The labyrinth is a gate through which only those who know can go safely.  It is associated from very early times, and particularly in Southeast Asia, with the journey of the dead.  The passage through the labyrinth is a decisive adventure, one in which you are deciding whether or not you are going to experience eternal life. 

   This legend, from West Ceram in Indonesia, is archetypal for planting cultures: At the beginning of the world the men would dance the labyrinth dance, while the women would stand in the center.  The labyrinth dance consisted of a spiral of nine circles.  (Nine is associated with the moon.)  In the very center, a little girl, Hainuwele, was handing out what in India is called betel for the dancers to refresh themselves.  One night, instead of handing out betel she began handing out beautiful presents.  Night after night, the beauty of the gifts increased until the people became very jealous and frightened.  It just seemed too inexhaustible – so they trampled her to death in the labyrinth.  Then they buried her and her body grows all the food plants that the people eat.  G40

   We tend to think of death as the end of life, but death and life are counterparts.  So this is the prime agricultural myth of a body that is a deity’s body, so that in eating the plants we’re eating God.  This is carried over, then, to the idea of Jesus’ sacrament: “This is my body, this is my blood.”  It is the labyrinth that knocks Hainuwele down and the Goddess becomes angry at the people for this act of murder, so that she fashions a gate that is a spiral labyrinth, and those who can come through the gate she strikes with the arms of this girl, and that strikes them dead.  Those who can’t come through become either animals or spirits, so that the one who dies is the human one.  Animals die, but the animals are a negative power, spirits are negative powers, and the human beings are those who have come through and been touched with the sight of death.  So one way or another going through the labyrinth takes you through a psychological or spiritual crisis, transforming you into a full human being; in the stories that I’ve been telling, it brings you to death and immortality.  Either way, it is a dangerous, difficult passage that only those who know can accomplish.  G42