Attraction of labyrinths

The origin of the word “labyrinth” is still not quite clear. The Egyptologist Karl Lepsius claimed that this term comes from the Egyptian lepi (“sanctuary”) and rehint (“channel mouth”). But most of researchers believe that “labyrinth” in an Ancient Greek way means “underpasses”.

Anyway, ancient Greeks and Romans understood any tangled structure or the extensive space consisting of numerous rooms and transitions as this name. There it is possible to enter, but here to find an exit extremely difficult. It is curious that the labyrinth is at the same time both an abstract symbol, and quite real construction — as a rule, creation of human hands.

The first rock drawings of labyrinths have been created tens of thousands years ago. They represent seven lines twirled around the center. This form is considered classical for a labyrinth. Some researchers consider that crinkles of a labyrinth repeat bends of a sink or a human brain.

The sign of a labyrinth can be seen on the tomb wall in Luzzanas on the island of Sardinia which is put up about 4 000 years ago. On the Greek island Pylos the clay tablet with the drawing from seven concentric lines, her age — has been found about 3 000 years. Similar drawings meet on walls of caves in Turkey, Italy, the USA, Latin America.

Why images of labyrinths were so popular?

The matter is that since ancient times they played a role of magic charms. So, the curing mandala of Navajos in a form reminds a labyrinth. And at Indian tribes tokhono and a pima, living in the American State of Arizona, it is accepted to decorate wattled baskets with a pattern in the form of a labyrinth. On a belief, it serves as protection against evil forces.

The symbol of a labyrinth is present practically at any tradition and it makes initsiatichesky sense, being an embodiment of spiritual tests. “Life of each person — a labyrinth in which center there is death — the researcher Michael Erton says. — Before finally ceasing to exist, the person passes the last labyrinth”.

Rock paintings of labyrinths, Spain

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Labyrinths happen real and false. In the presents it is very easy to get lost. In false it is almost impossible — all roads meet in one point. Sometimes in a labyrinth there are “keys” — the indexes helping to find the correct way. If they are known looking for, that without effort will achieve the objectives.

As the French philosopher traditionalist Rene Genon in the book “Symbols of Sacred Science” claims, the labyrinth usually opens or forbids access to a certain sacred or magic place. In many religious and mystical societies adherents were offered to find independently a way in a labyrinth tangled, full of deadlocks and traps. This examination was maintained by not everyone. Sometimes the person died of hunger and thirst, without having found the road. Such is there was a cruel selection…

Meanwhile, in this case it was talked not of classical labyrinths at all. The last represent as it was already told above, ring-shaped structures with the accurate center in the middle. Paths in them aren’t reported among themselves, and the travel on labyrinth rounds inevitably leads the traveler to the central point or returns to a point initial.

As for a labyrinth trap, it actually is a puzzle — in English “мейз” (maze). Meyza not such ancient as labyrinths, their idea goes back to the Middle Ages. As a rule, at them it is several entrances and exits, tunnels are reported among themselves and form a set of forks.

Meyz-labirint from a green hedge

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The Egyptologist Karl Lepsius writes that one of the most ancient labyrinths has been built approximately in 2200 in Egypt on the bank of the lake Moeris (nowadays Birket-Karuk) located to the West from the river Neil. Construction represented the fortress with a total area of 70 thousand sq.m in which there were one and a half thousand land and as much underground rooms.

Her the ancient historian Herodotus gives the description: “If to collect all walls and great constructions erected by Greeks, then, generally, it would turn out that on them less work and in cash, than is spent for one this labyrinth”.

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As the scientist testifies, the construction surpassed by the sizes the well-known Egyptian pyramids. The web from the yards, corridors, rooms and colonnades was such tangled that in it it was impossible to be guided without the assistance of the conductor. Besides the most part of rooms wasn’t even lit.

What purpose of construction was? It served as a tomb for Pharaohs and… crocodiles who in Egypt were considered as the sacred animals personifying god Sebek. At the same time to simple visitors it was forbidden to come inside and to examine tombs.

In effect, the Egyptian labyrinth was the temple complex intended mainly for sacrifices to gods. Over an entrance to a labyrinth such words have been traced: “Madness or death — here that finds weak or vicious here, only one strong and kind find life and immortality here”.

Tell that many daredevils who have risked to enter a labyrinth didn’t come back from there. Perhaps, they were devoured by crocodiles who lived here and live. However, the victims could get here and against the will…

After fall of Egypt the complex on the bank of the lake Moeris has fallen into decay too: columns from red granite, huge stone plates and the polished limestone have undergone plunder, and the construction was reduced to ruins.

