The Labyrinth and the Maze

I figured I would post on my blog something interesting that is loosely related to fantasy. I learned something new the other day, while I was reading a book on Sacred Geometry and again in a book on Crop Circles (yes, I read several books on the two subjects—got intrigued in the matter by watching the History Channel’s program “Ancient Aliens”). Apparently, a labyrinth is not the same thing as a maze, nor is a maze the same thing as a labyrinth. I never knew this. I played AD&D for years and in the process killed my share of minotaurs. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately), I never encountered a minotaur in a labyrinth, only in a maze. What is the difference? Funny you should ask. A labyrinth is unicursal; that is, there is only one path in a labyrinth. No choices. No decisions. You walk along the path twisting and turning about, and, assuming you don’t collapse from exhaustion, you will find the center—or the exit, if you are leaving. A maze, on the other hand, is what I always thought a labyrinth was supposed to be. A complicated interconnected series of paths, sometimes even rooms, in which it is very easy to get lost. They were a favorite pastime of the nobility of Europe. They would cut their hedges in the pattern of a maze to delight themselves and their noble visitors for hours on end. On the other hand, labyrinths were used as a form of meditation. One would walk on the path of a labyrinth in contemplative thought. They could be found in churches and other holy places. Of course, there is the legend of Theseus and the Minotaur. And it is my understanding that that legend confuses the two terms (so I don’t feel so bad). They always referred to it as the Labyrinth of the Minotaur, but it was, in fact, a maze. The Minotaur hunted its victims in a mind-boggling maze, always killing and devouring them, until along came Theseus one day who put an end to his predations. Yeah! Anyway, that was my random thought for the day.