53. An eternal way of confusion




Fig. 438 – This labyrinth in the museum of Side (Turkey) is described by Sarah COLES (1987/1991), but fairly unknown in the labyrinth literature (KERN, 1982) (Photo: Marten Kuilman, 2009).

Houe of the Labyrinth - mosaicThe relation between the experience of the mosaic and the labyrinth is a natural one. It will come to no surprise, that the former was often used to create the latter (fig. 439/440).

Fig. 439 – A mosaic labyrinth in Pompeii (Italy). The House of the Labyrinth lies at the rear of the House of the Faun. The house and floor were first excavated in 1834 and can be dated from the Samnite period (600 BC – 290 BC) (Photo: Wikipedia).


Fig. 440 – A mosaic labyrinth in Pompeii (Photo: Marten Kuilman, Sept. 2000).

The mosaic aims to transform the individual (part) into a collective unity. It can be interpreted, in quadralectic terms, as a progressive move from the Third Quadrant (the part), through the Fourth Quadrant (the multiplicity of parts), into the First Quadrant (the unity) of a new cycle. The labyrinth does the same thing: the emotion starts in the multitude (of the Fourth Quadrant) with the intention to overcome its complexity. The aim is to arrive at the center (the unity of a (new) First Quadrant). Both operations imply a crossing of the borderline between the Fourth Quadrant (IV) of one communication cycle into the First Quadrant (I) of the next one.

This transcendental move has reminiscences to the rivers of Paradise and the symbolism of the abyss: an association with the unknown and the underworld (MULLER, 1934). Dylan Thomas’ poem – given in the shape of an hourglass – recapitulated that feeling:

 .                                                                    And we have come

 .                                                                           to know all

.                                                                                Places

.                                                                                Ways

.                                                                                Mazes

.                                                                              Passages

.                                                                       Quarters and graves

.                                                                        Of the endless fall

The labyrinth represents the enigmatic character of life: a metaphor of the calculable and unfathomable elements of the world (MATTHEWS, 1922/1970). It portrays, at scrutiny, the Fourth Quadrant itself.

Labyrinth-symbolism is, for that very reason, a world-wide phenomenon. In its simplest form, it is a spiral, which is – together with the cross – one of the most elementary graphic means of expression. HERBERGER (1979; 1992) dated a clay-tablet, found in the ruins of the Mycean palace of Nestor at Pylos, at around 1200 BC. He identified this example as the oldest ‘classical’ labyrinth. This view point is a matter of interpretation, because there are examples of non-specific spiral- and meander patterns that are much older. Like the Babylonian clay-inscriptions (fig. 441) or the rock drawings in Naquane, near Capo di Ponte, in Val Camonica in Italy. The latter are being dated from the Early Iron Age, probably the 8th or 7th century BC (ANATI, 1975; SANTARCANGELI, 1984).


Fig. 441 –  Two spiral-labyrinths from Babylon. It is a matter of definition if these patterns – probably depicting the intestines of animals – are incorporated in the definition of the labyrinth  (KERENYI, 1950).

The definition of a labyrinth by KERN (1982, p. 13) excluded the spiral form completely: ‘Very often this figure is in modern literature interchanged with other graphic expressions, the term ‘labyrinth’ is used for such figures as the spiral, the meander and concentric circles, of which the labyrinth has nothing to do except its linearity and a certain cryptic nature’. This statement might be true for the specialized researcher, stating his boundaries, but it does not reflect the general ‘labyrinthine’ feeling. Every connection between the curved lineation on Babylonian clay-tablets and the labyrinth is denied in Kern’s view. Their function as a model of the intestines and liver of animals and their use for divination was not questioned. Divination is a typical ‘Fourth Quadrant’ activity performed in a dynamic interplay between the individual and the boundaries of under-standing.  The labyrinth aimed at the same crossing of the borders into the unknown (in the next cycle of communication).

