The earliest examples are at least 4000 years old, and they have been employed for a wide variety of purposes, as a symbol within a mythology or drawn in a manuscript, they are also found marked out on the ground and within buildings, designed to be walked or run.
Turf Labyrinth, Cambridge, England. Photo: www.labyrinthos.net
MAB: And where are these labyrinths located?
JS: Historically they have been documented throughout Europe, from the Mediterranean to the high Arctic, they also occur in north Africa, in parts of Asia, throughout India, as far away as Sumatra and Java and also in the American Southwest, although many questions remain around when and how the labyrinth spread to many of these regions.
Modern day labyrinths, many open for the public to walk, can be found on the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator website. It's an online database, which lists over 4000 labyrinths around the world. Public labyrinths can be found in many schools, parks, hospitals, spas, churches, and retreat centers.
MAB: Thanks so much, Jeff!
Labyrinth Wisdom Card: Moon Goddess by Tony Christie
Next, I talked with Kimberly Lowelle Saward, Ph.D, who is a past president of TLS. Like myself, and many other labyrinthophiles, she also has an interest in beadweaving, knitting and other fiber crafts. So it's fascinating to note that a knitted item - like the labyrinth - is created by the twists and turns of one long winding thread or path. Kimberly blogs at http://www.ariadnesthread.net
MAB: Kimberly, thanks for visiting with us today! We see a resurgence of focus on feminine principals in the world lately, a consciousness that is more and more aware of the strengths of the Divine Mother. Can you tell us how this might be related to labyrinths?
Enhanced graphic of the Rad labyrinth at Hanover by Graphic by Jeff Saward and Meryl Ann Butler
KS: Yes, wherever the labyrinth symbol has gone over the course of its long history, it has served as a means for bridging the mundane to the Divine. For many, the lines making up the central section of the classical-style labyrinth resemble a goddess figure looking to the side with arms outstretched. Walking the labyrinth can elicit an experience of being contained by the Divine Feminine, and has been likened to threading the Great Womb of birth and rebirth, where arriving at the center marks the symbolic beginning of reconnection with the feminine soul.
On the labyrinth's paths, I feel like I am held in the arms of the divine feminine, safe to explore whatever feelings are current for me at the moment.
MAB: And would you share with us your favorite labyrinth? I know that's a tough question, like asking which is your favorite grandchild!
Touchstone Labyrinth near Strathpeffer in Scotland by Photo credit Jeff Saward
KS: That's funny, and true! And while I tend to love whatever labyrinth I'm visiting, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Touchstone Labyrinth near Strathpeffer in Scotland. Created of huge stones from around Scotland, it is tucked into a clearing in the woods; for me it combines the delight of the labyrinth with the groundedness of standing stones -- evoking mystery and imagination as it welcomes and protects the walker.
MAB: Thanks, Kimberly for sharing part of your path with us!
KS: You're welcome, it was a pleasure!