Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, by W.R. Lethaby, , at sacred-texts.com
'Hast thou left thy blue course in heaven, golden-haired son of the sky! The west opened its gates, the bed of thy repose is there. The waves cone to behold thy beauty. They lift their trembling heads. They see thee lovely in thy sleep. They shrink away with fear. Rest in thy shadowy cave, O sun! Let thy return be in joy.'—OSSIAN.
IN 'The Bible of Amiens' Mr Ruskin describes the labyrinth once inlaid on the floor of the nave of the cathedral, and in 1825 'removed to make the old pavement more polite.' In that outburst of fervour, from the middle of the twelfth to the end of the thirteenth century, wrought into the stones of the great cathedrals—speaking particularly of France—when the scheme of imagery and symbolism had been consummated, so that no part of the building should be without its teaching, one of these labyrinths belonged by right to the floor: 'a recognised emblem of many things to the people.'
This one of Amiens was octagonal, and forty-two feet across; the effigy of the architect was at the centre, and a legend containing the date 1288. There was another, similar, at St Quentin; and one at Rheims, square, and thirty-five feet across, was laid down in 1240 and destroyed in 1779. Another, about the same time, was broken up in the Cathedral at Arras. At St Omer, in the Abbey of St Bertin, mountains,
animals, and towns were depicted on the pathway, and the Temple of Jerusalem in the centre. It has been suggested that the maze was a symbol of life and of the coil of sin. 'The whole device was deemed to be indicative of the complicated folds of sin by which man is surrounded, and how impossible it would be to extricate himself from them except through the assisting hand of Providence' (Didron's Annales).
At Bayeux there is a maze formed by patterned tiles in the chapter-house. At Sens there was a fine example; and another still exists in St Stephen's Abbey at Caen. One, especially beautiful, at Chartres, inlaid with dark stone on light, has a pathway of some six hundred and sixty feet round and round to the centre. In the thirteenth century sketch book of the architect Viliars de Honecourt, there is a drawing of a maze like this of Chartres, indeed, it is identical in planning. These French labyrinths appear to have been called 'la lieue' or 'Chemin de Jerusalem;' they were placed at the west end of the nave, and people made a pilgrimage on their knees, following the windings of the pathway to the centre, which is said to have been called Sancta Ecclesia or Ciel.
There is a German example in the Church of St Severius, Cologne.
In England there was one at Canterbury, but none now remain in our churches. There are, however, a great number cut in turf. One of these, at Saffron Walden, is a hundred and ten feet across: wholly overgrown with grass, its form is made out by alternate ridge and furrow. Others are at Wing, in Rutlandshire; Alkborough, in Lincolnshire; Boughton Green, Northants; St Catharine's Hill, Winchester; Sneiton, Nottinghamshire; and Pimpern, near Blandford. They were given the names of Miz-Maze, Julian's Bower, Troy Town, or Shepherd's Race.
[paragraph continues] Their age is not known, but, according to the country historian, some sort of spring festival seems to have been held at that of Saffron Walden. Those formed by clipped hedges, 'green mazes,' are an ordinary part of ornamental gardening, and designs for them may be found in Serlio and other writers. There was a fine
Click to enlarge
regular one at Theobald's old palace, and the maze at Hampton Court is known to everybody. One, of water, in the Hypnerotomachia, on which tiny shallops floated and seven gate-towers divided the stream, is evidently symbolical of life.
In Italy some beautiful examples are found—one
at Ravenna, in St Vitale, is here represented; another is in St Michele, Pavia; and two others are in Rome, at S.M. in Trastevere, and S.M. in Aquiro.
Through Roman examples on pavements and gems we are led back to the Greek coins of Crete, where, in the fifth or sixth century B.C. the device first appears. (For illustrations see Didron's Annales, De Caumont, 'Archæological Journal,' and 'The Architectural Dictionary.')
Of course the varieties in the mere design of mazes would be infinite; their resemblance is the striking fact, so that, considered merely as a device or pattern, the tradition is one for the two thousand years from the Greek coin of Gnossus to Botticelli's print in the Renaissance, and we wonder how it passed from place to place. There are no false paths, not a single cul-de-sac, but simply the longest involved path, from the entrance to the eye; you follow far enough, and necessarily reach the centre. When the root of tradition was broken away from at the Renaissance, all this was altered, and mazes became inventions, every one different from the others—spiders’ webs of enticing false paths.
