In your early stage of life, you must have so many puzzles. Puzzles that parents bought for their children. Or, some heard about puzzles from their friends, and their interest grew. Some of us did find interest in solving puzzles. And those puzzles were simple, which we solved at younger ages. Later, we started to buy more puzzles that enhanced our interest. In this article, we will discuss two famous puzzles, i.e., Labyrinth and Maze. This article aims to reduce the confusion between labyrinths and mazes. This article will teach you that these words have different meanings and are not interchangeable.
Labyrinths vs Mazes
Labyrinths and mazes sound very fun and engaging. Both are complex-puzzled structures that are difficult to navigate. It is designed in a manner so that a person can easily get confused. Mazes are generally those puzzles where you need to find an end to a path and feature many dead ends, multiple passages, and complex branching routes. In labyrinths, the person gets a single winding path that eventually leads to the centre but is built with complexities. Though, labyrinth designing’s purpose is not to make it difficult but to make the right path, i.e., the complete path having some spiritual importance. We will come back to both labyrinths and mazes in detail.
Difference between a Labyrinth and a Maze in tabular form
|Parameters of comparison||Labyrinth||Maze|
|Definition||Labyrinths are complex puzzles with a single winding path ending at the centre.||Mazes are designed to be a puzzle that challenges the navigating person to find the end.|
|Features||It has a single winding path that leads to the centre.||It features death ends, branching routes and multiple paths typically designed to confuse the person.|
|Goal||The goal is not to reach the other end but to find inner peace through the journey travelled.||The goal is to reach the other end of a given structure.|
|Purpose||It is often designed for spiritual or meditative purposes, which aims to find inner peace.||It is often designed for fun, which aims to get people engaged.|
|Route||There is only one root either go out or go in.||There are multiple routes inside a maze.|
|Intention||It is intended not to be difficult.||It is designed to challenge an individual and is intended to be difficult.|
|Places we can see||We can find this in churches, cathedrals, hospitals, and sometimes in gardens, with the only purpose being to connect spiritually and help therapeutically.||Usually found in amusement parks, puzzle books, and cornfields, the only purpose is to serve entertainment.|
|Shape||Often have a circular or spiral shape.||Often have multiple shapes like rectangles, squares and vice versa.|
|Theme||The theme focused on teaching life lessons. An example is the seven chakras.||Have a specific theme for a game or a puzzle, designated to entertainment.|
Labyrinths have existed for thousands of years. It is used for spiritual or meditative purposes. It contains a single winding path. It has great significance in Greek mythology. The purpose of labyrinths is simple. It is to find your inner peace. It is believed that the goal is not the destination but the journey which teaches you everything; the circular paths or difficult roads in life. The experience were the journey is more important than the destination. It is also a very ritualistic concept which came first into significance in ancient times.
As told, the concept evolved back in ancient times. According to Greek mythology, the legendary artificer Daedalus built the first-ever labyrinth for King Minos of Crete at Knossos. It was built to trap the Monster Minotaur. Later, the Hero Theseus killed the Monster.
Labyrinth was synonymous with a maze found by Britishers. But later, many scholars and enthusiasts found the difference. A labyrinth has a universal representation, i.e., a single path which leads to the centre. It consists of no navigational challenge and only one path that leads to the centre and back. It is found etched on the walls of churches and caves.
Early Cretan coins were found to be exhibited with multicursal patterns or single-path patterns. Unicursal or single-path patterns possessed no branches or dead ends, which made them associate as labyrinths at around 430 BC. These non-branching patterns came to be known as the visual representation of labyrinths. And by logical and literary definition, it was said that Minotaur was trapped inside the labyrinth. Later, various definitions were given. Multiple depictions were made on labyrinths. But till Renaissance, most of the labyrinths were unicursal.
Unicursal patterns were generally drawn on basketry, as body art, and on the etchings over caves or on the walls of churches. Romans were famous for creating many labyrinths on floors in mosaics. Similar types of labyrinths were drawn on floors that can be walked. Labyrinths are famous for group rituals or private meditation. It is used for therapeutic purposes in hospitals and at ritual places.
There are many ancient labyrinths discussed in the books but some of them have played a vital role in both ritual and health purposes, some of them are-
- Cretan Labyrinth- When Arthur Evans evacuated the bronze age at Knossos, he found many pieces of architecture. The architecture found was so complex that made him name it as Labyrinth of Daedalus. He found many images, which gave depictions of labrys on walls. And some images also portray a man leaping over the horns of a bull. It has been believed that the palace was the site of dancing made for Ariadne by Daedalus, where young people come to the palace and serve as prey for the Minotaur. In the 2000s, Nicholas Howarth (a geographer from Oxford University) believed that the theories given by Evans are sceptical. Howarth’s team searched Skotino’s cave and concluded that it was formed naturally. Then, they searched the tunnels of Gortyn, where they found smooth walls and columns and suggests that it was partially man-made. This site is like a labyrinth in a map of Crete found in the Christ Church, Oxford. The map was produced by the French in 1821. And it has been concluded that these caves were also used by Germans during the second world war.