Reconstruction of the Egyptian labyrinth on the basis of excavation of the sir of Flinders Petri

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The best-known labyrinth on Earth thanks to Ancient Greek mythology is Cretan. According to the legend, it has been constructed in the city of Knossos by the Athenian architect Dedal. On structure the construction reminded the Egyptian labyrinth, but his sizes if to trust the Roman scientist Pliny, made only one 100-th sizes of the Egyptian construction.

The Cretan labyrinth had exclusively religious appointment. He represented Zeus Labrandsky’s temple. By the way, the main symbol and attribute of this deity is the axe (in Greek — labrys). From here, some experts, and the name Labrynthios (labyrinth) which can be given and as “the house of the double axe” believe. Not without reason on palace walls the image of the two-sided axe often comes across. The same hatchets have been allegedly found in a cave where Zeus was born.

The mosaic of the Roman era representing Theseus and Minotavr in the Cretan labyrinth

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However, according to a legend, the tsar Minos not for nothing ordered Dedalu construction of a labyrinth. The matter is that this construction had to serve as a shelter to the Minotaur — the semi-person semi-bull. This monster allegedly was a fruit of love of the wife of Minos Pasifai and a sacred white bull.

After Athens got beaten in war with Crete, each 9 years Athenians sent to the island of 7 girls and 7 young men to sacrifice them to the Minotaur. All of them completely disappeared in a labyrinth. So proceeded until the monster was not won by the hero Theseus who managed to find the road in a labyrinth by means of Ariadna’s ball — Minos’s daughter who fell in love the young man.

Several times the Cretan labyrinth was exposed to destruction, but then it was built up again. In 1380 B.C. it was destroyed finally, however the myth remained to live.

In Crete the English archeologist Arthur Evans managed to dig out the labyrinth remains. Excavation was conducted near the hill Kefal about 30 years. Every year from under the earth all new and new walls and constructions acted. It turned out that all of them are grouped around the big courtyard and are located at the different levels, connecting among themselves ladders and corridors. Some of them left deeply under the earth. There is very high probability of the fact that it is really legendary Knossos labyrinth.

Inlaid floor in Theseus’s House, the 3-4th century of our era, the Archaeological park of Pathos, Cyprus. On this mosaic the mythical duel between Theseus and Minotavr in the Labyrinth of Crete is represented.

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Today everywhere in Europe at excavation find fragments of the inlaid floors executed in the form of labyrinths. At least two decorative labyrinths were in the city of Pompeya which died as a result of eruption of Vesuvius in 79. One of them is known as which can be given and as “the house of the double axe”. Not without reason on palace walls the image of the two-sided axe often comes across. The same hatchets were allegedly found in a cave where Zeus was born.

However, according to a legend, the tsar Minos not for nothing ordered Dedalu construction of a labyrinth. The matter is that this construction had to serve as a shelter to the Minotaur — the semi-person semi-bull. This monster allegedly was a fruit of love of the wife of Minos Pasifai and a sacred white bull.

After Athens got beaten in war with Crete, each 9 years Athenians sent to the island of 7 girls and 7 young men to sacrifice them to the Minotaur. All of them completely disappeared in a labyrinth. So proceeded until the monster was not won by the hero Theseus who managed to find the road in a labyrinth by means of Ariadna’s ball — Minos’s daughter who fell in love the young man.

Several times the Cretan labyrinth was exposed to destruction, but then it was built up again. In 1380 B.C. it was destroyed finally, however the myth remained to live.

In Crete the English archeologist Arthur Evans managed to dig out the labyrinth remains. Excavation was conducted near the hill Kefal about 30 years. Every year from under the earth all new and new walls and constructions acted. It turned out that all of them are grouped around the big courtyard and are located at the different levels, connecting among themselves ladders and corridors. Some of them left deeply under the earth. There is very high probability of the fact that it is really legendary Knossos labyrinth.

Today everywhere in Europe at excavation find fragments of the inlaid floors executed in the form of labyrinths. At least two decorative labyrinths were in the city of Pompeya which died as a result of eruption of Vesuvius in 79. One of them is known as the House with a labyrinth. On half of the building the mosaic representing a scene of fight of Theseus against the Minotaur is laid out.

Similar mosaics meet also in medieval cathedrals. Laid out by color stones, a ceramic tile, marble or porphyry, they decorated floors of temples in Rome, Pavia, Piacenza, Amiens, Reims, Saint-Omer. For example, in Chartres Cathedral transitions are paved by the mosaic of the 13th century representing four squares connected among themselves to seven sharp turns in everyone. They are called “Iyerusalimskaya Road” as on them the repenting sinners had to crawl on a lap, singing psalms.

Theseus and Minotavr’s allegorical images, and also scenes from the Scripture are a part of many “labyrinth” mosaics. Modern theologians assume that the labyrinth symbol served in Christianity for designation of a thorny road of the person to God on whom the person should face a devil, and it is possible to hope only on trust.