The windings and doublings of the inlaid one at St Quentin are identical beyond all possibility of merely fortuitous coincidence with the one on the green at Alkborough, as is also that of Sens with that at Boughton Green. The Chartres labyrinth is absolutely the same in design as one on the door jamb at Lucca, with this difference, that the former, thirty feet across, is ornamented at the centre, and the latter is but a scratched line. This one in turn is exactly like that on the Hereford Map of the World, and that one also in the sketch book of Viliars de Honecourt, with the only exception that this last is reversed. These four, then, severally
in Italy, France, and England, are absolutely related—in form and proportion, number of walls and planning of their revolutions, they are transcripts of one another or a common original. Those at Ravenna, on Botticelli's engraving, and on a picture at Cambridge, are but slight variations from this typical form, or from a Roman one scratched on a wall at Pompeii, and the original Cretan examples here given from the coins.
All the time it was understood
Click to enlarge
At Pavia the Minotaur is represented at the vortex in the form of a centaur. That at Pompeii had written against it, 'Labyrinthus hic habitat Minotaurus.' Those on the Greek coins belong to the town founded by Minos himself, where the labyrinth was said to have been built; and the reverses of the coins have the head of Theseus, who thus
accompanies the symbol of his 'life's problem.' So, from the earliest Greek to the Renaissance there is an unbroken sequence of examples giving this form to the house of the Minotaur. We can well understand that, once existing and associated with rites of pilgrimage or penance, they would easily acquire different local names—'The way to Jerusalem,' and the rest—but the form and the rite
Click to enlarge
That in Roman times they were marked out on turf as well as inlaid in pavements, and that there was a popular custom of following the windings of the pathway, is shown by Pliny, who, speaking of the underground assemblage of chambers, the so-called labyrinth of Moeris in Egypt, says,—'Nor is it as we sometimes see drawn in the country games of boys, where a small strip contains passages several miles long.'
In the reign of Commodus, Q. Julius Miletus built a labyrinth as an institution for the amusement of the people. (C. O. Müller.)
The choros, or dancing-place, built by Dædalus for Ariadne—as it existed in story, of course, not in stone—was probably such a labyrinth.
The Hindu dance in honour of Krishna, as the sun-god, is described as a 'circular sunwise dance, in which the dancers twisted, and turned, and wheeled round about in supposed imitation of the sun, moon, and planets.'
This is repeated in the sevenfold star-wise procession around the temple of Jagannatha, or the Caaba of Mecca. M. Réville, writing of similar dances in Mexico, says, that worshippers entered into union with the deity by imitating his movements. 'There were several sacred dances having the character of imitating the movements of the stars.' Knowing the right form of these involutions was of the greatest importance. Mr A. Lang tells us that to savages 'those who don't dance our dance are foreigners.' And the plot of one of our folk stories—'Child Rowland'—is the awful consequences of running round a church 'widershins' or contra sunwise.
Here in England 'the boys to this day divert themselves with running in it one after another, the first leading them by many windings quite through and back again. Stukeley supposes that it is called Julian from Iulus and the Trojan games in Virgil' (Fosbroke 'Encyc. Antiq.' 1840). Mr Gerald Massey tells us mazes are 'still figured in the children's games in Cornwall and Wales, and consist of seven circles round a centre cut in the grassy sod.' In the Western Counties anything untidy and confused is said to be 'like Troy Town.'
Herodotus opens with a fourfold legend of the origin of the war of Troy—the stories of Io, Europa, Medea, and Helen, all seemingly variants of one 'far told tale' of a princess enticed away over sea. A hero in a foreign land is set to do a great deed and to endure a great peril; the king of the country
sets the task in malice; but his daughter sees, loves, and helps the hero; he overcomes, and they fly away over the sea together; but fate suffers it not so for long, and then comes a sorrowful parting. 'Everywhere there is the search for the bright maiden who has been stolen away, everywhere the long struggle to recover her: the war of Ilion has been fought out in every Aryan land' (Sir G. Cox).