Four ‘classical’ labyrinths were recognized. Only the labyrinth on Crete qualified, in Kern’s view, as a ‘genuine’ labyrinth according to his own definition. It seems therefore, despite the fact that Kern’s book is by far the best reference book on labyrinths, that his definition is probably too restricted. A better circumscription would be: A labyrinth is any real or imaginative structure, which compels a visitor to a restricted movement in order to experience the limitations of life and to find subsequent redemption by a search for the centre or the exit. DEEDES (1935) took this wider view as a guideline in the history of the labyrinth and pointed to an Egyptian seal in the Old Kingdom. Around 3000 BC so-called ‘palace-signs’ were made, depicting a funeral temple in a stylistic way (fig. 442, left).

The four ‘classical’ labyrinths are:

1. The Egyptian labyrinth or the temple of Amenemhet III, described by Herodotus in the fifth century BC, was often quoted by later authors.


Fig. 442 – Left: The tomb of pharaoh Perabsen as a proto-labyrinth, Second Dynasty, around 3400 BC (BORD, 1976).  Right: The original labyrinth of Egypt as it was known from hearsay (generated by Herodotus in the fifth century BC): the temple of Amenemhet III, build near his pyramid in Fayoum, around 1800 BC. (CANINA, 1839/44).  See also p. 14/15, fig. 3 in: MATTHEWS (1922).

The tomb of pharaoh Perabsen (fig. 442, left) in the Second Dynasty mended a new way in the style in which the funeral of a dignitary took place. It became all-important to isolate the soul of the deceased from the outer world. His grave, with two times two niches, was surrounded by a free passage around the central part and can be regarded as a first variation of the labyrinthine thought. In the Third Dynasty, the pattern of a walled place was elaborated into a meander. The meander-motif became later a characteristic element of the Greek art. Its original meaning was a sign of protection, but others, like ADAM (1990) could reach no conclusion: ‘The meaning of this design is unknown, although ideas such as interlocking hands have been suggested.’

The ‘original’ labyrinth was built in the Eleventh and Twelfth Dynasty in the Middle Kingdom (which started in 2040 BC). The temple of Amenemet III (in power between 1842 – 1797 BC) in the pyramid-complex of Medinet el Fayoum was the archetype of a building in which multiplicity (of rooms) became a goal in itself (fig. 442, right): safety in numbers.

2. The Cretan labyrinth. The isle of Crete is, probably even more than Egypt, connected to the story of the labyrinth. The Palace of Knossos (fig. 443) is generally seen as ‘the real labyrinth’. An actual labyrinthine building did, most likely, never existed. However, the association with the myth of the Minotaur and Ariadne are strong elements.


Fig. 443 – The Minoan building complex at Knossos (Crete). The excavations at Knossos – by Arthur Evans (1851 – 1941) from 1900 onwards until 1931, with an interruption for the duration of the First World War – provided a further strengthening of the idea of the labyrinth. He interpreted the site as a large palace (‘The Palace of Minos’), with a central court. Later interpretations (CASTLEDEN, 1990) moved the emphasis to an interpretation as a temple complex with sanctuaries and ceremonies, including the famous bull leaping ritual on the Bull Court (CASTLEDEN, 1990).  Also (slightly different) in: SCULLY (1962).  A reconstruction is given in: WATKIN,  (1986).

The Palace of Knossos on the isle of Crete got its inspiration most likely from the huge palace-buildings (of Amenemet III) in Egypt, because Plinius already wrote: ‘There is no doubt that Daedalus copied the labyrinth on Crete from this building…’ DEEDES (1935) pointed to the intensive (trade) contacts between Egypt, Crete and Greece in and after the Middle Kingdom. Goods and ideas were easily transported. Crete, as a spider in a web of trade routes, felt naturally attracted to the idea of a maze.

Other places on the island of Crete feature as possible locations for a ‘labyrinth’. Sebastian Münster marked the structure in the middle of the island in his ‘La Cosmographie Universelle de Tout le Monde, printed in 1575 (fig. 444).


