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What are labyrinths for?

Labyrinths have many purposes and have been used throughout history.

Some labyrinths are chiefly for entertainment (especially mazes that challenge the ingenuity of the traveler to discover the successful path leading to the goal). Such playful labyrinths are often provided with surprises along the path, fountains or obstacles to be overcome.

Other labyrinths are artistic because of the elaborately beautiful patterns they make. Contemporary maze labyrinths are sometimes formed so that their paths and borders outline a picture visible only if looked at from high above.

In the Middle Ages, walking a cathedral labyrinth (also called a meandering labyrinth) was a substitute for going on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Not everyone could make the long and arduous journey to the Holy Land, so walking a labyrinth in a church was a devotional activity.

Today, meandering labyrinths are often used as walking meditations; their goal is to focus the mind and put the walker in tune with the great scope of reality that is metaphorically represented by the labyrinth.