Labyrinths and Mazes - Part 2


When I started Crystalinks in 1995 - the file 'labyrinths' was one of the first subjects areas I posted.

I was immediately contacted by a woman named Jean Lutz from Scottsdale, Az, - where my daughter, Tracy, had just moved. Jean had included the teachings of the labyrinth in her seminars as far back as the 1960's. She was one of the people who was dedicated to bringing labyrinths back to the fore. She had a newsletter - The Labyrinth Letter that wasn't online but she sent me a copy. She no longer publishes the newletter as we have all gone to cyberspace. Jean also organized the first and second annual national labyrinth conferences in 1995 and 1996 and asked if I would attend. I though about it - but the timing was off.

Jean's newsletters taught me about another name for the labyrinth - Dromenon - which Jean linked to the mystery schools - which we know are linked to the ancient teaching of geometric creation. The dromenon is based on the medieval cathedral labyrinths, with the same path pattern as the Chartres labyrinth, although of different overall proportions and excluding the petals and perimeter decoration.

It was through Jean Houston and her mystery school that The Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress, Canon for Special Ministries at Grace Cathedral (Episcopal) in San Francisco, became inspired by the labyrinth. Traveling with a portable canvas labyrinth, Artress almost single handedly began the revival of interest in churches to rediscover the lost tradition of the labyrinth.

There are two permanent labyrinths installed at Grace Cathedral B one indoors and one outside, the latter being open 24 hours a day B have been walked by an estimated one million people in the last five years.

Independent of the labyrinth revival in churches, a parallel movement developed amongst American dowsers in the mid-1980's through interaction between Sig Lonegren - (someone else who wrote to me in the early days of Crystalinks and helped me learn some basic html) - and Jeff Saward, editor of the British labyrinth journal Caerdroia. Lonegren and Richard Feather Anderson began to install labyrinths at national and regional conventions of the American Society of Dowsers, an activity soon passed on to Alex Champion, a full-time labyrinth and earthworks builder since 1989. Both Lonegren and Anderson taught courses in geomancy and sacred space, including how to build and use labyrinths. In 1991, Sig Lonegren's book Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses was published, immediately becoming a popular resource for labyrinths.

The labyrinth revival has seen a number of innovations with regard to labyrinth designs and construction techniques. Traditionally, medieval cathedral labyrinths were indoor pavement labyrinths, most often of the Chartres pattern, whereas Scandinavian Troy Towns were classic labyrinths made of stones and located along the shores of the Baltic Sea. These distinctions have become blurred. Pavement labyrinths have been moved outdoors, painted on cement or asphalt, or constructed of granite, brick or terrazzo. The Chartres pattern has been made in sizes up to 100 feet in diameter using the Troy Town technique of laying out stones on the ground, often adding wood bark or mulch for the surface of the paths. One such construction at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Elgin, Illinois (near Chicago) is called "The Earth Wisdom Labyrinth," combining both pagan and Christian connotations.

Native Americans, have two labyrinth symbols -

Hopi Round Labyrinth

Hopi Square Labyrinth

The Symbol of the Emergence "The whole myth and meaning of the Emergence is expressed by one symbol known to the Hopis as the Mother Earth symbol. There are two forms, the square [yellow above] and the circular [red above].

Examples of these Labyrinth are carved on a rock south of Oraibi, and south of Shipaulovi. A combination of the two forms is also carved on a wooden stick which is planted in front of the One Horn altar in the Kwani kiva at Walpi during the Wœwuchim ceremony.

The symbol is commonly known as Tapu'at [Mother and Child]. This type represents spiritual rebirth from one world to the succeeding one, as symbolized by the Emergence itself."

The Man in the Maze

At one level, the labyrinth symbolizes the female womb, only penetrable if one is pure and perfect. The male figure outside, representing the human seed, can penetrate the womb, fertilize the ovum, produce new life, which then emerges as a new birth or a reincarnated existence. Entry into the labyrinth gives new life to litoi, thus achieving reincarnation and eternal life.


In 1700 Paul Lucas, the Antiquary to Louis XIV, went of a voyage to Egypt, and, in the book in which he subsequently published the account of his travels, gives us some idea of the state of the remains in his time, but his accout is very rambling and unreliable. The above picture is a view which he gives of part of the ruins of the alleged labyrinth." (W.H. Matthews)


Some of the earliest forms of labyrinths are found in Greece, dating back to 2500-2000 B.C.E. This labyrinth is called the Cretan labyrinth or classical seven-circuit labyrinth. So much a part of the fabric of this early society was the labyrinth, that it was embossed on coins and pottery.

Here are two coins from Crete. The square one is from the first century B.C. The round one is about a thousand years older. The maze in this form was the national emblem of Cretan civilization, for a thousand years, at least. The name Cretan Labyrinth has therefore been given to it. Yet if we take the Val Camonica maze and tidy up the lines so that they become of uniform width we can plainly see that we have a Cretan maze in negative.


