The history of labyrinths goes back approximately 4000 years. It was around 2000 BCE, where in Goa, India a labyrinth was chiseled into solid rock. 2000 years ago in Ancient Greece, the people put a labyrinth on one of their coins because they had an appreciation of labyrinths. In 300 BCE, the coin and the design of the labyrinth spread and circulated all over ancient worlds of Europe, North Africa, South America and the Middle East. Also, about 2000 years ago in Zaiatski, Russia (near the Russian north coast and the Arctic Circle) a labyrinth was made.
In 1201 CE, in Chartres, France a labyrinth was carved into the floor of a cathedral that was used as a substitute for the pilgrimage to Jerusalem in the middle ages. It is still used today by pilgrims.
In 1495, in San Quentin, France another labyrinth was built into floor of a cathedral. In the 1600’s, in Dritvik, Iceland people built a labyrinth of natural stone inside one the volcanoes there. In 1660 CE, in Hilton, England a labyrinth was made of turf grass. It is still there to this day. More recently and more close to home, the Native American tribes in Arizona, U.S.A. have used the “Man in the Maze” design in baskets and jewelry. Looking closely at the design, it is really a labyrinth, with a one way in and one way out.
Mazes are built to trick and fool you; labyrinths are not.
Near Taos, New Mexico there is a labyrinth carved into a rock.
In 1892, a labyrinth was used as a repeating image in the wall decorations of Watts Chapel in England. In the early 1900’s, a labyrinth was built in the Ely Cathedral. Many hundreds of labyrinths have been built and created since.
People all over the world have enjoyed walking the labyrinth. People have many different intentions and reasons for walking the labyrinth. Some of the intentions people have for walking the labyrinth are to cope with stress, to help deal with grief, to calm down, to meditate or to pray, to have time to themselves, to find their authentic selves beyond their ego and illusion, to unite a group with common hopes, to stimulate creativity, to gain clarity, to find peace, for personal development and/or to release a mental or emotional burden in the center of the labyrinth that was figuratively too heavy for them to carry on their own and so, they release it to the center of the labyrinth.
Specifically speaking, the labyrinth here at San Diego Spiritual Retreat Center is a 12 circuit variation of the Chartres labyrinth that is in the nave of the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres, France. One of the variations is that the labyrinth here incorporates some of the Oak trees. No trees were killed or destroyed in the making of this labyrinth. In these places where there is an Oak tree, the path is made wider to accommodate the tree and the path. Because of this the labyrinth is about 110 feet in diameter, the largest labyrinth in California.