Last weekend we visited the smallest turf maze in Europe, The City of Troy. A Classic “seeded” labyrinth, it’s about the size of a very small sitting room, situated right off the road. There’s a plaque and bench nearby for musing on this tiny, sacred structure. This maze is very well cared for and visible. It may not be very old, perhaps only Victorian. According to Labyrinthos.net, this maze was moved in 1900 and probably dates from the mid-19th century, but the intention of the thing is quite ancient. So much of English folklore is fuelled by just such mysterious whimsy. The plaque suggests this is a waiting place for lost souls who may be consulted at the centre! This is an echo of older belief amongst diverse cultures which sees the labyrinth as a path to the ancestors or itself an ancestor.
The labyrinth is also known as Troy Town, and the sign beside it says the origins may come from a the Scandinavian Bronze-age Trojaborg Labyrinth which is made of stones. Much of the landscape here is wedded, linguistically and otherwise, to our Viking ancestors. Sometimes these labyrinths are called Maiden’s Dance, which is a shadow of what was perhaps a symbol of the Goddess, particularly Ariadne, keeper of Labyrinths and goddess of dance.
Mazes and dancing: there’s a connection. Once, Kimberly MacKoy, one of my dance teachers, said when we were doing a particularly difficult drill, “Welcome to the labyrinth of your body.” (Talk about a goddess!) This “classic” labyrinth style is found all over the world, and is thousands of years old. It has seven circuits which correspond to many sacred sevens, including the “spinning wheels” or chakras of the body. “Caerdroia” is a Welsh name for labyrinth, translates to “castle of turns”, which brings to mind Arianrhod, the goddess of the “silver wheel” of the moon and her spinning castle.
It is easy to draw a classic labyrinth, as you can see below. It looks almost like those old fashioned dance diagrams.
Some say a dance is at the root of this drawing of the labyrinth, and Jacques Hébert has proposed a choreography here.
Though the plaque by the City of Troy states this is a “game”- it is more often used as a meditative device as it is a metaphor for the journey of life. I have a dear friend who has a tattoo of this maze on her shoulder. She is a dancer, too. I can imagine her dancing the maze, this “castle of turns” with the new yellow wheat all round, just as it was on this summer day, like the hair of so many maidens, lush and waving atop the Howardian Hills.