England contains many unicursal turf mazes, some possibly dating back to the Dark Ages, when they were created by the nordic settlers. The names Troytown and Walls of Troy recall the siege of Troy and the penetration of its walls by deception, whilst Shepherd's Race and Robin Hood's Race imply vigorous running. In Germany, unicursal turf mazes were used for ritual procession by apprentices as they reached adulthood.

In Britain, there are now over 125 mazes open to the public, compared with 42 in 1980. One distinctive aspect of British mazes is their diversity, with possibly the widest range of forms of maze of any country in the world. Hedges mazes are particularly distinctive to Britain, whilst mazes using turf, brick, stone, wood and water are also widespread. Indoors, there are mazes made of mosiac, marble and stained-glass, as well as mirror mazes.

About the time that Hermann Kern was researching material for his labyrinth book in the late 1970's, a modest labyrinth revival was already in progress in Britain. The reprinting of W.H.Matthews' Mazes & Labyrinths in 1970 and the publication of Janet Bord's Mazes and Labyrinths of the World in 1976 provided a valuable stimulus for this revival, with researchers such as Nigel Pennick producing a number of small, self-published titles from the mid-70's onwards.

The maze building exploits of Greg Bright at Pilton, Somerset in 1971 and the subsequent use of his complex swirling design for the hugely influential hedge maze at Longleat House, planted 1975, triggered the new interest in puzzle mazes. This interest was documented and encouraged with the founding of Caerdroia, the Journal of Mazes and Labyrinths by Jeff and Deb Saward in 1980.

A series of lectures and events during the 1980's allowed many British labyrinth enthusiasts to meet, share their knowledge and discover the work of other researchers, particularly the work of John Kraft, Bo Stjernstr¯m and others in Scandinavia. Jeff Saward and Hermann Kern met on one brief occasion in 1983. Saward was to continue publication of Caerdroia to the present day, for almost two decades now, in addition to travelling extensively and accumulating an admirable body of photographs and documentation, many of which were used in the English Edition of this book.

The designation of 1991 as 'The Year of the Maze' as a tourism theme by the English Tourist Board saw a flurry of new mazes installed and the publication of several popular books, coinciding with the events and publicity planned for the year.

Nigel Pennick's Mazes and Labyrinths and Adrian Fisher's The Art of the Maze introduced the subject to a whole new generation of readers. Heightened media awareness ensured publicity for many maze-related events, culminating in Labyrinth'91, an international conference at Saffron Walden in July 1991. Maze and labyrinth enthusiasts from the UK, USA and Europe gathered to meet and join the celebration of the restoration of the important early 19th century hedge maze, at Bridge End Gardens, in the town.

Adrian Fisher, during the same time period, has established himself as the world's foremost maze builder, with some 200 installations in such divergent locations as schools, museums, gardens and amusement parks around the world. For the most part his work is modern and multi-cursal, but a number of his designs draw inspiration from the earlier uni-cursal labyrinths. His fascination for maze puzzles started with the construction of his first hedge maze in 1975 and developed during the early 1980's, when he started his maze design business, Minotaur Designs.

Early partnerships with Randoll Coate, Graham Burgess and others, brought in a number of different influences and design themes to Fisher's work, which has developed to introduce a number of radical new interactive features and construction materials to the maze design world. Along with the familiar formal hedge mazes, Fisher has installed mazes constructed of mirrors, wooden fencing panels, brick pavement, coloured plastic tiles and walls of water fountains.

The latest of these developments, the Maize Mazes, currently popular in the late summer cornfields of Europe and America, has seen the construction of the largest public mazes ever recorded, with path lengths approaching four miles.

Fisher's former design partner, Randoll Coate, has pioneered the use of multiple superimposed imagery for maze designs in the 20 or so examples he has been involved with. The resulting combination of ancient symbolism, familiar in labyrinth design, within a modern maze, has been most innovative and can be seen to good effect in a number of examples throughout Europe - particularly at Varmlands, Sweden and the recently planted Sun Maze & Lunar Labyrinth at Longleat, England.

- Through the Labyrinth by Hermann Kern


In Scandinavia to this day, over 600 stone labyrinths line the shores of the Baltic Sea, with over half of them in Sweden. Many are said to have been built by fishermen, who walked through them in the hope of a good catch and a safe return. Their varied names - Julian’s Bower, Maiden's Bower, Trojaborg - give further insight to their purpose, as an expression of the pursuit of maidens, courtship, the act of fertility, penetration of the womb, the creation of the embryo with its umbilical cord, and the birth of new life.