Europa's son, Minos, becomes the great king and lawgiver of Crete, and the whole story is repeated. A vast prison-house has been built by Dædalus to confine the Minotaur, and a tribute is imposed on Athens of seven youths and seven maidens yearly sacrificed to the hidden monster. On a year one of these is Theseus, the hero who is to end 'the infamy of Crete.' 'When Theseus arrived in Crete, according to most historians and authors, Ariadne, falling in love with him, gave him a clue of thread, and instructed him how to pass with it through the intricacies of the labyrinth. Thus assisted, he set sail, carrying off Ariadne.' (Plutarch.)
Minos, the king, has three characteristics in classic lore; he is, above all, the great administrator of law; he is the judge of the under world of the dead; he is the lord of the labyrinth. Already, when we first meet his name in the Homeric poems, he is the earthly king of Crete and the ruler of the dead in Hades. Odysseus describes his descent to the house of Hades,—'There, then, I saw Minos, glorious son of Zeus, wielding a golden sceptre, giving sentence from his throne to the dead, while they sat and stood around the prince, asking his dooms through the wide-gated house of Hades. . . . And Ariadne, the daughter of Wizard Minos, whom Theseus on a time was bearing from Crete to the hill of sacred Athens' (Odyss. XI.)
The story is closely parallel to that of Osiris, in Egypt. Osiris, overcome by the powers of evil and darkness, goes to be the judge of the under world, in the hall of justice, which is surrounded by walls, wherein are twelve or fifteen successive gates to be passed. This is reached by tortuous ways past finding out, were it not for the guide book of the departed, 'The Book of the Dead.' Isis goes in quest of her lover, and the powers of darkness are at last overcome by Horus, the rising sun of a new day. The Egyptian myth has been universally regarded as solar, the House of Osiris with its seven halls being the under world, 'the nocturnal abode' through which the sun nightly finds his way back to the east.
'Osiris is the setting sun. Plutarch identifies him with Hades. Both, he says, originally meant the dwellings, and came to mean the god of the dead' (Lefébure).
'Osiris is the sun of yesterday, who was overcome by Night in the person of Set, who, in his turn, was vanquished by Horus, the son of Osiris. . . . Horus is the sun in full strength' (Renouf).
The power of darkness is represented as the giant serpent Apap, 'with which,' says Lenormant, 'the sun, under the form of Ra or Horus, contends during his nocturnal passage round the lower hemisphere, and over which he is destined to triumph before reappearing in the east. The conflict of Horus with Apap is ever renewed at the seventh hour of the night, a little before sun rising.'
In his recent book, the 'Golden Bough,' Mr Frazer regards Osiris as a god of vegetation. Should this be accepted, it will not conflict with the conclusion reached in this chapter. Whether Sun or Vegetable Life, it is still the dark under world to which he withdraws—house of darkness, winter, and death.
Theseus, it is generally allowed, is a duplication of Hercules, the solar hero. Melkarth, the sun-god of the Phœnicians, Horus, of the Egyptians, and the other parallels make it clear that his achievement of the labyrinth was one of many descents into the night-land to fight the serpent, dragon, or minotaur of death and darkness.
The story of Herodotus of the founding of the city of Ecbatana by the great lawgiver of the Medes is closely allied to the foundation of Gnossus and the building of the labyrinth by Minos, who instituted law in Crete. Without necessarily questioning the existence of an actual Ecbatana with seven walls, each dedicated to a planet, or a real Dioces, we may see the close connection of this history with other stories of the Just Judge in the underground, seven-walled, world of the dead. The labyrinth of Minos, as found on the coins, is such a seven-walled citadel.
