Labyrinths Myth & History
© Kathy Doore for labyrinthina.com
The Hopi Indians of North America had a symbol for Mother Earth known today as the “Classical Seven-Path Labyrinth.” It was this symbol of the Mother which identified the sacred in nature – that spiraling form found throughout nature. Labyrinths were woven into objects to personify man’s connection to his source and were often placed at sacred places in nature to remind him of this union. When one walks the labyrinth it is in recreating this very ancient expression of thanks and remembrance of the divine in all things.
Revelations from nature are a part of humankind’s connection to the creative nature of the Universe. Nature can be thought of as a reflection of the laws of creation. In many cultures from ancient Europe to the Americas it was considered a rite of passage to have a vision quest – to spend time totally alone in nature, in a spot chosen by the elders as a sacred place. From this time of solitude and of humility would come a vision. This vision could occur in the form of a bird whose spirit would teach or from an animal, a rock, or even the wind and water. Although the guidance came from within their own being, often it was linked to a place in nature.
Our ancestors knew that the divine in nature was an extension of their own humanity and depended on this relationship to support their very existence. In remembering the lessons of old we can think of the earth as an extension of our own body. We realize we must care for our natural resources as an extension of ourselves. These lessons teach only to take what is needed and to always give back that which we can. The Labyrinth is an extension of man’s desire to co-create with nature. When man consecrates space in nature as sacred he heals a part of himself. The earth has the capacity to heal us just as we have this capacity to heal the earth, it is a symbiotic relationship. In ages past when people worked closely with the earth the first and best fruits of the harvest were always returned to the Mother in thanks for her many gifts
The Labyrinth is a beautiful form of this gifting process between man and his environment — a precious spiraling pathway uniting us with our natural habitat. The conscious intent of creating this Sacred Space originates in our awareness of the divine and how we use the universal language of color, sound, movement and form to heal and regenerate our land, ourselves. We reveal ourselves by what we do and say, how we build, paint, and sing. The joy of unveiling the true self freed of emotional restraints cannot be surpassed.
Labyrinths are temples that enhance and balance and bring a sense of the sacred – a place where we can confirm our unity with the cosmos, awaken our vital force and elevate our consciousness. These structures are space/time temples where we can behold realities that oddly enough transcend space and time. The orientation, form and geometry of a labyrinth have symbolic as well as spatial importance. It is a mirror for the divine, a place to behold the beauty in nature.
Spiraling inward and out, this serpentine flow is the most generative form of subtle energy. The process of moving through the pathway unwinds this stored energy, releasing, magnifying, and ultimately harnessing the flow. Working directly in conjunction with the human energy fields this spiraling flow interacts with the kundalini energy coiled at the base of our spine converting the subtle energy into life force itself. This uncoiling of the kundalini vitalizes us through a process of unfolding both upwards and inwards, an exhalation and ingathering of energies known as the dance of creation.
Labyrinths are known as sacred gateways and have been found at the entrance of ancient sites around the world. Often located at the center of subtle ‘earth energies’ these temples enhance, balance, regenerate and confirm our unity with the cosmos. A type of Labyrinth known as a Yantra was used as a meditation by Hindu midwives to assist in childbirth and served as a means of relaxation for the birth canal, another labyrinthine form.
The spiral is the most generative form of subtle energy. When its coil is unwound the stored energy is released. The areas where straight ley lines cross, or where underground water run are places to build sacred temples, labyrinths. These places are rich in both yin and yang (yin underground water crossing yang energy lines). The labyrinth resonates to this numinous spiral, the Phi ratio known as the ‘Golden Mean’ found in all of nature.
Labyrinths have always been associated with ancient pilgrimage routes and rituals of self-discovery. They were worn as a form of protection and ornamentation and were often found carved on doorways to bless a dwelling. Labyrinths are time windows, portals, where time stands still. They are known to facilitate altered states of consciousness and have parallels with reincarnation, initiation, prosperity, and fertility rites. Ancient Scandinavian sailors believed the labyrinth had magical properties and when walked could control the weather and ensure a good catch.
Many Sacred Dances have taken place within the Labyrinth such as the “crane” dance recounted in the Greek legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is believed that the action of “dancing” a labyrinth magically activates its inherent powers. As a universal symbol the Labyrinth appears throughout history dating some 4,500 years and appears cross-culturally over the face of our world throughout our known history. Labyrinths date back to early Crete, Egypt, Peru and India and were used for ritual walking and spiritual contemplation. Often called “city of turns” labyrinths were equated with Holy cities such as Troy, Jericho, and Jerusalem.
Resonating to the vibration of “seven” the Classical Labyrinth has a direct correlation with the primary Chakras, Tones on the scale, and Colors of the Rainbow. Equated with the brain many cultures believed that the labyrinth could cure illness. Today the labyrinth is known to have a curative effect on certain ailments by producing a sense of well-being and balance through a type of vestibular stimulation, accessing both left and right hemispheres of the brain.
