"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Symbols : Mazes And Labyrinths

The maze or labyrinth exercises a universal fascination for mankind. It appears in the symbolism of the ancient Egyptians and all the early Mediterranean civilizations. It was depicted by the Celtic peoples in pre-Christian times and also in Indian and Tibetan cultures before appearing as a motif in medieval Christianity. The symbolic meaning of the maze in many of these cultures reflects the idea of an inner journey through the confusing and conflicting pathways of the mind until the seeker reaches the center and discovers the essential reality of his or her own nature.

Mazes can he formed from hedges, banks, walls or any convenient barriers, or they can simply be traced out on the ground or painted on a ceiling. Not all are puzzles: so-called unicursal labyrinths have a single route serpentining around itself until it arrives at the centre, so that there is no fear of losing the way. In early European civilizations, such labyrinths were often the scenes of ritual dances, with all members of a community holding hands and following one another through the pathway into the hub: this exercise was of great value in increasing social cohesion through shared experience. In contrast, passing through a multicursal maze - one in which the path divides repeatedly and there is a risk of becoming disoriented - is a much more individual and potentially threatening exercise. It symbolizes the way in which the mind can easily become confused and sidetracked in its attempts to find the way back to the source of its own being. 

For the ancient Egyptians the maze may have sym-bolized the path through the underworld followed by the dead, with Isis as guide and Osiris standing in judgment at the centre. In an abstraction of this idea, the maze came to represent the mysterious, feminine, creative power that served as both bringer of life and, in the role of queen of darkness and of night, bringer of the sleep of death.

The Way Of Truth

Christianity first saw the maze as a symbol of the path of ignorance leading away from God, but by the 14th century it had recovered its positive symbolism and denoted the true way of belief. trains widely used in architecture, for example, on the floor of Chartres Cathedral (above) and on a ceiling in the Ducal Palace, Mantua (Below)

The Clock Maze

With no escape from in tyranny and no resting place until the centre (eternal life) is reached, the labyrinth is an apt symbol for time itself. Human his is bounded by time and whichever way we turn, we find no destination other than the centre, a symbol of mystic return to the womb.

The Labyrinth And The Minotaur 

The multicursal maze is exemplified by the labyrinth of Crete in which Theseus tracked down and killed the Minotaur. Theseus represents the traveler guided by divine instinct (a golden thread) through the labyrinth of life and overcoming the debased, animalistic side of his own nature.


Mazes appear frequently in dreams, often in the form of confusing pathways through a forest or a strange town, before which the dreamer hesitates in fear and perplexity. Here the symbolism is that of confusion or indecision in the dreamer's life when he or she is faced by many choices, the outcome of each of which is thought to be uncertain.

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1 comment:

  1. Business health and fitness experts looking for a exclusive effort in stress control applications should consider the historical exercise of network strolling. Labyrinths have seen a rebirth recently as a way to tap into the mind/body relationship -- with causing office value. crossword puzzle


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