I can’t be “just a therapist” else I get very cabin fevery quite soon. So I try keep my interests in the general wellness field, broadly speaking! One of my interests since the early 2000’s has been labyrinths. If you go into the literature, you will find (like I did) that…
The earliest known examples, being precise symbols found carved on rocks and painted or scratched on pottery, date back to the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. But they are often difficult to date exactly. Another notable labyrinth of antiquity was the Egyptian temple precinct, built at Hawara (a pyramid complex) by Amenemhet III of the 12th Dynasty c.1860-1815 BCE.
The most historical labyrinth is found in Greek mythology. It was designed for King Minos of Knossos by Daedalus to contain the ferocious Minotaur (a half-man and half-bull monster). Daedelaus made his labyrinth so complex, that even he had a hard time navigating it! Minos imprisoned Daedalus and his son, Icarus, in a high tower to prevent them from ever revealing the secret of the design. Myth has it that thereafter, Daedelus and Icarus escaped. They used the feathers of birds which they stuck together with wax to form wings, and flew away from the tower. Icarus flew too close to the sun, melting the wax of his wings and falling into the sea. He was sadly drowned. The teal colour in my new logo reflects the colour of the sea. The contour lines of my logo echo the design of a labyrinth in some parts, I like to think! Although they are actually from Signal Hill in Cape Town.
The same labyrinth design remained popular throughout the Roman Empire as a protective and decorative symbol on the mosaic floors of civic buildings and villas. They were also laid out on the ground as recreation for kids, and as a dexterity and spatial awareness test for horse-riding soldiers.
Much later, labyrinths came to be used in Christian churches as a prayer aid. The famous labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France dates back to the 14th century. Followers would be able to walk the labyrinth while the colours of the stained glass windows shine on them. It would have been a very healing experience.
Our own St George’s cathedral in the city centre has a beautiful 12-circuit labyrinth that is free of charge for the public to walk, one just has to phone ahead to arrange it. There are now many labyrinths both worldwide and in South Africa. People are reviving them, after realising that they do aid meditation, they present solutions to problems, they are contemplative, walking them causes greater cohesion between the left and right hemisphere’s of the brain, walking the labyrinth causes clarity of mind. They are fun for kids. More CT labyrinths can be found at Greenpoint Park, Glencairn and Slanghoek. There’s even a labyrinth in my suburb, which you could walk if you came for a treatment. Though I did not build that one!
The two labyrinths I have built in my life for prosperity were at the Namibian game lodge where I worked, and when I lived and worked in the town of Coffee Bay.They were both constructed using stone, and the 12-circuit Chartres design. I often draw a sand labyrinth on the beach if the timing is right.
I participated last year for the first time in World Labyrinth Day at St George’s Cathedral, and will hopefully be helping SA’s own labyrinth lady guru (Terry de Vries) to build one at Stellenbosch Hydro soon-soon. I intend to participate in every World Labyrinth day going forwards. And hope to build one in the Harold Porter Botanical Garden in Betty’s Bay where my late father has a wooden bench.
In a maze, it’s very easy for one to get lost as there are many pathways both in a out, and lots of dead ends. In a labyrinth, there is only one path in. It is the same path out. One cannot possibly get lost. One just has to follow the path. Therefore it is a good metaphor for life. If you follow the path, you’ll get there. If you allow yourself to get distracted and looking at things off to the side, well then your journey will be a different one. I’ve always maintained, for a quick way to explain things: In a maze you can lose yourself, whereas in a labyrinth you find yourself.