Fig. 444 – The labyrinth drawn on a map of the isle of Crete. This fanciful location was given in the atlas ‘La Cosmographie Universelle de Tout le Monde’ of Sebastian Münster, printed in 1575. Library of the University of Amsterdam.

The position of the labyrinth nearly hundred years later (1665) on the influential ‘Atlas of Blaeu‘ is still in the middle of the island (fig. 445) (van der KROGT, 2005).



Fig. 445 – The position of the labyrinth on a map of Candia (Crete) by  Joan Blaeu (1655). It seemed that this location points to a series of underground tunnels at Gortyn, which now figure, together wit the Skotino caves, as an alternative for a labyrinth position.


The ‘labyrinth of Gortys’, as visited on the 21th of October 2017.

The actual location of the labyrinth, other than the symbolic meaning of the palaces of Knossos, was never found on the isle of Crete. Recently, the Skotino caves, south of Gouves, also known as Agia Paraskevi cave presented itself as a contender for an ‘original’ location. In the end, it might turn out that the labyrinth did not exist (on Crete) and was only a reference to the mythical story of Theseus and Ariadne in which the island played a role (fig. 446).


Fig. 446 – Theseus and Ariadne. Masters of Cassoni Campana, Florence, sixteenth cent. (GEUDENS, 1986).

The Greek mythology recorded the heroic feats of Theseus, the son of Aegeus, king of Athens. He lifted an enormous rock in the city of Troezen, to find the sword and sandals, which his father had hidden there. When he returned to Athens his father recognized the items. Theseus also killed Sinis, ‘the bender of pine’. This villain had the habit of bending two pines towards each other and tie a person in between. When he released the trees his victims were torn to pieces. Theseus solved this problem by killing the culprit. On his list of achievement also figured the killing of a giant on the isthmus of Corinth, and the slaying of Procrustes. This hospitable man cut off the limbs of his visitors when they were too long for his bed. When they were too short, he stretched them. Theseus put an end to this nasty habit, again by eliminating this outlaw.

However, most of his fame, after the killing of the bull of Marathon, was gathered from his trip to Crete. Since the Athens had killed Androgeos, the son of Minos, they were obliged to send every nine years seven boys and girls. They were fed to the Minotaur, a monster with the body of a man and the head of a bull, which lived in a maze, built by Daedalus. At the time of the third tribute, Theseus accompanied the boys and girls to Crete.

Ariadne, the daughter of Minos fell in love with Theseus and gave him a clue of thread, so he could find his way out of the labyrinth. Theseus killed the Minotaur by throwing a ball of pitch in his mouth. He set sail to Naxos together with Adriadne and her younger sister Phaedra. He abandoned Ariadne on this island. Theseus sailed to Delos, where he and his companions performed a labyrinthine dance in celebration of their escape from Crete. However, he forgot to change the sails from black to white – which he had promised his father when he would escape from the labyrinth – and his father threw himself into the sea when he saw the black sails. Since then the sea is called the Aegean Sea.

The Greek-mythological story of Theseus and the Minotaurus conserved the labyrinth as an eternal building of confusion. The motif was popular on Cretan coins (fig. 447, left). The theme was later enhanced by the Romans, who felt attracted to the topic and used it in mosaics and wall paintings (fig. 447, right).


Fig. 447 – Left: Coin from Knossos with a round picture of the labyrinth. Many such coins are known. Right: Wall painting from Pompeii, which the lines drawn in a square and a reference to the Minotaurus (WEDEPOHL, 1967). Right: From the ‘Casa di Lucrezio‘ in Pompeï, Museo Borbonico (MATTHEWS (1922, fig. 32) and: SANTARCANGELI (1984).

3. The labyrinth of Lemnos, a Greek island in the northern Aegean Sea. It was described by Plinius the Elder (23/24 – 79 AD) in his book ‘Naturalis Historiae’ (‘On Natural History’), but might be a misreading of text;

4. The ‘Italian labyrinth’ near Chiusi or the grave of the Etruscan king Lars Porsenna, around 500 BC (fig. 448), also described in Plinius’ encyclopedic work, mentioned above.


