What Are Labyrinths?

Unlike mazes, which have dead ends, multiple paths and tricks challenging your mind to figure out the puzzle or “mind game,” labyrinths are ancient, archetypal symbols for peace and transformation having one path – to and from the center – allowing your mind to relax so you can access the intuitive, creative parts of yourself. Through consciously using the labyrinth, your questions can be answered, spiritual awareness can be enhanced, and knowing can arise from confusion.

While labyrinths’ origins are unknown, they have been used for over 3,500 years as sacred symbols in many cultures and spiritual traditions, such as the Medicine Wheel of the Hopi Indians, the Jewish Cabbalah and the pre-Christian Classical Labyrinth. Designed according to Sacred Geometry, they create a sacred space intertwining the worlds of the seen and unseen increasing access to intuition and spirit. When you embark on your labyrinth journey, you are stepping into energy similar to that found in earth domes and pyramids while touching the spirits of those who have gone before you.

The Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth and the Chartres-Style Labyrinth are the two most commonly known and used labyrinths. While their designs and energies are quite different, each carry powerful energies to support your spiritual, emotional and physical health and well-being.

Both these designs, as shown in the pictures below, are owned by Judith Joyce and used during classes, events and retreats in a variety of settings. See Labyrinth Uses for more information on how labyrinths can be used.

The Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth

Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth Illustration

Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth Illustration

Michael Green, in his book “Crop Circles – Harbingers of World Change”, called the seven-circuit pattern one of the most profound spiritual mandalas in existence as an archetypal paradigm of spiritual development for mankind. Traced back more than 3,500 years to an inscribed clay tablet from the Mycenaean palace in Pylos, Greece, it has also been found in countries throughout the world such as Peru, Arizona, Iceland, Egypt, India, Scandinavia and Sumatra. Cultures like the Hopi Indians still use labyrinths today.

Classical Seven Circuit LabyrinthIn Sweden, land of numerous prehistoric labyrinths, many of the oldest ones seem to have an orientation towards the Summer Solstice Sunset. Fisherman built them before going to sea to ensure good wind and a good catch.

Classical Seven Circuit LabyrinthThe seven circuit classical design is the most widely found and used pattern in the world. It helps connect us to the earth and to those ancient ones who have walked before us. The labyrinth journey is a metaphor for our life’s journey and symbolic of one’s spiritual journey occurring in three phases: walking to the center is a time of shedding, surrendering, opening; in the center – a time of illumination/enlightenment, receiving Spirit’s light or touching the light within; walking out from the center is a time of integration and actively bringing one’s light/gifts into the world. We are reminded that our journey isn’t complete until we have stepped into the world using our gifts and talents to serve others.

Walking the labyrinth is a moving meditation engaging body, mind and spirit. Physiologically, the right and left sides of the brain and the fluidic system of the body are balanced. Many people remark they feel at peace or peaceful after a walk, making it a wonderful practice for stress reduction.

Chartres-Style Labyrinth

Chartres Style Labyrinth Illustration

Chartres Style Labyrinth Illustration

This eleven-circuit labyrinth, is a replica of the one constructed during the early 1200s AD in the floor of the Chartres Cathedral in France. It and others were built in cathedrals across Europe when the pilgrimages to the Holy Land became too dangerous for Christians during the Crusades. This pattern thus symbolizes a spiritual journey to the center (to God – to one’s Self) and a return, renewed, bringing God’s light into the world.

One of several interpretations of the six petals, or Rose, in the center is the realms of creation. Beginning at the left as you enter and going clockwise are: the Mineral Kingdom, the Plant Kingdom, the Animal Kingdom, the Human Kingdom, the Angelic Kingdom, and the Kingdom of the Unknown. Lying, standing, kneeling, sitting in the center and opening to the connection and guidance of the Universe can bring light, power and healing.

Chartres Style LabyrinthPeople begin the walk in many ways – asking for answers or guidance, open to what the experience will bring, chanting a mantra, unsure of why they are there. Once on the path and secure that one can’t get lost, the mind begins to release its need to control allowing other senses to take over. Walking one step at a time, a sense of where we are and how far or near to the center is lost. Walking as an “observer” can reveal patterns and similarities to our lives and how we live them, providing great insights into who we are and how we can make the changes needed to enrich our lives.

Returning from the center, many experience renewal, increased energy, knowing and willingness to act in new ways in the world. Every walk is different, even for the same person, and the effects of walking are cumulative – the more often you walk over time, the deeper the experiences can become. The labyrinth provides countless opportunities for new levels of understanding and healing. Research has shown that the labyrinth’s energy can align and balance the chakras and the fluidic systems in the body, creating feelings of balance and peace for the walker.