Marcia Raff Studio

Definition of a Labyrinth

      A Labyrinth is an ancient symbol which was born sometime in the Bronze Age (approximately 2300-700 BCE). Labyrinths could be a one dimensional object, (art or jewelry), or three dimensional architectural structures or plantings. It represents wholeness in that it is a journey to our center and back out again into the world. A Labyrinth should not be confused with a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. A Labyrinth is a unicursal path, i.e. one way in and one way out, teaching centeredness.

     Prehistoric Labyrinths are believed to have served either as traps for malevolent spirits or as defined paths for ritual dances. During Medieval times, the Labyrinth symbolized a hard path to God with a clearly defined center and one entrance. Labyrinths can be thought of as symbolic form of pilgrimage; people can walk the path, ascending towards salvation or enlightenment. Pilgrimage is both a communal event and a private act of transformation. Walking the Labyrinth with others reminds us that we are all on the path together, each in our own way. Medieval people simply could not afford to travel to holy sites and lands, so the use of Labyrinths and prayer substituted that need. Later, the religious significance of Labyrinths faded and they were used primarily for entertainment, although recently their spiritual aspect has seen a resurgence.

     Today itÕs walked mainly for meditation, a sense of inner peace and as a tool for peace and guidance in this troubled world. By walking the Labyrinth, you can trace the path of your life on earth, beginning with birth at the entrance and ending with death at the center. The way out symbolizes rebirth. According to an American mythologist, the labyrinth resists our attempts at definition as do all great symbols and archetypes. The Labyrinth speaks to us not directly but via the language of poetry, through metaphor and multiple layers of truth.

     Like life and destiny, a Labyrinth may be a long journey but it has a specific beginning and a specific end.