Fig. 448 – Underground tunnels in Chiusi (Italy), which might be related to a ‘labyrinthe’ quotation by Plinius (from a local folder ‘Dal ‘Labirinto di Porsenna‘ alla Torre di San Secondiano’. Gruppo Archeologico ‘Citta di Chiusi’. Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Chiusi).

The labyrinth of King Lars Porsenna in Chiusi (Italy) never reached the fame of the Cretan counterpart, but its modest history is an interesting one. Pliny quoted Varro (116 – 27 BC) concerning  a subterranean labyrinth near the city of Clusium (now Chiusi): ‘Porsenna was buried below the city of Clusium in the place where he had built a square monument of dressed stone. Each side was three hundred feet in length and fifty in height, and beneath the base, there was an inextricable labyrinth, into which, if anybody entered without a clue of thread, he could never discover his way out. Above this square building there stand five pyramids, one at each corner and one in the centre, seventy-five feet broad at the base and one hundred and fifty feet high.’  Varro continued his description of four more pyramids, each a hundred feet in height, surrounding a platform with five more pyramids of which the height was breathtaking. It was, according to Varro, ‘utter madness to attempt to seek glory at a great cost which can never be of use to anyone.’

The French historian Antoine-Chrysostôme Quatremere de Quincy (1755 – 1849) tried to envisage the above-given description and made a conjectural restoration of the tomb of Lars Porsenna at Clusium (fig. 449). At the present, there is still an underground network of tunnels and waterways underneath the tower of St. Secondiano in the center of Chiusi (fig. 448). Excavations demonstrated that the system was already in use in Etruscan times. These tunnels were identified as the labyrinth of the legend, although the labyrinthine cemetery on the hill of Poggio Gajella, some three miles outside the city wall, might qualify as well (MATTHEWS, 1922/1970).


Fig. 449 – The tomb of Lars Porsenna near Chiusi (Italy) in a reconstruction by Quatremere de Quincy, was known (by Pliny) as one of the ‘classical’ labyrinths. In: MATTHEWS (1922).

There is speculation about the connection between the ‘classical’ labyrinth with the North-European ‘troiburg‘ and mazes (like the one on the isle of Wisby, Sweden), and also with the stone-inscriptions, graffiti and/or turf-labyrinths in Europe and outside. Figure 450 gives a small selection of the different forms.


Fig. 450 – Labyrinths in a wide geographical distribution, with no direct relation to the Greek mythological story: 1. Val Camonica, Northern-Italy (HERBERGER, 1992); 2. Labyrinth in southern India (SANTARCANGELI, 1984); 3. Reconstruction of the crane-dance in the Trojaburg (stone labyrinth) (GEUDENS, 1986); 4. Scandinavian stone labyrinth (according to O. Rudbeck, 1695) (MATTHEWS, 1922).

Uncertainty also exists about the association with the ‘dance of the crane’ (‘Geranos‘), which was performed by Theseus and his companions on their return on the isle of Delos. So much is clear, that the dance-patterns was a theatrical expression and a symbolization of the tour through the maze (MATTHEWS, 1922/1970; p. 159). The labyrinth-as-maze had to be understood as a dance-pattern (KERN, 1982; p. 49/50);

Different authors (CIPOLLA, 1987; DOOB, 1990) pointed to the textual mazes, which can be found in Vergil’s ‘Aeneid’, Hugo of St. Victor’s  ‘De arca Noe morali’, the anonym ‘La Queste del Saint Graal’ and Petrarca’s ‘Liber sine nomine’ and in the ‘Canzoniere‘.