- Egyptian labyrinth- Herodotus calls a building complex a Labyrinth in a place near the city of Crocodiles situated in Egypt. He said that this complex can surpass pyramids. The complex was a collection of funerary temples, but later it was destroyed. Only the remains were discovered at Hawara by Flinders Petrie.
- Labyrinths outside Europe- A labyrinth similar to the classical pattern was discovered by the Tohono O’odham people under the Native American culture. The pattern features I’itoi which was also known as the “Man in the Maze.” In this pattern, the design is radial, the entrance is at the top. Though in traditional labyrinths the entrance is at the bottom.
In early times, Labyrinths served as ritual dances or traps for malevolent spirits. Many labyrinths have been found in the Roman and Christian buildings, which serve for the apotropaic purpose.
Under this study of cultural significance, there are multiple meanings associated with it. Carl Schuster and Edmund Carpenter gave meanings which state that labyrinths are a path to the sacred ancestor, not only that, it also includes that labyrinths are the representation of that sacred ancestor. It is also believed that Indians preserve the original meanings of their ultimate ancestor in the labyrinths. Labyrinth's common theme also serves as a refuge for tricksters. It is said that Ravana (the king of Lanka) was famous for using labyrinths and he had ultimate dominion over labyrinths. Some people thought of it as a symbol of pilgrimage, where you can walk the path to attain enlightenment and ultimate peace.
In Christians, labyrinths serve as a part of worship on some occasions. The earliest example is the 4th Century pavement at the Basilica of St Reparatus, Algeria, where "Sancta Ecclesia" is written at the centre, and it is used for worship. Another example of labyrinths from medieval labyrinths was created in Chartres Cathedral. If you go around searching, labyrinths are revived as a text for worshipping the god. And some churches in Europe are constructed with labyrinths permanently (mostly unicursal) for worship. In some places, it is also built temporarily for a certain period.
It is a pattern that consists of many branches that certainly lead to a goal. The word simply refers to those patterns, which are either branched or non-branched (unicursal). The solver requires to find a route and lead to a goal. The walls and pathways remain the same but the puzzle may change during the game. And sometimes maze is also called a "tour puzzle."
Types of mazes
1. Classical maze- The straightforward of all the mazes. It has one single path that leads to the goal. The walls are unchanging. It is often introduced to first triers or young children.
2. Labyrinth Maze- It is generally unicursal in the path. It simply leads to the centre, excluding all the dead ends. The main purpose of building this type of maze is meditation.
3. 3D maze- This type of maze has multiple floors, connected through ramps or stairs. It is for those people who can imagine a maze in 3D and can solve it.
4. Multi-Cursal maze- This type of maze includes dead ends or loops. It consists of many paths. To solve this maze, you need to stay focused and find the path towards the exit. People who solve this went through a lot of tries and errors.
5. Braided maze- It is similar to a multi-cursal maze, but in this maze, there are paths which often weave into one, which makes it super challenging to solve.
6. Mirror maze- This type of maze creates an illusion for the solvers of multiple paths. It is very confusing and disorienting, which often makes a solver dizzy. It also has many reflections of mirrors. You can find these mazes in parks and tourist sites, which are meant for fun.
7. Virtual maze- It is created through computer software which can be navigated using a VR headset or computer. It involves puzzles and obstacles that create a lot of difficulty to solve.
8. Puzzle maze- This maze is formed from various puzzles and challenges. The solver needs to solve riddles or collect certain objects to search for the goal.
9. Hedge maze- It is made from hedges and plants. These hedges grow tall and turn into obstacles. It is generally found in parks and gardens. It can be large and intricate
10. Combination maze- It forms by combining two or more mazes into one maze. This type of maze can be considered as the most challenging maze.
Difference between a maze and a labyrinth in points
- Mazes are structured in a manner that makes them difficult to navigate. It consists of multiple paths, where some lead to dead ends and false roads. Whereas, labyrinths have a single path, typically, leads to the centre.
- Mazes have complex designs which aim for fun and check puzzle-solving capability. It is intended to make it challenging. Whereas, labyrinths aim to design for spiritual purposes.
- By the culture, labyrinths are often used for spiritual, meditative, and worshipping purposes. Whereas mazes are just for entertainment purposes.
- Generally, mazes are large and complex to make the solver confused. It consists of many high walls which are difficult to cross. On the other hand, labyrinths are small and simple to help the person find inner peace. And the walls are small and easy to cross.
At the end of the day, both labyrinths and mazes are puzzles. But the purpose is different, the structure is different and the meaning is different. And all the other reasons are discussed above with the aim for people to understand that both terms are not the same and cannot be used interchangeably. Both terms have different meanings for different people. For gamers and puzzle solvers, ‘maze’ is the word. And for holy people, ‘labyrinth is the word.’
- Maze - Wikipedia
- Labyrinth - Wikipedia