Mazes And Labyrinths

Differences between Mazes and Labyrinths

What are the differences between mazes and labyrinths?

Mazes are puzzle challenges intended to confuse you. A labyrinth has one path that goes to the centre, one walks the circuits to the centre and returns along the same path. This is symbolic of the journey of life.


A maze is a complex branching puzzle that has choices of paths and directions. It may have multiple entrances, exits, and dead ends. You can get lost in a maze, not so in a labyrinth.

There are stories of large mazes which were used to trap people. Mazes are built, out of bushes and shrubbery planted very specifically so that they will grow into the position needed for the maze plan.



A labyrinth is also symbolic of order from chaos. There is no right or wrong way to walk a labyrinth. People meditate, and use it for contemplation or, problem-solving. Some people laugh, some cry some sing. When you reach the centre you can rest awhile, meditate, say a prayer, whatever feels right for you. or you can leave immediately. Labyrinths can be large or small, simple or complicated and can be made of any material. They can be left or right turning. Clockwise or widdershins. The centre can be built in several different shapes. A rose shape with 6 petals is popular. Roses symbolise the virgin Mary. In the East, a lotus shape is used. The six petals symbolise Plant, Human, Mineral, Animal, Angelic and the unknown. The ½ moon shapes around the circle are called laminations and are always found with an 11-circuit labyrinth.

How old are the earliest labyrinths found?

Some of the oldest labyrinths found are 4000 years old, Engravings have been found on cave walls, some on pieces of stone and some in old churches.

Where were the first mazes and labyrinths?

The oldest known labyrinth on record is the one at Cretian which is the classic 7 circuit labyrinth. The oldest surviving labyrinth is a rock carving dating from 2500 BC which can be found in Sardinia. Probably the most famous labyrinth is the 11 circuit one at Chartres cathedral in France which was built in 1220

What are labyrinths for?

A labyrinth encourages meditation. You can focus and your mind clears. It works very well for those who are feeling anxious or hyperactive. It enhances right brain activity.

A labyrinth can be used individually, or for group meditations. It can be used as a walking meditation or  a place of prayer. Walking a labyrinth helps reduce stress and tension.

As a meditation tool, labyrinths can be as small as a pendant. Or, as large as the one that is designed for autistic children learning horse riding in Virginia USA It is so large you can only see it fully from Google Earth.

See some African versions of labyrinths called geoglyphs.

Visit mazes and labyrinths in the Western Cape.