What does a labyrinth symbolize?
All labyrinths are symbolic.
Steeped in Mythology: Some labyrinths are richly symbolic, such as the Cretan labyrinth, which is connected to a complex mix of myth, symbol, and allegory. At the heart of this labyrinth waits the Minotaur, half human and half bull. Through its winding passageways, the hero Theseus advances toward the center, guided by the inspiration of the priestess-princess Ariadne. The myth of the labyrinth originates with the story of these three characters.
Connected to mind, body and soul: The winding pattern of any labyrinth also represents the circulation of vital energies within our bodies, and that pattern suggests the convolutions of the brain and the intestines--two poles of our body corresponding to our consciousness and its physical vehicle. To traverse the labyrinth is to bring into one wholeness all parts of our being. Walking the labyrinth is thus a type of Yoga.
Seven is a cosmic number: The seven circuits of the Cretan labyrinth correspond with the seven spheres of the sacred planets, the seven principles of the human being and the cosmos, the seven days of the week, and other such sevenfold meanings. Passing to the center of the labyrinth and returning to its circumference represents the involution and evolution of the universe, the coming into birth and the passing out of earthly life of an individual, and--most important--a journey into the center of our own being, the achievement there of a quest for wholeness, and the subsequent return to our divine source.
The circuits of the labyrinth pattern, as one encounters them in tracing the labyrinth's path, have the correspondences indicated below. The numbers in the following list denote the order of the circuits from the circumference to the center, which corresponds to Earth and the physical body. Thus one enters the labyrinth at its third circuit, corresponding to desire, meanders outward, then to the middle circuit, corresponding to vitality, moves inward and meanders back from the center until reaching the fifth circuit, corresponding to the pure mind, from which one enters the center:
| 1. Saturn,empirical mind, Saturday
2. Jupiter, self-identity, Thursday
3. Mars, desire, Tuesday
4. Sun, vitality, Sunday
5. Venus, pure mind, Friday
6. Mercury, intuition, Wednesday
7. Moon, form, Monday
The symbolism of the seven sacred planets with all their correspondences and analogs infuses the Cretan labyrinth with rich meanings by association. A contemplation of those associations while walking the labyrinth, either by your feet or in your mind, will evoke the meanings of its circuits for you.