Life, with all of its twists and turnings, its sudden reversals and apparent contradictions, often feels like a Labyrinth. As soon as I think I have learned one of life’s great lessons, I am confronted with the lesson which seems to be its opposite. I may think I am headed in the right directions, and then I see that everyone who seems to know what they are doing is headed in the opposite direction. But maybe we are just in different places along the same twisting path, and the opposition is an illusion. Maybe our convoluted journeys are all leading us to the same fundamental truths we each hold at our center.
Labyrinths, as paths marked out on the ground or as symbols depicted on walls and on objects, are found all over the world, dating back thousands of years.
Even the meaning and origin of the term Labyrinth is subject to much speculation. Does it derive from the Labrys, the double-headed axe also depicted in the palaces of Crete? Is it meant to evoke a confusing tangle of paths where we will be lost, at the mercy of a terrifying monster, or is it one path which, for all its confusing reversals, will lead us surely to a serene center?
Is it meant to look like a fingerprint? Is it meant to represent the convolutions of the human brain, which are actually the key to our intelligence? Maybe that is the key to the perennial appeal of Labyrinths - a quick, simple, straight line is often not the best way to reach a destination, because the experiences we have along the way are what really matters, and if we took a shortcut, we would arrive unprepared, our journey’s purpose unfulfilled.
We may wish for a guide to shepherd us safely through life’s confusion and complexity - and the guide may take the form of the Labyrinth itself! Hermes, my own Trickster/Messenger/Guide, often leads me on a merry wild goose chase through my day. I take a “wrong” turn, and I find a delightful landmark I have never before noticed, or someone who needs my help, or someone who will help me in ways I didn’t know I was looking for. Anyone who has ever been a passenger in my car can attest that I rarely arrive at my destination by the route which has been planned - this is why I always start early, so that I can really enjoy the accidental detours!
A message from Hermes can take any form - in the ancient agora at Pharai, people who came to seek oracles from Hermes would visit his statue in the center of the crowded marketplace, make their offerings, ask their question, and then receive their answer from Hermes Agoraios - whatever they happened to hear next! A bit of overheard conversation with no context could carry a profound message, even if it might mean something completely different to the person who had said it. In this way, we can all be messengers as well as receivers of messages.
In our time and place, many people use the Labyrinth as a tool for meditation, achieving a receptive state of mind by finding their way to the center. The center of the Labyrinth is the perfect place to receive messages from our own quiet inner voice. When we walk out of the Labyrinth, we bear our personal messages out into the wider world - but the way they are received and interpreted by others may be entirely different! As messengers, we don’t always need to know what meaning and insight we are bringing to others - who knows how often our own words may be overheard without context, yet be the perfect answer to someone else’s personal burning question? Such is the way of the Trickster.
If you would like to seek messages of your own in the heart of the Labyrinth, I invite you to join the Cosmic Messengers this Saturday evening, July 11, at 5:00PM for a guided meditation, Labyrinth walk, and Hermes Devotional. We will be meeting at The Sacred Well, 536 Grand Avenue, Oakland, and proceeding across the street to the Lake Merritt Earth Maze to find the messages which our own labyrinthine journeys hold for us, and to bring forth our messages into the world!
Molly Blue Dawn