Terracotta Angel, c.1896
Watts Chapel, England

Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

 

 

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Classical Variants

 

Baltic type

(also known as Baltic Wheel)

Found throughout Scandinavia and also in northern Germany, but principally around the shorelines of the Baltic Sea, this labyrinth is also known as the "Baltic Wheel" or "Wheel," after an important example in Hanover, Germany. A relatively simple reconnection of the upper part of the classical seed pattern produces a double spiral at the centre with separate entrance and exit paths. These labyrinths are ideal for continuous processions and games where two or more walkers enter the labyrinth, and this purpose is often reflected in associated traditions and folklore.

A Baltic type labyrinth cut in turf at Dransfeld, Germany (now destroyed).
The double spiral at the centre allows
a quick exit from the labyrinth

Chakra-vyuha type

An unusual development of the classical labyrinth, found primarily in India, is based on a three-fold, rather than four-fold seed pattern and is consequenty drawn with a spiral at the centre. It is referred to in Indian tradition as “Chakra-vyuha,” a name derived from a magical troop formation employed by the magician Drona at the battle of Kurukshetra, as recounted in the Mahabharata epic.

The stone labyrinth at Baire Gauni, Tamil Nadu, India, is laid out in the Chakra-vyuha syle commonly encountered throughout India

Labyrinth Typology

“Jungfrudans” stone labyrinth
(Baltic type), Vassa, Finland

Photo ©: Jeff Saward/Labyrinthos

Other Seed Patterns

Other labyrinths based on three-fold and occasionally on two-fold or five-fold seed patterns are found in various locations. A unique five-fold classical labyrinth with nine circuits recently discovered on a Pima basket from Arizona demonstrates the many varieties of labyrinth that can be created with a full understanding of the construction process. A number of labyrinths with curious designs, obviously based on the classical form, or incorrectly drawn by unskilled hands, should also be included in this category.

A Pima hand-woven basket, made c. 1920, decorated with an unusual nine-path variant of the classical design created from a five-fold seed pattern

The Otfrid Labyrinth

An important though short-lived labyrinth variety, the Otfrid is based on the classical seed pattern, but is drawn concentrically with an additional set of turns added to create an eleven-circuit labyrinth. First found in Christian manuscripts from the mid-ninth century CE, it probably provided the impetus for the development of the much more influential medieval design.

The Otfrid labyrinth design, here the scene for battle between Theseus and the Minotaur, in a late twelfth century manuscript from Regensburg, Germany

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