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I first became bewitched by the labyrinth, on a trip to England in Dec. of 1990. Friends and I had spent four days in Cornwall, England, exploring King Arthur�s territory. Each day I went to the headland �island� and walked around the top of the bluff overlooking the sea three times reversing directions. I would rest and walk again three times reversing directions. Every step felt guided by King Arthur. I had not realized at the time I was actually taking the turns similar to the paths one would follow in a labyrinth. I had seen a picture of a labyrinth carved in the cliff face in Rocky Valley, not far from town, so as we left Tintagel, I insisted we find the carving. The three of us drove to the valley and walked past a lovely B&B with goats and a beautiful flower garden to the path leading beside a stream that cut its way to the sea. Everything felt very old and magical. It was a mild December day and the rain had stopped. Finally we came to an old ruin beside the stream. Some say it had been an old mill. My friends had left me to explore feather down the path toward the sea when I found a narrow walkway between the ruin and the cliff. Into the cliff face, about shoulder height and within easy reach, two labyrinths had been carved. I was most surprised, as only one was illustrated. They were both about 14� to 16� across. One was located to the left the other was higher, to the right and perfectly round. Without hesitation, I stepped forward to run my fingers through them starting with the lower one.
As my finger passed the entrance and began slowly moving to the left around the third ring I suddenly noticed all my senses were heightened. I relished the damp earth smell, the sound of crickets and birds and the rushing brook. My feet felt firmly planted on the earth. I was totally connected and present to this moment and this place with a richness of life I had never before experienced. On completing the path, I moved to the right, reaching the round labyrinth. Not knowing what to expect I boldly entered tracing with my finger as before. A deep quiet set in, I became unaware of the surroundings so intent with tracing the path. I saw only a white light and heard the sound of far off singing or humming.
When the �walk� was over I leaned back against a wall of the old stone ruin. I knew that if I truly understood these two forms there would be nothing else to learn. I let myself imagine this had been an ancient mystery school where students learned the secrets of the universe, where Merlin may have instructed King Arthur.
Much of our present day confusion around the terms Labyrinth and Maze comes from the famous Cretan Myth of The Menitor in the Labyrinth. In order for anyone to become trapped in a labyrinth it had to be what we today think of as a puzzle maze.
The difference is profound. Unlike the high hedged Maze commonly found in Victorian Gardens and American corn fields with confusing paths and dead ends, the ancient labyrinth is a special kind of maze consisting of a single path with no blind alleys, no wrong turns and no getting lost. By simply putting one foot in front of the other you will be lead down the meandering path to the center and back out to the entrance. While this unicursal labyrinth calms, centers, balances, and connects you to the Heaven and the Earth, the puzzle maze; upsets, diminishes, isolates and creates fear and separation. It is a place of total confusion, bewilderment and entrapment. Having walked into a hedge maze in Saffron Walden, England, I found myself totally lost and hating every moment. I had to bolt out through two rows of hedge to gain my freedom. I say �No thank you!� to the Puzzle Maze.
There are a variety of ancient designs for the Labyrinth: from A simple seven circuit classical path found carved on a cliff face in Cornwall England, rock surfaces in Arizona, USA and temples in Egypt, to an elaborate Medieval Christian design of inlaid stone on the floor of Chartres cathedral in France, or the giant effigies marked on the high plateau of Peru in the shape of a humming bird, spider and monkey.
Whatever the form, they seem to have provided people with a profoundly moving experience or an inward journey powerful enough to warrant their being found around the world spanning centuries of time.