Why People Are Attracted To Labyrinths

The Scandinavian pagans believed that by going through the labyrinth, you can cope with difficulties, strengthen your protection and gain good luck. For believers, it symbolizes the path to God and the way of atonement for sins. Labyrinths were built in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire. Smithsonian magazine discusses why mazes are so attractive these days, and where to find an interesting maze for enlightenment or a leisurely walk.

Why people are attracted to labyrinths

Why people have walked the labyrinths since ancient times, and how they can benefit you


Labyrinth is a pattern of pathways. Some people associate the word "maze" with Daedalus the Minotaur or with the movie in which David Bowie played the goblin king. But a real maze is not like that at all. It only has one route, and there are no wrong turns. A real labyrinth is not a puzzle, it is meditation.

These complex single-track circuits were used long before the chronicle history. Historians divide labyrinths into types based on their shape and time period. All Unicursal mazes have one entrance and one path leading to the center of the space and then back. The labyrinths are also divided into left-handed and right-handed, depending on the direction of the first turn.

 From the history of labyrinths

Images of ancient labyrinths can be found in rock paintings, petroglyphs and other complex inscriptions. One of the most famous labyrinths of the ancient world was housed in a complex of Egyptian pyramids built in Hawara during the 12th Dynasty (1844-1797 BC) by order of Pharaoh Amenemkhet III. Finds found during excavations at Mycenae also speak of the era of the construction of labyrinths in ancient Greece.

With the rise of the Roman Empire, the classic circle warped into a square. The new Roman style of the labyrinth manifested itself in intricately patterned tiles in baths, tombs and dwellings. In the ninth century, the labyrinths regained their circular shape, but the chain lengthened. The floor of Chartres Cathedral in France remains one of the most famous medieval labyrinths.

It so happened historically that walking through the labyrinths is associated with religious and magical rituals. They were seen as a mini-pilgrimage or a way to atone for sins. The Scandinavian pagans believed that such an experience would help overcome difficulties, strengthen protection, and gain good luck. These days, maze walking is used for meditative purposes. This path is very personal, everyone gets their own impressions of the winding walk.

“It’s not predictable,” says David Gallagher, CEO of The Labyrinth Society. - I cannot say in advance what impressions a particular person should expect. Ask anyone interested in mazes and you will get different answers from everyone. Gallagher, who associates his walks with transcendental personal experiences, admits that they are not for everyone. He says that some people will walk over them without feeling anything. But this is all part of the mystery.

If you would like to take a vacation to somewhere that has a maze, you can use The Labyrinth Society's database of maze locations around the world. There are currently 4977 labyrinths in 80 countries on the list; search by location and type is provided. We invite you to learn more about five interesting labyrinths.

Chartres Cathedral (Chartres, France)
Chartres Cathedral (Chartres, France)
Labyrinth of Chartres Cathedral. Photo: Sylvain Sonnet

The labyrinth in Chartres cathedral dates back to 1205. The monks used it for speculation. Today it is one of the most famous labyrinths in the world. Pilgrims still flock to him from all over the world. But you can only walk through the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral on Fridays during the summer, when it is not covered with chairs for church services. His path symbolizes the human path from sin to redemption.

Old Summer Palace (Beijing, China)
Old Summer Palace (Beijing, China)
Tourists walk through the labyrinth of the Old Summer Palace, Beijing, China. Photo: Diego Azubel

The labyrinth is located in the Imperial Gardens, not far from the ruins of the Qing Dynasty and the palace, built in 1709. The entire garden and palace complex is called "Yuanmingyuan", which means "gardens of perfect clarity." The park, which originally occupied almost 350 hectares, was conceived as a private garden for a pleasant pastime for the Chinese emperors. But in 1860 it was destroyed by the British and French, who captured Beijing at the end of the Second Opium War. They plundered the garden, then began to burn it in revenge for the deaths of the prisoners. The history of the garden sounds tragic, but the surviving park ensembles and the preserved labyrinth are completely unique.

Dunoor Castle (Scotland, UK)
Dunoor Castle (Scotland, UK)
Stone labyrinth. Photo: Andrew Guthrie

China is not the only place where you can walk through the maze, contemplating the ruins. Look for the maze near the dilapidated Dunur Castle in Scotland. It is a 13th century fortress and the castle of the Kennedy clan, which at the time controlled most of southwestern Scotland. The stone labyrinth is located on the coast and faces down to the coastline, so you can admire a stunning view of the castle as you walk the route.

Maze in Hogsback (South Africa)
Maze in Hogsback (South Africa)
A tourist walks through one of the largest labyrinths. Hogsback, South Africa. Photo: Kim Ludbrook

One of the longest labyrinths lies in the Amatola mountain range in South Africa. Its duration is approximately one and a half kilometers. The Edge labyrinth offers stunning views of the forest and mountains. And the town of Hogsback is known for its dreamy landscapes and has become a favorite destination for crystal healers, yogis and seekers of spiritual enlightenment - an ideal place for a leisurely stroll.

Damme Monastery (Damme, Germany)
Damme Monastery (Damme, Germany)
The maze of Damme Monastery is nestled among the trees. Photo: Corradox

Forest lovers head to Damme's labyrinth, where a rocky path is interspersed with trees in the forest. The Abbey of M├╝nsterschwarzach in Bavaria has a similar labyrinth. But the peculiarity of Damme is that he is hidden in the forest, so it seems that you are the only person in the whole district. Solitude fosters a meditative attitude.

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