Very often small stone constructions of cult appointment in the form of labyrinths meet. They can be met across all Europe and even in the territory of Russia — on Ladoga, the White Sea, Baltic, coast of the Barents and Karsky seas, from Kanin peninsulas to Polar Ural Mountains. They are put from stones in the form of a spiral with a diameter from 5 to 30 m.

The Kandalaksha labyrinth (Murmansk region), belongs to the 2nd millennium BC.

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Inside — narrow passes which often come to an end with deadlocks. Terms of an origin them still are definitely not determined: one researchers claim that “labyrinths” have appeared in the I millennium BC, others consider that even earlier. Locals attributed their creation to Celts, druids and even to fantastic beings — gnomes, elves and fairies.

More than 1000 embankments barrows and various symbolical patterns from a stone can be met on the Solovetsky Islands. They carry the name “northern labyrinths. In the 20th of the last century the archeologist N. N. Vinogradov, being in prison in the Solovki Camp of Special Function (SCSF), has conducted a research of stone labyrinths and has come to a conclusion that it the sanctuaries left some ancient tribe, representing a symbolical way to the other world. As the proof to that serve also the human remains found under stones.

Stone labyrinth on the Big Zayatsky island of (Solovki)

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The researcher Vadim Burlak in the book “Mysterious St. Petersburg” tells about the certain blessed wanderer Nikita assuring that all Northern Capital stands on “small knots” — the labyrinths connecting “the earth with the sky, fire with water, light with darkness live with the dead”. In the north of Russia, he said, them great variety is constructed.

Each sort or the tribe built the labyrinth. If in the tribe the child was born, added one more stone to a construction. It served the person as if as a mascot. For ancient the labyrinth represented universe model. Called it and “storage of time”.

The space in a labyrinth was used for carrying out ceremonies and rituals of healing. People determined time of fishing, collection of medicative herbs and roots, hunting by “small knots”. However the majority of “small knots” went to the earth or under water today, and only “keepers of ancient secrets” can find them.

So-called garden labyrinths gained distribution in Europe within the last centuries. These are gardens and parks with a set of the avenues intertwining among themselves where it is easy to get lost without conductor or special indexes.

In Great Britain the device of labyrinths became national tradition. The foundation for it was laid in the XII century by the English king Henry II who surrounded the palace of the loved Rozamunda Clifford in Woodstock with the mass of tangled avenues and green hedges. The labyrinth received the name Rozamunda’s Boudoir. Knew about the footpath conducting to the palace only the servant Rozamunda and Henry II.

It wasn’t a simple whim of the tyrant — in those cruel times the king’s favourite was constantly threatened by danger to be killed by enemies or intriguers. However, as the legend says, precaution didn’t salvage — the jealous spouse of Heinrich, the queen Eleonora Akvitanskaya, managed to find out the mystery of a labyrinth at aware people, made the way to the residence of the competitor and killed her.

The best-known of similar constructions in England — Hampton Court built in 1691 by request of prince William of Orange. In Jerome K. Jerome’s book “Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog)” are described wanderings of the hero in this labyrinth. To this day here tourists, it is curious to them to learn whether really it is possible to get lost among avenues of Hampton Court gather. However, say that the labyrinth is actually not so difficult and all its secret is that during movement it is necessary to adhere to only one party always.

s73034195Some in the addiction to the mysteries of labyrinths reached excessively. For example, in the XIX century the English mathematician Raus Ball has broken in the garden a labyrinth from аллеек, not having the traditional center. To the guests he suggested to make walk on a garden to manage not to visit the same place twice. Of course, very few people managed it.

Similar labyrinths continued to be created in Britain and in rather recent time. One of them has appeared in 1988 in Leeds and consists of 2400 yew trees. At the same time paths of a labyrinth form the image of a royal crown. It is possible to get to the center of the park in the usual way — on avenues, and here to return back, it is necessary to go down in an underground grotto, the entrance to which is located on the hillock which is at the same time serving as the observation deck.

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The biggest in the world from “garden” labyrinths is in a garden of the English lock Blenheim. Its length makes 88 m, width — 55,5 m. The construction is remarkable the fact that on “walls” it is possible to see it heraldic signs of the British Empire.

One more European tradition — to break labyrinths from the turf. In the center of such construction usually there is a cespitose hillock or a tree, and to him conduct paths in the form of superficial flutes. As a rule, these labyrinths have the form of a circle with a diameter from 9 to 18 m. But both square, and polygonal versions meet. Now in the world there are 11 similar labyrinths: 8 in England and 3 in Germany.

“Live” labyrinths steadily draw attention of tourists. They serve for the last as some kind of intellectual entertainment and check on ingenuity. Of course, really it is difficult to get lost in labyrinth windings: guides won’t allow you it, but at least for a while thrills are guaranteed!

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