The labyrinth. Everyone has heard of it. It's one of the first things people think of when I mention that my spiritual practice has a Minoan focus. They might think of the beautiful labyrinth set into the floor at Chartres cathedral, or the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, or modern projects like the Pulse Memorial in Orlando, Florida (USA).

It's interesting, then, that no one has ever found an actual labyrinth at a Minoan site. There are lots of almost-but-not-quite-labyrinth meander patterns in Minoan art. And the labyrinth does show up on Cretan coins, but not until many centuries after Minoan civilization was gone.

It's possible that, in Minoan times, the labyrinth wasn't a physical object at all but rather, a type of choreography for a ritual dance. In that sense, it would be kind of like a complicated spiral dance, with the participants swirling and turning back and forth as they went - the Crane Dance of Greek folklore and mythology. Maybe they painted the design on a floor cloth, or maybe it was considered too sacred to commit to a physical medium.

We can't know for certain how the ancient Minoans experienced the labyrinth, so we have to approach it on our own terms in the modern world. Many of us who practice Modern Minoan Paganism make a point of walking full-size labyrinths whenever we can. This usually involves visiting places that have public labyrinths; most of us don't have purpose-built labyrinths in our back yards (though it is possible to create labyrinths for short-term use out of lengths of ribbon or rope, or even by raking up leaves into the appropriate pattern).

We also use finger labyrinths as a meditative tool, "walking" them when we have a few moments during our day. And a few lucky folks get together with others for labyrinth rituals, walking to the center to face our own darkness and receive healing from Ariadne, the Lady of the Labyrinth. I even wrote a labyrinth-walking chant that works for both rituals and individual labyrinth-walking.

For most people, regardless of their religious or spiritual background, labyrinth walking is a profoundly peaceful and healing activity, a kind of moving meditation. Something about the act of circling around and then turning back against your previous path again and again breaks up old energy and thought patterns, allowing new ones to blossom.

In Modern Minoan Paganism, sometimes we envision the Minotaur at the center of the labyrinth: not a monster, but a god whose strength and power can help us face our shadow selves and integrate that darkness into a healthy whole. Whether it's Ariadne or the Minotaur or both whom you meet in the center, it's a place of peace, womb-like, safe. When I have the opportunity to walk a labyrinth without other people around, I like to stop in the center and stay there a while, contemplating what I need to let go of, what no longer serves me. Whatever that might be, I leave it there, in the labyrinth, and walk back out lighter and more peaceful.

Regardless of your spiritual path, if you have the opportunity to walk a labyrinth, I recommend it. It's a simple activity that has hidden depths and can become a valuable facet of your spiritual practice.

In the name of the bee,

And of the butterfly,

And of the breeze, amen.



Image: Ariadne and the Labyrinth, original artwork by Laura Perry