Through the millennia, interest in labyrinths seem to hit peaks of interest, and then fade back into obscurity. The oldest I know of was called Mogor reported to me by Jeff Saward which he found in Galicia in northwestern Spain.
Of course there were labyrinths in Turkey, Crete, Greece and Rome. In the Medieval times, they were in Gothic Cathedrals. From the Sixteenth Century up until the beginning of the Twentieth Century, fishermen in Scandinavia were using labyrinths to ensure a good catch and a good wind. Of course there were many other early examples as well.
Recently, when I was teaching at Rowe Camp and Conference Centre, I had spoken of Lauren Artress as the person who had really popularised the labyrinth in modern times here in America. As a Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, she used what she had learned about labyrinths from Jean Houston, and brought The Chartres Type Labyrinth to main-line mostly Protestant Americans who where seeking a more direct experience to Spirit - which, of course, this 'dance' can provide.
Since I left Rowe, I have receive several emails from Doug Wilson, one of the founders at Rowe that actually it was Jean Houston who introduced this ancient spiritual tool to America way back in the nineteen-sixties. She called her labyrinth a "Dromenon.
Doug wrote, "Hi Sig - "I was only seeking to place Jean Houston in her proper place in the modern revival… Canon Lauren Artress from Grace Cathedral brought the Labyrinth back to her Cathedral after experiencing the Labyrinth at Jean Houston's Mystery School."
I had been only peripherally aware of Jean Houston's modern-day pioneering work with labyrinths back in the mid-seventies, when I was working on my Master's in Sacred Space, but at that time, I was more involved with dowsing as my tool I used when I wanted intuition on demand. So labyrinths weren't really speaking to me back then.
I really became of the power of the labyrinth in 1983, when I was first in Glastonbury, when, among many other folks who were to come into great importance in my life in the Land of Avalon, I met Jeff Saward. It was from him that I first learned how to draw what is now called a Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth. He has become an old and good friend of mine, and IMHO, when it comes to labyrinths, Jeff is the most knowledgeable person on this planet. His magazine, "Caerdroia", first published in 1980, is I believe the longest running magazine on this arcane topic. It was around that time that I met Jean Lutz, Editor of "The Labyrinth Letter," a magazine that brought together the isolated folks in the US who were working with these ancient single path magical/spiritual tools.
This coming together of American labyrinthophiles led to the founding of The Labyrinth Society (TLS) in 1996. In the first paragraph in their opening statement about the Society they say of Jean Lutz, "She also sponsored the initial labyrinth conferences: the first at Gavilan Ranch in Lindrith, New Mexico (September 21-25, 1995) followed by a second at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York the following year. Many of the individuals who participated in the Society’s Founding Circle met and became acquainted at those meetings." The intro continues, "The impetus that led to the formation of our Society ultimately traces to the immense contribution of Jean Lutz. Many consider her to be the true Founding Mother of our organisation."
Many of us who were at the founding meeting of TLS have become good friends and colleagues.
Robert Ferré, builder of canvas Chartres Types,
put a great deal of energy into the founding of TLS
Others included Marty Cain who has been part of the building of so many outdoor Classical ones; Helen Curry, first Chair of TLS; Jeff and Kim (soon-to-be) Sayward; and David Gallagher, who has done yeoman's duty in the TLS HQ in Trumansburg, New York. I am aware that I have left out many people who have also made important contributions to the growth and awareness of labyrinths in this cycle of interest in this ancient tool that can connect us to emotional, mental and spiritual realms which we normally do not inhabit.
While I must agree with Doug Wilson that Jean Houston holds pride of place in the modern revival of interest in these ancient magical tools, over the millennium, so many have contributed to the present enthusiasm in labyrinths that lead us to intuition on demand that it it is difficult for me to say really who came first.
Montpelier, Vermont, USA
England BA6 8JE
p.s. Next week I will be in the Netherlands where I'll be telling you about the "Hunnebedden" Neolithic dolmens, where, for example, in the north of the country within a radius of only 30 kilometers, there are 53 of these megalithic monuments are scattered over a beautiful landscape.