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ODE TO THE PAST (with the occasional nod to the present)

Ancient symbols: The Labyrinth

The labyrinth, which has been in existence since ancient times and reached mythical status in the medieval ages, is steeped in symbolism.

Though the Minoan labyrinth in Crete is the most famous in antiquity, the pattern has been used by many civilizations at different points of their development. You see it on cave walls in Scotland; in the construction of Egyptian tombs (symbolizing the passage to the afterlife); and, later, the Chartres cathedral in France.

The original, or classic, labyrinth had seven circuits. The number seven is significant, as it corresponds to many sevenfold occurrences spanning a variety of cultures and belief systems: the days of the week (or days of Creation), the deadly sins, the stages of consciousness, the energy centers or chakras, the stages of alchemy, the seals in the book of Revelation.

In that it is a journey with many different paths, and therefore choices, it is a metaphor for one's spiritual journey through life. Some routes lead to dead ends (and in some cases danger, as was true of the Cretan labyrinth and the menacing Minotaur that lurked behind an unknown bend); others lead out, though "out" could take on many forms, not all of which are quixotic.

It has also been said that it is a journey toward the "center" or "home." This can be interpreted many different ways, but the idea is the same: finding balance and equanimity.

I used the labyrinth symbol in a couple of instances in "The Tenth Saint." The first, in the monastery near Lalibela, was enigmatic and frightening to my heroine, Sarah Weston. She found her way out only when guided by a mysterious monk. The second time she encountered a maze, in the lab facility in Texas, she was far more confident and used it to her advantage, ultimately outwitting her opponents. In a sense, the labyrinth was symbolic of all the road blocks she faced and choices she had to make in order to find the truth about her archaeological discovery.

In modern times, labyrinths are used as meditative tools, since it takes much concentration to traverse their circuitous paths. Interestingly, you can go through a labyrinth in a state of anxiety and uncertainty or with a sense of calm. The choice is yours.
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