Labyrinths and mazes have been around for

literally thousands of years. They have special

uses in all fields and studies for humankind.

Mazes are used to not only study humans and their

intelligence, but also that of animals. Mazes and

labyrinths are used in so many ways it may boggle

the mind. They are used to test memory, to

entertain, to provide good story plots for cheesy

movies, sometimes even those movies that aren't

so cheesy, and in some places provide decoration.

Labyrinths also provide the basis for some

excellent games and hours of fun for the kids whose

parents just don't feel like dealing with them at

the time. Then, last but not least, labyrinths and

mazes can provide excitement in books you just

can't put down, and puzzles which seem almost

impossible to solve for those people who test their

minds to the limit for fun.

The word labyrinth comes from a Latin word,

"labrys" which means "double-axe". One can only

speculate why they would call it that, but it does

make sense. Labyrinths were built to protect, but

what if the person trying to be protected was lost

in it. A double-bladed axe would be similar. It can

be used to defeat the enemy as long as the other

side of it does not defeat the allies. Labyrinths

could be used to protect all sorts of things. The

Egyptians used them to protect riches and even

important bodies. In one instance, in Cretian

mythology, the labyrinth was built by Daedalus for

King Minos to protect the people of Crete from a

minotaur. Instead of it keeping him from completing

the labyrinth, it kept him inside so he could do

the people no harm. He was lost inside of it until

Theseus came and killed him.

Labyrinths and mazes aren't just used for

protection, though. In some places, like England,

and some churches, labyrinths were used for

decoration purposes. In the churches they were put

on the floors to symbolize the hard times of the

followers of that church. In England they would

have huge mazes put around fountains or out in

their gardens. Even today people use mazes for

decorations in their gardens. People pay large sums

of money to companies who specialize in that area.

Of course, they also have the hedge-mazes which are

actually considered labyrinths. People find them

beautiful and the mystery intriguing, it's why they

still are treasured.

Along with decoration, and protection, of

course is the entertainment value of labyrinths and

mazes. Who doesn't enjoy sitting around a McDonalds

working on that complimentary maze mat there? The

answer is no one. People enjoy mazes because they

strain the brain to think of a way out of them, but

they aren't impossible. Who cares how many match

sticks need to be moved to make a picture change

from 4 squares to a giant star? Very few people.

But mazes get the attention of everyone. Students

love it when teachers pass out the mazes instead of

the Geometry problems, or even that quiz that they

didn't study for. People just overall enjoy

doodling on the mazes that are supplied for them.
Another good use for mazes is as a test. Humans

use them to test our own intelligence, then we also

often use them to test the intelligence of animals.

Everyone who has ever seen a movie dealing with

science has seen a man release a mouse into a maze

in hopes that it can find the cheese. The rest of

the plot with the mouse is different, but still,

they always have the maze. Sometimes they even show

a labyrinth and a man running through it. It's a

very dangerous place that, once entered, no one is

ever sure if they'll find their way out again.

Mazes and labyrinths can protect, destroy,

isolate, hide, intrigue, baffle, befuddle, and

amaze. They can provide hours upon hours of fun if

it's meant to be a game, or hours and hours of

torture if the person is trapped inside of one.

People must wonder what these amazing things were

first created to do. Were they meant for

entertainment, protection, or torture? No one will

really ever know for sure. Humankind will know

this, however. No matter what