According to legend, anyone who wandered into the labyrinth in Ancient Crete never came out again. Some labyrinths may have offered patterns for an erotic spring dance. Those on the floors of Medieval cathedrals represent mathematical perfection–and walking their paths was a symbolic approach to the divine. From ancient Mediterranean coin patterns to the great French cathedral labyrinths to contemporary cornfield mazes, labyrinths and mazes have appeared all over the world, but never have so many been created as in today’s revival, on farms, and in parks, churches, hospitals, and spas across the country. In his charmingly quirky investigation of an image that has inspired countless beautiful patterns and mysterious practices, David Willis McCullough offers an irresistible way to enjoy their enduring appeal.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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|Title of eBook: The Unending Mystery|
|Release Date: 12-18-2007|
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|Publisher: Knopf Publishing Group|
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The Unending Mystery
the design may look complicated, but with a little practice a child could scratch it on a wall in seconds: the long arcs to the left and right, the sudden reversals in direction, a path that leads back and forth, inward and outward, until it finally reaches the center. It seems complex, with each side mirroring the other, but you can trace it freehand in the bare earth or on a sandy beach in just the time it takes to drag a stick across the ground. Or you could use a trick, a mnemonic device. Draw a plus sign, and put a dot in each of the four corners. Different people might see this image differently, as basic geometry or a magical device or an emblematic representation of the cross of Christ defended by the apostles Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Or perhaps it is a compass rose, indicating north, south, east and west as well as the four corners of the earth. Now, starting at the top of the upright arm of the plus sign, draw a curving line to the dot on the left. Then, from the dot on the upper right, draw a curving line to the end of the arm on the left. Continue on around the image—connecting arm to dot, dot to arm—until it is complete, the simplest possible labyrinth.*
The labyrinth design is far older than most of the myths and stories about it that we now remember. An image cut into the wall of a tomb in Sardinia may date back to 2500 b.c. Another, in the Val Camonica, near Brescia on the Italian mainland, may date to 1800 b.c. Some think a labyrinth painted in red on the roof of a small cave near Trapani in Sicily may even have been made in 3000 b.c. And although all these