Prefatory Warning

Stop!—in the name of sanity—and save yourself a mind (or at least prevent a migraine) by reading no further. Labyrinths are confusing by design; reading and writing about labyrinths doubly so. The circuitous labyrinthine path is the longest route to the center, not the shortest, not the most direct. If you want a quick trip to the center of the meaning of the labyrinth, just Google a definition and be done with it. Or make your way to the Bibliothèque de la Toulouse like Alice in Kate Mosse’s novel Labyrinth, and type “labyrinth” into one of the library’s workstation computers. (Or just do like Fina the Dog when confronted with the stones of an outdoor labyrinth and step right over them, ignoring the whole design.) Do you really want the headache of studying a symbol of confusion and a diagram of meandering? Don’t you have better things to do?

            Reading about labyrinths will tie your brain in knots and play cat’s cradle with your mind. It will raise endless questions and give few answers. By definition, all labyrinth writing is half bull. Most books about labyrinths are—surprise—unreadable; the topic is so convoluted, and the mysteries of the labyrinth so many, that any writing on the subject will have been done by a puzzled and tormented author who hoped, finally, just to reach some target word count and be done with the subject, moving on to other less knotted, more manageable topics. A true labyrinth writer would complete a rough draft, then go back through the text to the beginning the same way she came, deleting every word along the way.

By definition, all labyrinth writing is half bull.

            If you are the thoughtful intellectual, scholarly type who is looking for some answers and thinking that you might want to try your hand and pen and keyboard at a labyrinth essay or poem or book, set aside about seven or 11 years: a chapter each year for seven labyrinth circuits, then about four more years for editing and dealing with your mental breakdown that is the Minotaur of writer blocks and brain-tangling reading of labyrinth books and stories. There are quicker and easier ways to drive yourself crazy than to offer yourself up as tribute to your personal psychological bull-man monster, Asterion.

            A few of the mandatory rabbit holes you must go down in your labyrinth study and research: Greek myth, ancient and medieval history, sacred geometry, Shakespearean and other literature, classical and popular music, modern movies. You will have to follow these leads, because to write about the labyrinth is to become a de facto guide through a labyrinth. The act of writing “extends Ariadne’s thread.” You are both Daedalus and Ariadne. But look what happened to Ariadne—abandoned on Naxos, rejected by Theseus who preferred her younger sister. Writer-as-Ariadne, good luck. And look what happened to Daedalus—confined in his own labyrinth by King Minos, he made wings for his son. And then . . .

            As labyrinth readers, you are, potentially, the Athenian youths taken hostage by King Minos. Or maybe instead of being one of those devoured by the bull-man you instead will be the Theseus of labyrinth bookworms.

            So, if you have made it this far, have at it. Keep going. Don’t get lost. Get lost. Find your way and stay on the path. A few steps in and you’re already fairly close to the center. How hard could it actually be?

Consider yourself warned! But if ye dare read more . . . Proceed to the route!