Dioces, the first king of the Medes, says the Father of History (or of Folk Lore), 'applied himself with great zeal to the exercise of justice, and the people chose him for their king. And, as the Medes obeyed him in this also, he built lofty and strong walls, which now go under the name of Ecbatana, one placed in a circle within the other.' . . . 'He established the following regulations:—That no man should be admitted to the king's presence, but every one consult him by means of messengers, and that none should be permitted to see him . . . that he might appear to be of a different nature to those who did not see him. He was very severe in the distribution of justice; and the parties contending were obliged to send him their cases in writing . . . and all other things were regulated by him; so that, if he received information that any man had injured another, he
would presently send for him and punish him in proportion to his offence; and for this purpose he had spies and eavesdroppers in every part of his dominions.' Is not this a Minos apportioning justice to all men in the lower world rather than a human king in an earthly city? We must not, however, forget that kings and tyrants have secluded themselves; Mokanna, the veiled prophet, for instance, and divine monarchs generally.
Strabo, speaking of Avernus, near Cum, where the Italian peoples supposed the descent to be, says:—'There is here a spring of water, near to the sea, fit for drinking, from which, however, every one abstained, as they thought it water from Styx. They thought, likewise, that the oracle of the dead was situated somewhere here. Ephorus, peopling the place with Kimmerii, tells us that they dwell in underground habitations, and that these communicate with one another by means of certain subterranean passages; and that they conduct strangers through them to the oracle, which is built far below the surface of the earth. They lived in the mines together, with the profits accruing from the oracle and grants made to them by the king. It was a traditional custom for the servants of the oracle never to behold the sun, and only to quit their caverns at night. At last, however, these men were exterminated by one of the kings, the oracle having deceived him; but the oracle is still in existence, though removed to another place. Such were the myths related by our ancestors.'
Duncker cites a Greek author of the second century, who, in describing the Sabæans, gives an echo of a similar tradition. 'Their chief city, Mariaba, lies on a mountain. Here lives the king, who pronounces justice for the people; but he is never allowed to leave his
palace. If he acts otherwise, he is stoned by the people, in obedience to an ancient oracle.'
Peoples now living in a low phase of development account for the judgment of the dead in exactly the same way. 'It is a belief of the Australians, as, according to Bosman, it was with the people of the Gold Coast, that a very powerful wizard lives far inland; and the negroes held that to this warlock the spirits of the dead went to be judged according to the merit of their actions. Here we have a doctrine (quoting Mr Andrew Lang in "Myth and Ritual") answering to the Greek belief in the wizard Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus, and to the Egyptian idea of Osiris as judge of the departed.'
In Herodotus a story is related of Rhamsinitus, in whose reign, he tells us, 'there was a perfect administration of justice.' 'He descended alive into the place the Greeks call Hades, and there played at dice with Ceres, and sometimes won and at other times lost.' A ceremony was instituted imitating this descent, and in another story, this same king possesses a wonderful treasury-house, which is ingeniously robbed by a master of theft—a plot, as Mr Clouston has shown, which is found in the folk tales of many peoples, even to this day, and which may, after all, be what Sir G. Cox, approaching from another point of view, sees in it—the sun breaking through the prison-house of the under world, always with all people the treasury of riches.
The Greek story of Theseus and Ariadne had its Phœnician co-relative in Adonis and Astarte, the Tammuz and Istar of the Assyrians. 'One of the most popular of old Babylonian myths,' says Professor Sayce, 'told how Istar had wedded the young and beautiful sun-god Tammuz, and had descended into Hades in search of him when he had been slain by
the boar's tusk of winter.' Istar 'was the goddess of the evening star.' In the narrative of her adventures in the lower world, 'the house out of which there is no exit,' we seem to get a clear idea of the point of departure of these stories, in thought if not in geography. The following is taken from Lenormant's 'Chaldean Magic':—
'The country whence none return is divided into seven zones, like those of Dante's Inferno, upon the model of the seven planetary spheres. . . . Seven gates gave admission, each guarded by a porter. . . . This idea of the circles of the under world is also found in the Egyptian mythology of the ritual of the dead—the deceased had to pass through fifteen pylons in his descent.' In the centre of this grave-land was the palace of the ruler and a temple of justice. As Istar passes through each of the seven gates the porter requires her jewels and apparel. At the first, her crown; at the second, the rings from her ears; at the third, her necklace of precious stones; at the fourth, the pectoral from her bosom; at the fifth, her girdle of gems; at the sixth, bracelets; at the seventh, her robe.
In the version given by Perrot it is not merely a country divided into zones, but a city of seven walls—a structure like the labyrinth of Dædalus. 'We know from the narrative of Istar that they looked upon it as an immense building situated in the centre of the earth, and bounded on every side by the great river whose waters bathe the foundations of the world. This country of the dead is called 'the land where one sees nothing,' or 'the land from whence is no return.' The house is surrounded by seven strong walls. In each there is a single door, which is fastened by a bolt as soon as a new corner has entered.'
The descriptive epithets show it as very clearly imagined. 'The house in which the evening has no morning, whence there is no return. There, too, stand the foundations of the earth, the meeting of the mighty waters.' The earth being convex and hollow, like an inverted bowl, the palace of the ruler of the dead was in the void beneath, around flows the earthly ocean, and on that rests the foundations of the over sea.
The seven spherical envelopes passing under the earth, as above in the heavens, divide it into as many regions. Tammuz, Theseus, Horus—the strong sun—penetrate this prison-house, and rise out of the eastern gate, but the path is so involved that none of the dead find their way back. This is the origin of the labyrinth, nor can we wonder that mediæval mystics made use of its symbolism at the non-sacred end of their churches.
This under world of seven walls is quite universal. In Origen there is an account of the Ophites, with their invocations to seven demons, who guarded as many gates in the passage of the soul.
The Zoroastrian fragments in Cory preserve the same plan for the under world. Over the earth there were seven successive firmaments for the planets, and below us: 'Stoop not down, for a precipice lies below the earth, drawing under in a descent of seven steps, beneath which is the throne of dire necessity.'
In the later Persian, Shah-Nameh of Firdausi, Rustem, the Hercules of Iran, undertakes seven great labours in seven days, when he reaches a place called the seven mountains, he fights a demon 'within a deep and horrible recess.'
In India the same scheme of a labyrinthine under world would seem to have existed from the Vedic time, for such appears to be the cave to which the cloud cattle of the sun are driven off by a trackless
path. In the Hindu system, under the Olympian Mount Meru, with its seven zones, 'there are seven lower worlds, which are all beautiful paradises, though inhabited by demons and nagas; the latter are half men and half serpents, and are governed by three great snakes, which reign over all the snakes on earth.'
The Mohammedan cosmogony is very similar. According to Lane there are seven material heavens, and seven earths, one below the other; Jahennem is also divided into seven stages; to which, according to D’Herbelot, there are seven great portals. In the Jewish traditions of the Cabbalah there are seven infernal halls. The lowest Buddhist hell, called in the Chinese 'earth prison,' is surrounded by a sevenfold iron wall. This verse from the poetic Edda shows the thought of the Northmen, which was also that of our old English ancestors:—
Professor Rhys (Hibbert Lect.) quotes a story of the descent of the Celtic hero to the land of Shades. The words might as well be uttered by Istar herself, so typical they are:—
Dante, confessedly in the Convito, founds on the planetary spheres (following Ptolemy, and to the seven adding two others, for the spheres of the fixed stars and the primum mobile) his nine-fold arrangement of the circles of Paradise and the Inferno. It is most remarkable how he relates his descent, to that of
[paragraph continues] Theseus in the Labyrinth of Dædalus. Minos is the guardian and judge who assigns to each his proper circle, and, guarding the way to the seventh circle, he encounters the Minotaur:—
[paragraph continues] Does not the description of the Malebolge seem as if it was founded directly on such a labyrinth as that on the floor at Ravenna, which must have been familiar to him?
It has been too much the custom to see mere arbitrary inventions in Dante's system, but he wrote in quite another temper than did Milton. Dante embodies no fancies of his own; but follows the universe system of his age. In the words of Dean Milman, 'Dante is the one authorised topographer of the mediæval hell;' topographer is the word.
In some instances we have the sun in the lower world, not obscured by any impersonation, as in the 'Rest in thy shadowy cave, O sun,' of Ossian, quoted under the heading of this chapter, which agrees remarkably with what Pytheas, the traveller of Marseilles, was told in the north regarding the sun: 'The barbarians used to point out to us the lair or sleeping-place of the sun; for the nights at one place were only three hours long, at another place only two hours.' (Compare Dr. Tylor's Anthropology, pp. 332, 349).
Mr A. Lang quotes, in his 'Myth and Ritual,' an account given by the Piute Indians: 'Down, deep under the ground, deep, deep, under all the ground, is a great hole. At night, when he has passed over the world, looking down on everything, and finished his work, he, the sun, goes into his hole, and he crawls and creeps along it till he comes to his bed in the middle part of the earth. So then he, the sun, stops there in his bed all night. This hole is so little, and he, the sun, is so big, that he cannot turn round in it; and so he must, when he has had all his sleep, pass on through, and in the morning we see him come out in the east. When he, the sun, has so come out, he begins to hunt up through the sky to catch and eat any he can of the stars, his children, for if he does not so catch and eat he cannot live. He, the sun, is not all seen. The shape of him is like a snake or lizard. It is not his head that we can see, but his belly, filled up with the stars that times and times he has swallowed.'
The moon, it goes on to say, is his wife, and sleeps in the same hole, but when he returns and is cross, she comes away. As in Hesiod, one home cannot contain them both; and so sun and moon do not appear at the same time in the upper world.
Such, then, have been the thoughts of men regarding the land peopled by their dead, the cavernous deep
whose dark windings the sun has nightly to thread, to reappear in the morning victor over the powers of darkness. Well may the Dawn, Moon, or planet Venus furnish the clue by which the new day is won, and greet him on his issuing from the gates; but not for long can they be together—Ariadne must be left behind at Naxos, as the sun hastens westward. This is the subject of the 'gest' of Theseus. Hesiod, indeed, wrote a 'Descent of Theseus,' now lost, and such an adventure seems interwoven in the 'Odyssey,' where Circe, the enchantress, counterpart of Istar, furnishes Ulysses with directions for his visit to the land of the shades.
The root of the story thus being the going down of Tammuz into the seven-walled city of the dead, it would naturally be asked, Where is the gate of this city? And, as it was always 'in the west,' alike to Egyptian, Babylonian, Phœnician, and Greek, the place depended on the country where the question was asked. The story of Europa, and of Theseus and Ariadne, is acknowledged to be Phœnician; and we can well understand how, looking out from the Syrian sea-board, Crete, the island in the west, became one of the first of many such points, which, as civilisation came westward, removed farther and farther to the setting sun. Sicily, in the story of Persephone; and again, beyond the Pillars of Hercules. Procopius has a story how the dead assembled on the coast of Gaul and were ferried over to Britain; they were, indeed, invisible, but the bark sank deep into the waters with the burden, and its speed answered to an unknown force.
Teneriffe was another such site, so that in a Spanish map of 1346 it bears the name of the Island of Hades; Ireland had 'St Patrick's purgatory;' beyond, again, it is the New Atlantis of the western ocean; and in the time of Columbus the people still
had a tradition of a country to which they gave the name of 'Seven Cities.' Stories also would naturally enough arise of persons who by accident or by enticements strayed over that threshold. Pausanias tells us of a man of Gnossus who strayed into a cave and was overcome by a sleep that lasted forty years; Pliny has a similar tale; and such are the mediæval stories of Tannhauser, Thomas the Rhymer, and Ogier the Dane, for which see Wright's 'Patrick's Purgatory,' Baring Gould's 'Curious Myths,' and Hartland's 'Science of Fairy Tales.'
In another set of stories entirely parallel, it is the maiden who is carried off to the dark under world. Persephone gathering the crocuses and the white lilies of the fields in Enna is borne off like Europa, not to Crete, but to the dark labyrinth of the under world by its lord Pluto, to spend a portion of her time away from the bright summer world, 'she herself the spring,' as Dante says. Such a story finds its explanation in this other from the Romance of Alexander.
In farther India, Alexander, having seen most of the wonders of that land of wonders, comes 'to a district where he beheld women, who being interred during the winter sprung up to life on the approach of summer, with renovated grace and beauty, or, as it is prettily expressed in the metrical romance of 'Lambert li Cors,' as given by Dunlop:—
And so it comes in all the pretty stories that this imprisoned heroine has to be awakened by the kiss of the hero, of the Theseus or Sigurd type; and so, too, their palace is set round with ring fences, seven. In Hindu story, Rama dreams of a peerless beauty, and
is told that she lives afar off in (1) a glass palace, (2) round the palace runs a river, (3) round the river is a garden of flowers, (4-7) and round the garden are four thick groves of trees. Thousands of princes have failed to overcome these difficulties; all, until the chosen hero comes. In another, Panch-Phul Ranee, 'The Queen of the five flowers,' dwelt in a small house round which were seven wide ditches and seven great hedges of spears (Old Deccan Days).
In the Russian stories the hero goes to the other world through a hole in the ground, he slays a vast snake or composite creature, Koshchei the deathless, and frees the captive maiden. In the Servian version he regains earth by the flight of an eagle. The best known of all these tales is 'The Sleeping Beauty,' 'La Belle au Bois Dormant' of Perrault. Grimm's 'Briar Rose,' who sleeps within a maze of briars that none may penetrate until the hero and the time—the spring—are come.
In the Ramayana Sita, called 'daughter of the furrow,' is carried off by Ravana the king of the under world and lord of riches; she is won back by Rama, but the earth ever claims her again; as Professor Max Müller, speaking of Brynhild says, 'thus we see that the awaking and budding spring is gone, carried away by Gunnar; like Proserpina by Pluto; like Sita by Ravana.'
A story similar to this, told of 'the Queen of the flowers,' 'Rosebriar,' or Rosa-Mundi, gets attached to a real Rosamond Clifford, 'the fairest flower in all the worlde.' The maze of Woodstock thus appears in Stow:—'Rosamond, the fayre daughter of Walter, Lord Clifford, concubine to Henry II. (poisoned by Queen Eleanor, as some thought), dyed at Woodstock (A.D. 1177), where king Henry had made for her a house of wonderful working; so that no man or
woman might come to her, but he that was instructed by the king, or such as were right secret with him touching the matter. This house after some was named Labyrinthus or Dedalus worke, which was wrought like a knot in a garden called a maze; but it was commonly said that lastly the Queen came to her by a clue of thridde, or silke, and so dealt with her that she lived not long after; but when she was dead she was buried at Godstow in an house of nunnes, beside Oxford, with these verses upon her tomb
We will leave the myth with the beautiful story in Maundeville of the daughter of 'Ypocras' changed into a serpent, 'and they say that she shall remain in that form until the time that a knight come who shall be so bold that he dare come to her and kiss her on the mouth, and she lies in an old castle in a cave, and appears twice or thrice in the year.' The castle in the cave, not the maiden, is all that properly belongs to our subject.
This imagery of the under world, as the labyrinth of the dead, had a further influence on architecture than the figured mazes of the floors. It formed the ideal plan of the tomb.
Maspero is clear as to this. 'During the day the pure soul was in no serious danger, but in the evening, when the eternal waters which flow along the vaulted heavens fall in vast cascades adown the west and are engulphed in the bowels of the earth, the soul follows the escort of the sun and the other luminary gods into the lower world bristling with ambuscades and perils. For twelve hours the divine squadron defiles through long and gloomy corridors,
where numerous genii, some hostile, some friendly, now struggle to bar the way, and now to aid it in surmounting the difficulties of the journey. Great doors, each guarded by a gigantic serpent, were stationed at intervals, and led to an immense hall full of flame and fire, peopled by hideous monsters and executioners, whose office it was to torture the damned. Then came more dark and narrow passages, more blind gropings in the gloom, more strife with malevolent genii, and again the welcoming of the propitious gods. At midnight began the upward journey towards the eastern region of the world; and in the morning, having reached the confines of the Land of Darkness, the sun emerged from the east to light another day.' 'The tombs of the kings were constructed upon the model of the world of night. They had their passages, their doors, their vaulted halls, which plunged down into the depths of the mountain.' The wall-paintings carry farther this same intention; if the planning gives the geography these give the very scenery of the lower world. 'At Thebes as at Memphis the intention was to secure to the double the enjoyment of his new abode, and to usher the soul into the company of the gods of the Solar Osirian cycle as well as to guide it through the labyrinth of the infernal regions. Taken as a series, these tableaux form an illustrated narrative of the travels of the sun and the soul through the twenty-four hours of the day and night. Each hour is represented, as also the domain of each hour, with its circumscribing boundary, the door of which is guarded by a huge serpent. These serpents have their various names, as "Fire Face," "Flaming Eye," "Evil Eye." He was assailed like Dante and Virgil at the gates of Hell, by frightful sounds and clamourings. Each circle had its voice, not to be confounded with the voices of other circles.
[paragraph continues] Here the sound was as an immense humming of wasps; yonder it was as the lamentation of women for their husbands, and the howling of she beasts for their mates; elsewhere it was as the rolling of the thunder. The sarcophagus as well as the walls were covered with these scenes of joyous or sinister import.'
This interpretation is fully borne out by Perrot. 'The soul had to appear before the tribunal of Osiris, the sun of night. . . . The tomb had its snares and narrow passages, its gaping depths, and the mazes of its intersecting corridors. Thus the tombs of the Theban period embody the Egyptian solution of the problem which has always exercised mankind. Their subterranean corridors were a reproduction upon a smaller scale of the leading characteristics of the under world.' . . . 'A reproduction in small of the regions of the other world.'
Miss Edwards writes of the Tombs of the Kings: 'To go down into one of these great sepulchres is to descend one's self into the lower world, and to tread the path of the shades; crossing the threshold we look up, half expecting to read those terrible words in which all who enter are warned to leave hope behind them. The passage slopes before our feet; the daylight fades behind us. At the end of the passage comes a flight of steps, and from the bottom of that flight of steps we see another corridor slanting down into depths of utter darkness.'
The tomb of Seti I. penetrates 470 feet and is 180 feet deep in the earth; another has some 24,000 square feet taken up by the passages, halls, staircases, pits, and chambers of the tomb. The inside of the magnificent alabaster sarcophagus of Seti I. in the Soane Museum is entirely covered with engravings giving the course of the sun and the passage of the gateways to reach the Hall of Justice. This is an Egyptian atlas,
nor were they without a handbook to the land from which no tourist returns, for the guide-hook for the dead was laid in the coffin, telling them of all the turnings, and of all the ruses of the wicked spirits who would entice them away from the one true path. Just as Mr Carl Bock tells us that, when a chief dies in Borneo, directions are chanted so that the dead shall not mistake the way and may avoid tempting but false allurements.
On a wide comparison, important tombs are generally labyrinthine; and it may be suggested that the carved maze-like patterns—those incised on the Mycenæ slabs, for instance, as shown by Schliemann had sometimes the intention of figuring the grave land. The Etruscan tomb chambers are particularly involved, as may be seen in the plans given by Dennis. The tomb of Lars Porsenna is thus described by Pliny:—'He was buried under the city of Clusium, in a spot where he has left a monument of rectangular masonry, each side whereof is three hundred feet wide and fifty high, and within the square of the basement is an inextricable labyrinth; out of which, no one who ventures in without a clue of thread, can ever find an exit.'
In the initiations and mysteries, imitations of the labyrinth of the dark world seem to have been built. Professor Sayce quotes from an Assyrian tablet which describes the initiation of a priest of the Sun-god Samas, who is 'made to descend into an artificial imitation of the lower world.' And the Elusinian Mysteries embodied the same thought. In Buddhist story we are told that Asoka in his evil days actually built 'a hell' and tortured people there.
Another widely distributed myth in connection with old buildings, that of the underground passage would seem a parallel thought, perhaps best explained
by this underway of the sun, which everyone felt assured must go under his own particular temple. Be this as it may, we are likely to be told in many old church and abbey in England, especially if ruined, that 'there is a passage underground which runs from here for miles and miles; it crosses under the river, and the other end is at the castle.' The story is told in France, in one instance, of all the way from Arles to the amphitheatre at Nîmes. Sir H. Layard heard the same tale in the wildest part of Persia; just as it was told Herodotus in Egypt that there was a subterranean gallery from the Great Pyramid to the Nile; or to the French traveller Theveniot, that it passed from the Pyramid to come out of the head of the great Sphynx. The Euphrates Expedition spent some time in searching for a passage which was reported to have existed under the river (Ainsworth). A story like this, once having obtained a hold on the imagination, seems to have an undying vitality.