Moving through a Labyrinth changes ordinary ways of perception connecting the inner and the outer, the right brain and the left brain, the involutional and the evolutional through a series of paths that represent the realms of the Gods and Goddesses. These realms are associated with planetary movement as a process that induces Union with the One.
Oral Tradition of the Hopi Labyrinth
The Man in the Maze
I’itoi or I’ithi is, in the tradition of the O’odham peoples, the mischievous creator god who resides in a cave just below the peak of ‘ in the American Southwest, most prominently by Hopi silversmiths in rings and jewelry to showcase the quality of their technique and by Pima basket weavers, with whom it has been a very popular pattern since the 1900s. Every basket pattern has a “mistake” (also known as a “dau”, or door) intentionally integrated into it’s design so that the spirit of the basket can be released.
According to O’odham oral history, the labyrinth design depicts experiences and choices we make in our journey through life. In the middle of the “maze”, a person finds their dreams and goals. When one reaches the center, we have one final opportunity (the last turn in the design) to look back upon our choices and path, before the Sun God greets us, blesses us and passes us into the next world.
Oral History as told by Alfretta Antone
“Elder Brother lived in the maze … and the reason why he lived in the maze was because … I think how I’m gonna say this … magician or oh, medicine man that can disappear, and that can do things, heal people and things like that … that was Elder Brother … Se:he … they called him … he lived in there … but he had a lot of enemies so he made that, and to live in there people would go in there but they couldn’t find him … they would turn around and go back. But in real life … when you look at the maze you start from the top and go into the maze … your life, you go down and then you reach a place where you have to turn around … maybe in your own life you fall, something happens in your home, you are sad, you pick yourself up and you go on through the maze … you go on and on and on … so many places in there you might … maybe your child died … or maybe somebody died, or you stop, you fall and you feel bad … you get up, turn around and go again … when you reach that middle of the maze … that’s when you see the Sun God and the Sun God blesses you and say you have made it … that’s where you die. The maze is a symbol of life … happiness, sadness … and you reach your goal … there’s a dream there, and you reach that dream when you get to the middle of the maze … that’s how I was told, my grandparents told me that’s how the maze is.”
Establishing Sacred Space
As a dowser I feel the energetic quality of the Earth is germane to the establishment of sacred space. When establishing a labyrinth we dowse a site before any work begins then invite and work with the spirit of place before the temple is erected. A great deal of devic activity accompanies our work, we’ll invariably have rainbows, shooting stars, many birds and animals, and unseen helping hands with us. Its always a wonder to see who’ll make an appearance to build an earth temple. From old Swedish legends we’ve found a method of using our intention to provide clear weather for outdoor events. In fact, there have been times when we’ve been the only dry ground for miles. This ability to work with the elements was gleaned from legendary accounts of ancient Swedish sailors who would build their labyrinths near the sea in order to capture and control the winds. As a sailor myself and former owner of a wooden Swedish sailboat, I’m happy to report this method still works.
Best known as a tool for transformation the Classical Seven-Path Labyrinth is known to facilitate non-ordinary states of perception. Based on the Universal Law, energy follows thought, alternate realities are actualized through induced states of intent; this is the key to manifestation. The ancient wise women of Great Britain used the labyrinth to initiate states of high perception by continuously running the finger through a carved stone labyrinthine tablet while inducing sacred harmonics to initiate the higher state. The template would be seen, felt, and physically activated until the desired state became manifest. Indeed, it is possible to recreate these states of consciousness today.
If you have modeling clay you can construct a tablet labyrinth with finger canals, or simply use construction paper to create a paper diagram adhered to a stong backing. Find a comfortable place for meditation where you won’t be interrupted, then ground and center yourself and begin with voiced clear intent and prayer.
Holding the labyrinth in one hand on your lap, use your other hand to run the pattern. Take your index finger and lightly follow the pathway all the way in and out again. Continue this spiraling movement until it becomes a continuous even flow. When you feel comfortable with the movement and know the pathway intimately, then close your eyes and continue the journey.
In the beginning you will want to consciously access light (color), frequency (harmonic), energy (chakras) as you make your way through the labyrinth. The route begins on the third pathway and continues as follows 2, 1, 4, 7, 6, 5, and center, returning in the same reverse fashion.
The corresponding frequencies are as follows:
Path – Color – Note – Chakra
3 – yellow – E – Solar Plexus
2 – orange – D – Sacral Plexus
1 – red – C – Root
4 – green – F – Heart
7 – violet – B – Crown
6 – indigo – A – Brow
5 – blue – G – Throat
Center – Oneness
To initiate an interdimensional doorway hold the image of light and spiritual emergence firmly in your mind. Begin moving conscious energy to the various chakra centers corresponding to the Path. This may be felt in a number of ways including physical and or emotional manifestation. Pay attention to the subtleties but don’t dwell on the phenomena, make a mental note of your experience and continue on your way. When you have some degree of mastery over the above, notice your emotions, thoughts, and any physical manifestation in your body such as an electrical feeling or vibration.
