Monday, November 24, 2014

Goddesses in the Dust: Walking the Labyrinth

An archaeologist unearths the divine feminine, one archetype at a time...

The word labyrinth comes from the ancient word labryswhich means double axe. The double edged axe was a sign of royal power and is associated with the royal palace of King Minos on Crete, which was referred to as the "house of the double axes." This was the classic labyrinth that housed the famous Minotaur, which the hero Theseus went in to kill. He escaped thanks to Minos' daughter, Ariadne, who had given him a ball of thread to find his way out. 

Labyrinths differ from mazes. Both are defined by a series of complex pathways, but mazes are multicursal in that they offer multiple choices of direction, whereas labyrinths are unicursal. In a labyrinth, there is only one path, and it leads to the center. 

Aside from Ariadne's, one of the world's most famous labyrinths exists at Chartres Cathedral. To walk a labyrinth is said to help a person gain access to their soul and develop spiritual insight, so it's not surprising that is has become a prominent motif in Christianity. The labyrinth at Chartes Cathdral is known as the Rose Labyrinth. Laid into the floor of the structure in 1360, it was commissioned by a bishop for a celebration of Easter. In keeping with the majesty of the Cathedral's size, the Rose Labyrinth measures over 42 feet in diameter and completely fills the width of the nave. 

Recently, I read about a labyrinth that was laid into the grass of a church near my neighborhood. Having lived in the same place for 27 years, I was amazed (pardon the pun!) to have never known that a labyrinth existed almost in my own back yard. A close friend lives right across the street and I spent years picking up kids for morning carpool, passing it by. Some afternoons I take a break from my work and walk over to the church yard. High on a hill, it isn't visible to the street below, so you have to climb up to get perspective. I have found a sense of peace in tracing the meandering patterns around and around until I reach the center. Sometimes I stand, sometimes I sit there for a while, and let the sense of peace envelop me. As an archaeologist, it doesn't escape me how lovely it is that at the most unexpected moments, we find treasures sitting right under our feet. 

21 comments:

  1. I bet it's a big incentive for people before and after church to give the labyrinth a try.

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    1. Yes, if they see it in the grass as they pass by!

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  2. 'In a labyrinth, there is only one path, and it leads to the center.'

    This sentence almost winded me with its impact.

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    1. I love that aspect of the labyrinth too sis♡

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  3. Thanks for the walk-through on the topic of mazes vs labyrinths! :-) Here in Vienna there is a classic Harry Potter type hedge maze at Schoenbrunn Palace. It brings out the kid in me. Non-labyrinth-related: The other day I came across the name Bouboulina and made a mental note to flag her for you for your book. She was a hero of the Greek war for independence. Henry Miller mentions her in his "Colossus of Maroussi", which I am greatly enjoying and is about his explorations of Greece in 1941. Lawrence Durrell led me to him. They were apparently great friends.

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    1. Wow - first how cool to have that maze near you - I bet it's fantastic fun!

      And how interesting you mention Bouboulina - I am actually writing a book about Greece for women and she is starring in her very own chapter! I have read Miller's Colossus but will re-read to find the part about her - thanks so much for the heads up Thomas!

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    2. Henry Miller only devotes a sentence to her. But it caught my attention because I had never heard the name before. He mentions her in the context of explaining why Lawrence Durrell wanted to fight with the Greeks against the Germans instead of joining the British forces. What a time! What travels! What adventures!

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  4. Wonderful images and thoughts, Amanda. You've made me want to go out and make a labyrinth in my back garden!

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    1. Debbie - how nice to hear from you!!

      I would love a labyrinth in my own back yard too - what a hoot that would be :)) (although I wouldn't have a clue how to start...)

      How are you doing? I will email you after the holidays to catch up - in the mean time hoping this finds you, Laura and your husband doing well! xo

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  5. I didn't really know about the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, interesting to read!

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    1. Honestly I didn't either until I wrote this :))

      (Amazing what writing a blog helps you learn when you need to do research)

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  6. It is almost uncanny that Suze and I almost always focus on the same sentences. I thought you might find this interesting (unless you've already seen it): http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/10/141029-amazons-scythians-hunger-games-herodotus-ice-princess-tattoo-cannabis/?utm_source=NatGeocom&utm_medium=Email&utm_content=pom_20141116&utm_campaign=Content

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    1. Oh my gosh Loree - this book is right up my alley - thanks so much for mentioning it and look forward to reading!!!

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  7. Ha, amazed! I'm intrigued by labyrinths too; one featured in the novel I'm reviewing next week, The Bone Clocks. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  8. I love labyrinths! And this post. Wonderful photographs and information. We have one near us also, and I only discovered it after living here for awhile. I always think of labyrinths as mazes which you can see because they tend not to be made of high hedges. x

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    1. Good point - since labyrinths only have one path I guess there's no need for high hedges! How interesting you have one near you too - it's fun to discover these treasures in our midst~

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  9. fantastic! I used to doodle mazes and often mow a spiral into my lawn... thinking of ways to add a maze into my garden now, instead of the myriad pathways that Toby likes to travel. Well, maybe the next house...

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    1. Mowing a spiral into your lawn - wonderful way to make a mundane task creative :))

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  10. In summary, we can find treasures where we least expect to. Isn't that wonderful? :) x

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    1. Yes - so I guess the moral of the story is to keep our eyes open for them!

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