Likewise starting in the mid-1970's, the labyrinth research of John Kraft, Bo Stjernstr¯m, J rgen Thordrup and others, has seen a remarkable resurgence of interest in the labyrinth within Scandinavia. Building on the archival works of earlier authors, Kraft and Stjernstr¯m have diligently researched, located and catalogued the considerable number of sites, predominantly stone labyrinths, throughout the region.

Sweden: Galgeberget, Visby, Gotland

A number of replicas of the ancient labyrinths have been constructed in school yards and childrens' playgrounds and at other educational foundations, particularly in Denmark. The installation of a stone labyrinth at the popular re-creation of an Iron Age village at Lejre, in 1979, has led to a number of similar examples in Denmark and elsewhere throughout Scandinavia. The tireless work of J rgen Thordrup, promoting the labyrinth in his native Denmark, has seen a number of examples constructed in playgrounds and parks, often in connection with schools and local cultural projects. Kraft and Thordrup have also been closely involved with a number of art exhibitions with a labyrinth theme held in Scandinavia since 1995.


Recent constructions in Austria include a hedge maze in the shape of an outstretched hand at Wattens, by AndrŽ Heller, and the construction of a number of temporary labyrinths at the Tiroler Gartenschau in Innsbruck by Austrian labyrinth enthusiast Gernot Candolini (author of two labyrinth books published in Germany: Labyrinthe: Ein Praxisbuch zum Malen, Bauen, Tanzen, Spielen, Meditieren und Feiern and Geheimnisvolles Labyrinth - Mythos und Geschichte eines Menschheitssymbols, both Pattloch Verlag, Augsburg, 1999). In Schloss Schonbrunn a new hedge maze for the Irrgarten opened in September, 1999. It was designed (by Candolini) after one of the six elements of the original 18th -century maze on the site, destroyed at the end of last century.

Ilse M. Seifried has organized an exhibition, Die Kunst zu wandeln: Das Labyrinth, Mythos und Wirklichkeit for the Shedhalle in St. Pšlten (Nov. 23, 1999 - Jan. 24, 2000), which will likely generate further interest. Candolini reports the location of these additional labyrinths in Austria: Bad Tatzmannsdorf (Kurpark, Cretan, landscaped), Loipersdorf (Troy Town), Pšllau (Stiftsgarten, Cretan, stones and landscape, and a new design in Naturpark by Jšrg Purner), Heiligenkrauz (Haus der Stille, Chartres, pavement), Innsbruck (Siebererschule, Cretan, stones; City Park, round Cretan,landscaped; and Domplatz, a multi-colored pavement labyrinth to be completed in the year 2000).


More than in other countries, Switzerland seems to embrace the appropriateness of labyrinths in public places, of which more than 50 have been established in recent years, in addition to dozens of other on private property.

The impetus for public labyrinths began when artist Agnes Barmettler and art teacher Rosmarie Schmid won first place among 140 entrants in a 1989 design competition for public spaces, sponsored in Zurich for the 700th anniversary of the founding of the Swiss Federation. The project was constructed on the site of a former military academy (Zeughausareal), just a ten minute walk from the central train station. Some 30 meters (98 feet) in diameter, the labyrinth is of contemporary design including landscaping that is maintained by a corps of women volunteers.

In fact, the labyrinth revival has been largely the responsibility of women, especially the organization Projekt Labyrinth, Oefffentliche Frauenplatze International an 133 Orten, which took on the goal of establishing 133 public labyrinths by the end of the century. Barmettler and Schmid, both well-versed in the philosophy and tradition of labyrinths, have served as consultants for the construction of many other projects. Sites for labyrinths include protestant and Catholic churches and academies, retreat centers, universities and women's organizations. Although initiated by women, the labyrinths have drawn a wide range of participants, men, women, and children, for meditation, ceremonies (such as full moon and solstice celebrations), cultural events, and sacred dance.

Besides the Chartres and Cretan patterns, another commonly used design is the Scandinavian or Baltic Wheel, which allows a choice between a longer path or a shorter one, an especially useful feature in very large labyrinths.

The women creators of Switzerland's labyrinths have emphasized harmony with the natural surroundings, including trees, rocks and brooks in the designs. Case in point, the labyrinth at the Academy of Boldern, MŠnnedorf (on Lake Zurich), placed in front of a Japanese pavilion, has the feel of a Zen garden. This is the largest labyrinth in Switzerland and follows the pattern of the Baltic Wheel patternin Hanover, Germany.

Another leading figure in the promotion of Swiss labyrinths, Susanne Kramer-Friedrich, has developed a guide to labyrinth location, which is also featured on the Internet. It is interesting that Swiss labyrinth activity has been centered around Zurich, the same city that contains the only medieval example of a labyrinth displayed on a secular building.


