Labyrinth

DEFINITION

Although sometimes used as a synonym for "maze," a labyrinth is classically a single (unicursal) pathway that leads physically to the center of a linear pattern and then back out by simply reversing direction on the same path. In a maze there are invariably riddles to be solved ? dead-ends abound. Labyrinths have been known to the human race for over 3,500 years, conjuring up such images as the ancient Greek myth of Theseus and the Minotaur, confined in a labyrinthine hallway at Knossos. Labyrinths have been thought to hold spiritual meanings in various cultures. They have been used as solar and lunar calendars in others. In Arizona, in the American Southwest, the Hopi use the form of a labyrinth in their religious symbolism, and the Tohono O'odham "Man in the Maze" is a "seven-circuit" labyrinth, a part of this native people's creation myth. Metaphorically, "labyrinth" or "labyrinthine" might signify a thing that is highly intricate or convoluted in character, composition, or construction.(pr. LA-bə-rinth)Examples:The mythical labyrinth on a coin from ancient Crete. See numismatics. Georg Andreas B?ckler, n.d., Author; Nuremberg : [s.n., 1664], Publisher Nuremberg, Architectura Curiosa Nova : Das ist, neue ergotzliche Sinn und Kunstreiche auch nutzliche Bau- und Wasser-Kunst .., [s.n., 1664], printed book; 4 parts in 1 volume: 231 engraved plates; 34 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. see thumbnail to leftIllustrated: castle and gardens at Altenberg, Meissen from Architectura Curiosa Nova.France, Labyrinth in the Nave of Chartres Cathedral, c. 1221, intarsia in a cruciform design. Perhaps the earliest still-existing Christian labyrinth is in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, at Orleansville, Algeria. Medieval pilgrims, unable to travel to Jerusalem, mostly journeyed instead to holy sites within Europe. In many cases the actual destination was a labyrinth of paving stones laid in the floor of the nave of a great Gothic cathedral. For some pilgrims, reaching the center of such a labyrinth symbolized arriving at the Holy City itself.This is a reduction of the Chartres labyrinth in an American church, where it is used as a stimulus to meditation. [or dizzyness?! Could this be related to the spinning of swings, or the whirling of dervishes?] See inlay.Also see game theory, meander, and Native American art.

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