As you become comfortable with the movement and layering of imagery begin letting go of conscious thinking. You may continue the harmonic toning if you’re comfortable with this. Become aware of the feel of energy moving through your body which may manifest as tingling throughout your body in your hands, feet, and legs. As you enter the area of separation from the physical and unification with the divine you may sense a rarefied atmosphere, hear tonal frequencies, and notice energy sensations run through various parts of your body. Relax. You have successfully initiated a state of altered consciousness enabling access to various levels of shamanic journey. The next step is Intention. Do you know where you are going from here? Intuit it wisely.
Walking the Rainbow Path
Each path has a number that corresponds to the chakras,
working with the frequency of each contemplate your question
as you enter, and recieve the solution as you exit.
1: Base Chakra
2: sacral chakra
3: Solar plexus
4: Heart Chakra
5: throat chakra
6: third eye
7: Crown Chakra
Enter on Path 3 – 2 – 1 – 4 – 7 – 6 – 5 – Center
At the opening of the labyrinth take the time to relax and to clarify your question. Begin your sacred walk on the third path (3) Yellow, Solar Plexus. Here you contemplate your path in life. As you turn onto the second path (2)Orange, Sacral Plexus, intuit your feelings and how you react to your tests or difficulties, and how this impacts your health, and prosperity. Turn on to the first path (1) Red, Base Chakra, the origin of your foundation, your physical world and grounding to the Earth. You continue on to the fourth path (4)Green, Heart Chakra, your analytical side connecting you to your spirituality. Turn on to the seventh path (7)Violet, Crown Chakra connecting with Source (god or goddess) activating the right hemisphere of your brain, intuition, and sacred images. Continue on to the sixth path (6) Indigo, Brow/Third Eye quietly listening to your inner voice for guidence. Turn on to the fifth path (5) Blue, Throat Chakra, your spiritual inner voice. Finally arriving at the CENTER Oneness.
RETURN along the same path exiting on the fifth path without judgement, sixth path seeing your truth, seventh path thanking source in your life, fourth with an open receiving heart, first path grounding back into the material world, second path connecting to your physical self, third path fully transformed empowered self.
Create a temporary 48′ Pavement Labyrinth
For under $10 a chalk on a concrete labyrinth makes the perfect budget project. You will need a stick (or a broom will do), 50′ of string, a compass (to find the cardinal directions), a bucket, sponge, water, and lots of chalk! We realize that not everyone is comfortable dowsing, so our suggestion is to simply trust your instinct and place the labyrinth in the best spot suited to your needs. You can use temporary marking paint on a grassy surface.
We prefer working outside in nature and dowse for the correct placement of the Labyrinth, including its orientation. A left brain/right brain exercise. Walking a labyrinth stimulates both hemispheres of the brain, inducing cerebral balance as proven in recent medical studies. Begin by identifying the center of your labyrinth and the opening known as the mouth. Use your compass to determine the cardinal directions. Have someone hold the stick firmly in the center tied to a string, then stretch the string out 8 – l0 feet. This will give you a 16′ – 20′ center, necessary if you are working with groups. Invariably, everyone will end up in the center at the same time, so we generally enlarge this space.
Begin by walking in a circle drawing your first ring. Repeat this seven more times, each time pulling the string out another 2 feet or so. This will give you a 24″ wide pathway, enough room for individuals to pass one another. You now have 8 concentric circles including the center circle. If you are working with children you might want to color the paths with bright chaulk. Make a Rainbow labyrinth by beginning with red on the outer band, and work toward the center as follows, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet, and white in the center.
You should now be ready to create the turns, the entrance and the opening at the mouth of the labyrinth. Draw a straight line from the center down the lower half of the diagram to the mouth. The turns end up on each side of this line as you can clearly see in the diagram. Be sure to lightly rub or sponge any areas of chalk that you no longer need, correcting any mistakes.
You can also create the diagram on grass with “temporary marking paint” washable with the first rainfall. Temporary marking paint can be obtained in spray bottles at any hardware store. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours to complete the design. Spend the rest of the day enjoying your new labyrinth.
Drawing the Cretan Style Classical Seven-Path Labyrinth
The Magic of Labyrinths examines the phenomena of mazes and labyrinths, looking at their historical, cultural, and spiritual significance. Profiles several pioneers of the modern labyrinth genre, including Kathy Doore’s story entitled: The Hero’s Journey. Highly Recommended.
Kathy Doore hosts a yearly pilgrimage to the ancient sacred sites of Peru. Over two decades ago while on a solo-pilgrimage to Machu Picchu, Kathy experienced a sudden and profound awakening during a late night visit within the inner sanctum of Machu Picchu, bringing her into the work she does today. Utilizing the geomantic elements of the ancients, and sensing the natural telluric flows of the earth, she has been led to work with the ancient libraries and doorways of the divine, places rich in Spirit. Both a natural intuitive and an accomplished facilitator for journeys of the inner and the outer landscape, she invites you to journey with her to Peru.