The difference between a maze and a labyrinth is that you can get lost in the former, but you can only follow one way leading lo the centre in the latter. The Trojan Fortress is a labyrinth and is known from all over Europe, but outside of the Scandinavian area it is only known as decorations, on floors, walls and in sacred places. In Scandinavia we know it also as a procession way made up from stones.
Some of these Troyan Fortresses date from the Bronze Age, but such labyrinths have been used in Scandinavia even up to the XVIIIth
century in so-called "Maiden Dances". A maiden was placed inside the labyrinth, in the centre, and a young man had lo find the way in to her, and then bring her back out the same way. So what was this all about?
we learn that Heimdallr taught the art of sorcery and war to Jarl's kin, and very rarely - if ever - do we see war and strife described as something bad, or at least never as something exclusively bad, in the Scandinavian mythology. The negative brings forth the opportunity for the good and honourable to act and do good and honourable deeds. Without war there will be no war heroes. Without suffering there will be no self-sacrifice. Without conflict there will be no way for men to forge true comradeships. Only men who have alongside each other faced the enemy in battle can really trust each other.
Cowardice was not only seen as a bad thing in Ancient Scandinavia; it was actually a crime and everyone found guilty of cowardice was executed! The warrior ideal in the ancient society was a necessary means for them to be able to separate the good from the bad, the brave from the cowards, because they cultivated the good, the strong, the brave, the wise and the heroic man! The Gods and Goddesses themselves were their ideals!
The contempt for weakness must however not be confused with malice. The wish to make strong those you love is a most intelligent and also a natural wish. The fact that you expose those you love for hardship only proves that you really understand what is good for them. The gods are our ideals, and we know that we cannot have any hope of becoming anything like them if we take the shortest or the easiest path in life.
The long path to the centre of the Trojan Fortress is rewarding in itself, because not only the goal itself is of great value, but the path you follow to the goal is also. The shortest or easiest rout would be the fastest, but not the best.
So the "Maiden Dance" can of course be a symbolic act of entering into the burial mound to connect to the hamingja
of the honourable dead and learn from the goddess of the grave, but it can also be a more mundane lesson in patience and perseverance and how the longest and most difficult path is not only the best path, but the only path that leads to the objective. Performing this dance over and over again, every single year, made sure that no man forgot this lesson. It was to the better man of old one of the most important lessons in life. It should be to us too.
Quite instinctively I have always followed the longest and most difficult path in life, and although it has caused me much headache, so to speak, it is also what has made me strong. Sometimes I have to admit I wondered why I was this apparently "self-destructive", because it just landed me in so much trouble, and I even had problems coping some times, but every time I got out on top and I felt so much better. Most of the problems I faced were caused by myself, by my own choice to always take the long and hard path, and they could have easily been avoided, but would I then have learned anything? Would I then have proven myself? Would I then have gained the trust of those who saw me do this? Would I then have become wiser? I don't think so. If you want to reach the zenith you better walk uphill. If you really want to become strong you can even add a few rocks to the load you carry as well. Praised be what makes you strong, wise and glorious!
One time I filled an empty backpack with stones and then climbed a 1.400 m tall mountain (starting from 800 m, so it was only a 600 m climb). It was (on a map) only a 500 m hike, and finishing the last 100 meters of the hike to the top was probably the most exhausting thing I have ever done in my entire life. By then my feet felt like pure lead and I had to focus all my energy on taking one step at the time. I was beyond exhausted, and just moved as if I was in a trance, trying to keep a rhythm in order not to stop. But I reached the top, added my stones to the beacon already there, and walked back down... I could have brought just one stone, like most people do, or even none, but noo; I just had to fill my whole backpack with stones, and for no other reason than to do it the hardest way possible. So what did I gain from this? Well, I gained self-knowledge, respect from my peers, a somewhat good anecdote and a good example to show others if I want to explain how I am like as a person - and why I do things that to others sometimes may seem strange.
Life is wonderful when it is hard and you cope; when it is difficult and you succeed; when it is terrifying and you stand your ground; when it is deadly and you survive; when it is unfair and you still win! Death too is wonderful when you have lived your life walking uphill on that longest and most difficult path towards the centre of the stone labyrinth - and you leave behind others who can be proud of you!
Hâvamâl stanza 76
you die the same way yourself;
but I know one thing
which never dies:
an honourable reputation."