I walked my first labyrinth yesterday. Or, at least, the first since I became pagan. Cannot remember if I ever walked one when I was younger, but I rather doubt it. It’s not something my Christian upbringing would’ve understood.
What “labyrinth” means has changed a little through the ages. Modern borrowing have also confused the meaning, although oddly this seems to be abating at the moment. The term usually now means a unicursal maze, that is, a design with just one path. Most mazes are multicursal, meaning there are branching paths. I feel the distinction has gotten more widespread in the last decade or two, even though the word “labyrinthine” still means “maze-like” rather than referring to the simple design of a labyrinth.
What a labyrinth means to pagans is that it is a contemplation path. Whilst in the labyrinth, it is difficult to see the larger picture. Instead you must focus on what is in front of you. In other words, the point of a labyrinth is that is a journey, not a destination. It is for this reason it is usually in a quiet place and either behind curated access or clearly signposted that people must be respectful of others. The labyrinth I went to is in a quiet part of Sydney’s Centennial Park and is built to one of the familiar medieval designs.
But if you don’t know the area, it can be tricky to get to, even when driving.
I did not drive. Although my intention was to walk the labyrinth, without quite realizing it, I made it a journey to get to it, too. Thus a train journey and then a bus journey, and then some considerable walking both to and from the labyrinth. Centennial Park is big – a little more than half the size of Central Park in New York and slightly larger than Hyde Park in London, although a quite different shape to either of them. Unfortunately, unlike either of them it isn’t surrounded by train stations, requiring either quite a walk to the park, never mind the need to walk inside it, or a bus ride to one of the many gates.
Once there, of course, there was little choice but to walk inside the park. Not having been to Centennial Park for many years, it was an interesting journey in mild exploration. Including the meandering boardwalk through a swamp which also houses a largish bat colony.
In some ways, that meandering walk was the real labyrinth journey for me, as was the walk back out of the park to a bus-stop.