‘Labyrinthine questions of the intricate interrelationships of fortune and providence, free will and determinism, merit and reward, appear again and again,’ said Penelope Reed DOOB (1990; p. 225) in her chapter about the ‘Labyrinths of Words’. And she continues:

‘And whatever the form of the world-maze, these texts play with the tensions between linearity – the path actually trodden, from beginning to end, or the line of a chronological narrative, or the diachronic progression of Christian time and history – and circularity, which echoes variously the circular perfection of God’s cosmos, synchronic eternity, the entangling cycles of repetition without resolution, the circularity of reasoning, and the recurrent seasons of the natural or liturgical year. This merging of the linear and the circular (or at least the circuitous) within one image is peculiarly labyrinthine.’

The same merging of the linear and circular ideas, which are so typical for the labyrinthine spirit, is apparent in the previously mentioned swastika-meander and the spiral. Both signs have a worldwide distribution. The spiral can be drawn in a mythological context (PURCE, 1974), but is also found in a natural environment like the extinct Ammonites or the present-day Nautiloides. These animal species provided, according to KERENYI (1950), the ‘Urform der Spirale’ and the ‘Urform des Labyrinths’.

The spiral renders a particular cyclic movement and is as such connected with (cyclic) division thinking. The spiral reflects a symbol of repetition (of history), but never on the same way. It expresses a search for the center. These features are distributed universally all over the world and throughout history (fig. 451).


Fig. 451 – The large, spiral-decorated, stone at the entrance of a passage grave in Newgrange, Ireland. The date of construction was, according to measurements with the C14-method, given as 2500 BC., which brings it in the same prehistoric league as the massive structure of Stonehenge (Wiltshire) and the younger Avebury Stone Circle. The restoration of the Newgrange side and grave took place from 1962 onwards by a team of the University College Cork, under the direction of professor M.J. O’Kelly. The result of the reconstruction is, unfortunately, a bit over the top and too smooth. The alignment of the passageway is, however, a genuine feature: the rays of the sun reach, on the 21th of December, the furthest end of the passage. The light enters through the (reconstructed) window above the entrance (HARBISON, 1976).

A curious derivative of the spiral-theme was noted by Bernard DEACON (1934) in his study of geometric drawings made on the Northern Pentecost Islands and the island of Malekula in the New Hebrides: ‘A mixed crowd of people sit down on the beach in the evening; they like a moonlight night. They divide into two parties; someone from the first tells a tale, then a person from the other party follow suit, and this alternate recital continues throughout the evening. Some tales have picture-drawings attached to them, others have not. The one who tells the story makes the drawing. It is done with the finger in the ashes or the sand. Only a few experts know how to do these (…). The geometrical designs are at the present time drawn only as a pastime (…). They are traced with the finger in a nice moist patch of sand, well smoothed over, or in the dust, and are drawn on the frame-work without removing the finger from the ground.’

The sand-figures often represent birds, tortoises, fish or fruits and have (nearly always) a four-fold symmetry (see Part I, fig. 6a – 7, which reads: ‘Hambut Reserese Neteli Ndes Ne Vale Irip Vale Reserese Ituen‘, meaning: Hambut tried to cut the stone by the sea, but is forced back time and again by the incoming tide). The drawings depicted a symbolic journey through life, with all its day-to-day ingredients – which is in line with our own definition of a labyrinth (fig. 452).


Fig. 452 – The tortoise from the island Raga (Northern Pentacost Islands). This figure (and many others) was drawn as one line. The numbers give the sequence of progress. In: DEACON  (1934).

The transition from a spiral to a labyrinth is a gradual one (apart from the attention given to definition). A complete spiral can be regarded as a unicursal (one-way-only) labyrinth. ‘The essence of the unicursal maze experience, as with the multicursal, is confusion and frustration. But in a unicursal maze, confusion results from inherent disorientation rather than from the repeated need for choice, and frustration is directed towards the structure and its architect rather than towards one’s own incapacities’ to quote DOOB (1990, p. 50) in her description of the labyrinth types. A good example of the one-way labyrinth is the so-called ‘Chartres-type’ (fig. 453).


