterns and numbers that form all life. By traversing the archetypal energy patterns in the labyrinth, we re-create Nature's Wisdom within us. We walk a Nature's healing path to wholeness, and connection to the Creator of the Universe.