The origin of labyrinths is lost in time, but in Greek mythology King Minos had Daedalus build him a labyrinth to imprison the Minotaur – half beast, half man. This seems to suggest he actually built a maze; mazes have multiple interconnected paths designed to confuse, whereas a labyrinth has one path from the entrance to the center, the same path being used to come back out. The term for this single path feature is unicursal.
Labyrinths date back at least 4500 years and are reported in use in American Indian, Inca, Hindu and numerous European cultures. They are gg an invention of Christianity, but have been connected with Pilgrimages as a substitute walk for those unable to actually travel to the Holy Land.
The French term “a la saint terre” meaning “to the Holy Land” is the origin of our word “saunter” – a kind of purposeful wandering.
Labyrinths have been used for dancing, as open air temples, as game courts, for meditative walks and frequently as aids to healing as well as offering of prayers to numerous spirit gods. There is strong connection between labyrinths and Mother Earth representations – especially among the Hopi. The American Indian “Man inthe Maze” labyrinth celebrates conception and the hope of new birth.
There are hundreds of labyrinth designs, many associated with particular national or tribal groups.
The Glenwood Labyrinth is a modified copy of the famous one at the Chartres Cathedral outside Paris.
Labyrinths are enjoying a resurgence of interest worldwide as a rediscovered diversion from our hectic lives. ln Britain and Europe they are appearing in public parks, shopping malls, school playgrounds and sports fields, train stations and city centers.