Fig. 453 – The ‘Chartres-type’ of pavement labyrinth in the Cathedral of Chartres (France). The ‘Chemin de Jerusalem’ (Road of Jerusalem) is situated under the nave and was created in 1235. It supposed to be a symbolic pilgrimage or a way of penitence (if followed on the knees). There is only one way (unicursal) to reach the center of the labyrinth. In: J. Gailhabaud’s ‘L’Architecture du Vme au XVIIme siècle‘ (1858). p. 58, fig. 47 in: MATTHEWS (1922).  Also: SANTARCANGELI (1984) and DOOB (1990), p. 132, fig. 17 (drawing by Robert Quellette according to Gailhabaud).

The cathedral of Chartres contains a floor-labyrinth with a diameter of thirteen meters (VILLETTE, 1984). It is part of a tradition of church-labyrinths, like they did occur in the cathedrals of Sens, Arras, Amiens, Reims and Auxerre. Simpler forms are found in Bayeux, the cathedral of Mirepoix, Toulouse, Poitiers, Genainville (Val-d’Oise) and Saint-Euverte d’Orleans. KERN (1982, p. 206, fig. 246) provided a map of the locations. Church-labyrinths are also known outside France. Their precise function is not known, but – again – some sort of symbolic journey through life is inferred. A journey which could be undertaken by children in a playful manner or by elderly penitentials in a thoughtful way.

DOOB (1990, p. 40/41) pointed to the fundamental difference of the ‘classical’ and ‘modern’ labyrinths. A person persistently followed, in the old days, a single-lined (unicursal) path to reach the center: ‘All classical and medieval mazes share a remarkable characteristic: they are unicursal, with no forked paths or internal choices to be seen.’

This straightforward character changed after the pivotal point of the European cultural history (PP; AD 1500) when an ‘active’ labyrinth replaced the ‘passive’ labyrinth. That is to say: the labyrinth now offered a continuous row of choices in the form of sideways and junctions. There is only one possibility to reach the center, using ‘trial and error’ and the creation of a ‘cognitive map’: ‘to post-Renaissance minds a maze is either multicursal or not really a maze at all.’ The choice between left and right was – in dual thinking – a delight in its own right. The popularity of the maze reached euphoric levels after 1500. The maze-gardens became, in the period between 1550 and 1750, a source of pride and entertainment throughout the cities and country houses of Europe. They were a noticeable expression of labyrinthine thinking (fig. 454).


Fig. 454 – Some designs of labyrinth-gardens in the seventeenth century as given in part three of Daniel Loris’ book ‘Le Thresor Des Parterres De L’Univers’ (Geneva, 1629). Loris worked as a court physician in Montbeliard (France). Note that all plans have a unicursal character – without choices – which was typical for the classical and mediaeval mazes. Fourfold symmetry is predominant in most design, although some three/six divisions are present. He made a three division in his book consisting of the ‘Parterres Allemand’ (pp. 1 – 122), ‘Parterres Francois’ (pp. 123 – 176) and ‘Labyrinthes’ (pp. 177 – 200). In:  KERN (1982).

The richly illustrated books, like Jan Vredeman de Vries’ ‘Hortorum Viridariorumque Formae’ (Antwerp, 1583) and Petri Laurembergii’s ‘Horticultura‘ (Frankfort, 1632), discussed the (hedge) labyrinths. Botanical gardens, laid out along symmetrical patterns, were also popular in Italy in the sixteenth- and seventeenth century.  The oldest botanical garden of Europe was started in Pisa in 1543 under the name ‘Hortus Simplicium‘. Florence had its garden two years later (1545).  An early map of the ‘Orto Botanica‘ of the university of Padova (Padua) – dated from 1591 and given as fig. 455 – indicated a regular pattern with four geometrical squares in a double circle. They can be seen as a continuation of the ‘herbularii‘, the monastic gardens of the Middle Ages (ROSSI SPADEA, 1995).


Fig. 455 – This map of the botanical garden of the university of Padua (Italy), with four labyrinthine squares within a circle, dated from 1591. The garden itself was established in 1545. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe. In: ROSSI SPADEA (1995).

