Learning is my life passion, much of my recreational learning arising from a desire to maintain a creative balance with a career that has been in information technology and latterly lecturing in business management. In 2015 I attended a one-day woodcarving course learning the basics of the craft. Having a lifelong love of trees and wood, the smell of sawdust is evocative of my childhood as the daughter of a carpenter. The idea of carving a finger-labyrinth in the classical 7-circuit style kept re-surfacing in my consciousness. But would this provide sufficient scope for a creative project? Although simple in style, this carving was to present unforeseen challenges.
The words ‘maze’ and ‘labyrinth’ are often used interchangeably as reflected in dictionary definitions. However, labyrinths, walked for meditation, are usually unicursal, having only one path from entrance to centre and back out whereas mazes are considered to be puzzles with dead-ends. (Labyrinthos, 2017) A finger labyrinth is designed to be traced with the finger instead of walked.
My first awareness of the labyrinth may have been on a holiday to Crete in the 1980s when I visited the ancient city of Knossos. Minos, king of Crete, commissioned a labyrinth to confine the mythical Minotaur which fed on his people. If the labyrinth were physical, it would have been a complex structure with high walls where people lost their way.
Coins from ancient Crete
New York artist Charles Ross’ 1970s project called ‘Energy to Image’ used a static lens to burn a daily image of the sun’s position onto planks of wood over the course of a year. Interestingly, the final photographed combined image resembled the meander pattern (Pennick, 1994, pp. 29-30). We are shown how this ‘meander’ expands to a Classical labyrinth. Could the labyrinth be a record of the path of the sun?
THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Why does this mysterious symbol appear to seek my attention? Returning to the most important question we can ask about a symbol, thoughts of the labyrinth unifying religions expanded to a vision of unity of humankind. The Labyrinth has represented protection and preservation of life plus preparation of the soul for an after-life. We now approach a time when humanity may need to unite to protect life. Together with all life forms, we possess a strong survival instinct. By seeing others as enemies, we become our own enemy. These thoughts resonated with an earlier one: having been carving slowly, little by little the wood is cracking less. Grooves are gradually deepening. It is the journey that counts, not the destination. We will reach the destination. Although laborious, I had been enjoying the creative journey and now related this to the soul’s journey through life where we are generally not impatient to reach our destination of worldly death. A ‘realisation’ came to me, an experience of the symbol different from simply a thought about it. I felt ‘oneness’ with a personal understanding of the labyrinth: Each individual is trying to survive in his or her own way. Each needs to find and follow his or her own soul. My realisation united all of my earlier findings on uses of the labyrinth giving me a new perspective on humanity, the survival instinct becoming a simple unifying force.