When Hermann Kern was compiling his work in the late 1970's, the partition of East and West Germany caused serious problems for researchers attempting to look beyond the 'Iron Curtain'. Kern himself was convinced that the turf labyrinths at Steigra and Graitschen in Eastern Germany had long since vanished, since no reference to them had been published in Western literature since before WWII. A visit to both these labyrinths by Jeff Saward in 1983 proved otherwise and provided an impetus for further research. Archival work by Nigel Pennick, John Kraft and more recently by Kurt Kr˜ger, has since provided more information on labyrinths in Germany.

In recent years a number of new labyrinths have appeared in Bonn, Stuttgart, Frankfurt-am-Main and Karlsruhe, amongst others, with more in the planning stages for Erfurt, Dresden and Hannover. Artist Gundala Thormaehlen Friedman has constructed Cretan labyrinths at her residence in Bad Krueznach as well as in Disibodenberg at the cloister of 12th-century Abbess Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179).

Most German labyrinths are again the result of women's groups, inspired and assisted by the labyrinth community from Switzerland. Schmid and Barmettler have made more than 50 presentations to Volkshochschulen (institutions for permanent education) , Frauenzentren (women's centers), and other groups in Germany. As in Switzerland, there is a strong bent toward geomantic considerations in the design and placement of the labyrinths.


Despite the absence of a native labyrinth tradition in Australasia or the Far East, it is perhaps not surprising that the spread of European colonialism to this region from the late 18th century onwards should bring the labyrinth, in one or other of its forms, to establish a foothold on the opposite side of the globe from its earliest recorded examples.

The splendid maze at Peking, constructed of high brick walls enclosing small groves of trees and a central pavilion, was built in the gardens of the Imperial Court by 1766, but destroyed in 1860. The first maze in Australia would appear to be the Ballarat hedge maze, in the Botanical Gardens, originally planted in 1862, cleared in 1881, replanted in the late 1880's and eventually destroyed in 1954 (although plans remain on file to restore it again someday). Several other early examples are all of the traditional hedge maze variety: Belair, 1886 (the only survivor, but overgrown); Geelong, 1896; Melbourne, 1890's; indeed most are direct copies of hedge mazes in Britain, from where this influence originated. The first maze to be established in New Zealand, in 1911 at the Dunedin Botanic Garden, was likewise a hedge maze, but regrettably was finally removed, after initial re-siting and restoration in the 1930's, in 1947.

In recent years the concept of the maze has once again become popular in Australia and New Zealand. The start of this modern maze expansion can be traced to the construction, in 1973, of the Wanaka Maze by Stuart Landsborough. This innovative maze was the first to utilize wooden fencing panels to construct a large, challenging puzzle maze, which could be installed almost 'overnight'. Landsborough has continued to develop and refine his maze and has experimented with bridges and multiple layers of decks along with movable sections of fencing to make the puzzle easier, or more difficult, for visitors.

During the early 1980's Landsborough was involved in creating a number of similar mazes elsewhere in New Zealand and Australia and this maze concept was widely imitated throughout the region. It's introduction into Japan at this time resulted in a remarkable craze for these ever more elaborate and complex wooden panel mazes. In the space of five years, in the mid-1980's, as many as 200 were built, although only the better sited and commercially successful survive.

In the closing years of the 20th century, the maze is still a popular entertainment in Australia and New Zealand. The Wanaka Maze still proves popular and is the flagship for maze interest in NZ. A flurry of new mazes planted or opened in the last few years in Australia includes some huge creeper mazes (fast growing creepers over trellis work) and several multi-maze complexes - including the splendidly named Tasmazia in Tasmania and the Hedgend Mazes at Healesville, Victoria. After nearly a century and a half of mazes in the region, it is interesting to hear that in the last few years several groups have sprung up in Australia that are building labyrinths - influenced directly from the example in Grace Cathedral, California.

LABYRINTH SITES Benton Castle - South West coast of Wales
Cathedral of Chartres - France Image Jeff Saward Labyrinthos
Cathedral at Amiens, North of Paris in France
Saffron Walden, England Newsletter Image Jeff Saward Labyrinthos
Grace Cathedral - San Francisco
Wisdom House - in Conn. - US
St. Pauls
Click the Balls to find a Labyrinth near you

Can you 'walk' these Mazes?
It's time to take a sacred walk through the labyrinth . . . The Cretan Labyrinth The Chartres Labyrinth . . . You may want to print these images . . so you can use your index finger to guide you along. Which image appeals to you? Do you like the simple path of the labyrinth . . . or the path of many choices. . . ? Begin to move through the first labyrinth . . . Take your time . . . When you feel guided . . . pause . . . take a slow deep breath . . . breathing in through your nose . . . holding the breath as is comforatable . . . releasing it slowly through your mouth. Close your eyes . . . Look for images on the screen behind your eyes . . . Listen to your thoughts. . . Visualize balance scales in front of you. Now . . . move the scales until they are balanced and level. Continue on your journey . . . until you are ready to stop. Enjoy your journey . . .

Background by Image Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos