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Internet Book of Shadows, (Various Authors), [1999], at

                              Mazes in Myth 
 I've been working with the labyrinth myths and stories myself. And there
 is another version or way of viewing the Maiden at the center of the
 labyrinth that I thought you might be interested in.  The maze/labyrinth
 theme is central not only to the Celtic legends, but the Norse and
 others besides European. In some of the turf/snow games still played
 with the 'classical' unicursal labyrinth the Maiden at the center is
 guarded or held by a troll.
 In the symbolic analysis of the hero rescuing the maiden from the
 labyrinth there is the concept of the hero going through a rebirth
 process and recapturing the feminine, intuitive side of his nature
 (according to folks who like to do this sort of thing).  In many of the
 later Grail stories, the hero soon abandons the feminine, rejecting it.
 Those that don't are the ones who remained with the old faith, with the
 "abandoning" ones the ones who rejected the feminine and went with the
 male dominant religion of Christianity.
 The maze can be interchangeable with a dragon or serpent in the same
 sort of stories as meaning basically the same thing, since the labyrinth
 is a symbol of a descent and ascent of death and rebirth through the
 Earth Mother.  Old Anglo-Saxon castles were guarded by mounds of earth
 with basically the same name as dragon.  At the center of the Underworld
 maze is also found the castle and the Cauldron of Regeneration or
 Women undergoing the traditional challenge and initiation comprable to
 the Underground journey, were "given" to the trolls.  The trolls, being
 the underground guardians (and not the nasty demons Tolkein and other
 Christians made them out to be...just ask any Swede) taught the girl
 secrets as she "served" in the Underworld, in many legends for Frau
 Holle, who has many well-known counterparts, including Hel, Annwyn,
 Hecate and others.  This is a fairly well known theme in fairy tales
 also, but not as well recognized as being an initiatory story as the
 Heroic journeys are.
 In many Northern folktales, a girl is "given" to the trolls, or
 abandoned in the woods.  In some stories she with her brother, in others
 she is alone, and the hunter is told to kill her.  This journey into the
 wilderness is the beginning of her wandering through the maze.  Or in
 some of the stories she is taken to a castle and beset with tasks that
 she must accomplish in order to "marry" the king or prince.  She spins
 straw into gold with the help of the trolls, dwarfs or gnomes, all names
 for the Underworld beings who guard the fertility of the Upperworld.
 The spinning of straw into gold is the power of insuring the crops come
 to fruitful harvest as the grass winds through the season to gold.  She
 is usually set three tasks by either the King who will marry her, or the
 Queen Mother of the Prince.
 When she accomplishes the tasks set for her, she "claims" the masculine
 side of herself and "marries" or becomes united with her masculine side.
 The story is told in different ways, but the journey to the center of
 the labyrinth/maze is form of the Spiral Dance of life and death.  One
 of the themes that is found in conjunction with these stories are the
 ones that have the "poison" apple in them.  The apple was a symbol of
 life and rebirth for many ancient cultures.  Apples were associated with
 the Roman/Etruscan goddess Pomona, the Greek Hera, Demeter, Morgan in
 her Crone form in Celtic legends, and Holle or Hel in Norse and Germanic
 legends.  Idunn was the Maiden form of Holle or Hel, who kept the apples
 of immortality in a basket.  In the Volsung Saga it tells of the belief
 that a man could be perserved in death by the apples given to him by his
 wife.  In other legends children are conceived after eating a magical
 apple.  When the Bible was translated, the apple of life and death was
 found in the Garden of Idunn.
 The Apple, Rose and Hawthorn are all members of the same family.  The
 Hawthorne, especially as a hedge or protective enclosure is found with
 the maze, either protecting it, or actually forming the walls.  They are
 sacred trees/plants, the first to begin blooming in the spring.  The
 Hawthorn is especially sacred because it can have blossoms, ripe fruit
 and ripening fruit on it at all times, as well as protective thorns.
 I'm posting from the Seattle, Washington area of the United States.

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