The medical faculty of the university of Leipzig (Germany) stated its intention to lay out a ‘Hortus medicus‘ in 1542 (SCHMIDT, 1997) and heralded the garden as a means to study and enjoy nature. Places like the ‘Jardin de Plantes‘ in Paris and the ‘Royal Botanical Gardens of Kew‘ in London became famous. The ‘New Principles of Gardening’ of Batty Langley (1728) was an honored standard work and promoted the interest in gardening, both as a ‘scientific’ and early ‘romantic’ exercise.

The relation between the labyrinth and the four-division was unmistakable: ‘Labyrinth-mosaics are often divided in four parts; which in turn are doubled to make eight sections like a wind rose with four major and four minor directions’ according to KERN (1982, p. 114) in relation to the (Roman) mosaic-labyrinths. The same can be said for the church- and garden-labyrinths (fig. 456).


Fig. 456 – 1. Four church-labyrinths in France (from left to right: Saint-Quentin, Amiens, Bayeux and Sens) (SANTARCANGELI, 1984); 2. In the cathedral of Lucca (WESTWOOD, 1987/88) ; 3. From the ‘De Architectura’-edition of Cesare Cesariano at Como, 1521, c. 82r. (KRINSKY, 1969); 4. The conference at Genua. Labyrinth to find economic recovery. Drawing by Joh. Braakensiek in ‘De Amsterdammer’ (FEITH, 1924).

 The classical ‘Cretan type’ of labyrinth was subdivided in four segments. Many examples were given in the works of MATTHEWS (1922/1970), SANTARCANGELI (1984) and KERN (1982). The four-partition qualifies as the basic motif of the labyrinth. The labyrinthine feeling is not exclusively connected with tetradic thinking. However, it marks, in general, a distinct emotional position.

At the end of this brief survey of the labyrinth-motif the attention is drawn to the ‘game of goose’, which was inspired by the symbolism of the labyrinth. This pastime originated most likely in Germany in the sixteenth century, became popular in a very short time and dispersed through Europe. Beautiful examples were printed in 1650, by Carlo Coriolani in Venice and by Martin Fritz in Cologne.


Fig. 457 – The introduction of the game of goose, as an active form of labyrinthine thinking in sixteenth century Germany. The field number 42 gives – like a labyrinth in a labyrinth – a picture of a maze as just another obstacle to reach the center of the elongated spiral (KERN, 1982).

KERN (1982; fig. 462) reproduced a woodcut of a board (now in the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum in Munich; here fig. 457). GEUDENS (1986, p. 38) showed, without source reference, a similar old goose board (fig. 458). The latter author followed HOCKE (1957) in his attention to the relation between the labyrinth and the mirror (speculum). By doing so, he pulls the subject in the sphere of dualistic-oppositional thinking.


Fig. 458 – An old geese board. Note field 42 for a (round) labyrinth. In: GEUDENS (1986).

The goose-board is divided in sixty-three successive fields, which form an elongated spiral. A person has to follow the unicursal path by trowing the dices. All types of difficulties and rewards are encountered, just like in real life itself. Furthermore, the labyrinth features as an obstacle, as a maze within a maze (field number 42). The (German) rules of the game gave the following description: ‘Wer in den Irrgarten 42 spaziert, der muss zwey Pfennig straff geben und drey schritt zuruk gehen, damit es dem Garten thu kein schaden.’ (By walking in the labyrinth one is punished to pay two pennies and to three steps (fields) back, to avoid any damage to the garden).

All references to tetradic thinking seem to have gone in the game of goose. Only the element of cheer luck on an unicursal and spiral path of life remained. It was the expression of the time – and later of children in a certain stage of their development – to look at life that way. Fortunately, many of us have (temporary) left the labyrinth and are able to have a wider view.

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Een reactie op 53. An eternal way of confusion

  1. What an incredible history you have put together here. Thank you for all of the time and effort this must have taken. I can’t wait to read through this in its entirety

    warm regards

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