Friday, July 28, 2006

Twists and Turns


A recent newspaper article about a northern Michigan family dedicating a memorial labyrinth to a deceased relative made me realize how widespread this practice has become.

In earlier centuries, such constructions were used as an aid to meditation, as a metaphor for the junction between human and divine. A classic example is found at Chartres Cathedral.

The word labyrinth comes from the Greek laburinthos. Originally, it meant a building consisting of halls connected by tortuous passages (Herodotus). Then it took on the secondary meaning of any spiral body, as a snail.

But the Labyrinth that nailed the concept in place was the one built by multitasking Daedalus in Crete for King Minos II. After the King’s wife Pasiphae had mated with a bull--thanks to a hollow wooden cow in which she hid, another construction of Daedalus--she gave birth to the Minotaur. He was housed in the Labyrinth, and every year seven young men and seven young women were sent into the Labyrinth as sacrifices.

One year, one of the selected victims was Theseus. Lucky for him, he had a dalliance with Ariadne, the king’s daughter. Receiving a promise of marriage, she secretly asked Daedalus for a map of the Labyrinth. It allowed Theseus to enter the Labyrinth, find and slay the Minotaur, and then escape with Ariadne in tow.

Unfortunately for her, he dumped her when they reached the Isle of Naxos. It seems that Theseus was full of bull, too.

Read about memorial labyrinths here.
Maze game here


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