Walk a labyrinth just once with some preparation from a trained facilitator and you will experience that this is a path of connectedness to your inner soul. A calming and cleansing thing to do, a potential source of deep healing, maybe a liberating event?
So what is it? Some new alternative healing workshop? No, it has been about for centuries. An ancient pattern, a meditational walking path. With one entrance and one path which twists and circles its snakelike way to the sacred centre. European petroglyphs of the Cretan pattern appear around 2000BCE in Spain across the Mediterranean to Syria and Afghanistan.The earliest example in India is at Tikla from approx. 250 BCE.
In the Christian heritage, the other major pattern is named after Chartres Cathedral where it was placed around 1200. Variations of this design were put at Amiens, Rheims, Poitiers, Bayeux, Sens, & St Quentin and known as the “Way to Jerusalem”. It is believed that pilgrims were encouraged to use these as a substitute for the far longer, costly and more dangerous journey to the Holy City.
In all honesty we have scant evidence to tell us exactly how and when they were used. The proof we need is found by walking. Simply following the path, barefoot, shedding the constant trivia of modern existence from the surface of the mind and following the turns of the way left and right helps us balance our left and right brain hemispheres and brings us, with our feet, to the centre. Our stillpoint.
A place where we can be at peace with ourselves and listen to the promptings of Spirit urging us to develop to our full potential and to concentrate our efforts to our higher purpose. To do the things which are of value to ourselves and the human race and our long-suffering planet. Not to be caught up in the complexities of 20th century life.
The walk is a metaphor for the hero’s journey. Like Theseus we go bravely into the centre of the labyrinth to confront our personal Minotaurs. We enter the dark cave of earth and emerge reborn like Persephone in the Spring.
The labyrinth patterns occur in so many cultures and over such a complete period of mans evolution that we should ask if these patterns are archetypal? Common to a subconscious level of all minds?
At the most elementary level the circle is a symbol for complete wholeness, a container. The spiral is about journey and frequently associated with the mythological journeys of the snake, or rainbow serpent as it coils and uncoils. Putting the two together we have universal symbolism for a Journey to the centre and wholeness in Labyrinth patterns. Lauren Artress has called it a Divine imprint. Neat,… like a thumbprint from God.
The other obvious mythological association is with the womb, the dark cave birth and rebirth. A very uterine energy. The Cretan form can look very womb like too as in this example of a deeply walked path in Lake Merrit Park Oakland, California.(Pic.1) Interestingly the cretan model had 272 stones, the average number of days of human gestation!
So there you have it. Walking the labyrinth is a simple way of connecting to your spiritual centre however busy and distracted you may feel. Following that path will calm you and lead you down into your depths where you can hear the still small voice which connects you to Your God.
The work of making this ancient pattern available to many is sacred. There is mounting evidence of its ability to lower stress levels and to heal. It is good sensible practice to dowse the position for a permanent labyrinth to align with earth energies known as ley lines. A centre with natural healing powers is invaluable. Especially in a health retreat. More Labyrinths are being set up in Hospitals, Hospices, Cancer and Retreat centres. Here they are giving solace and comfort to many and the evidence is mounting of their encouragement and promotion of the healing process at many different levels.
Use labyrinthlinkaustralia.org to find one near you and communicate new sites and events please.
In 2002-3 I was awarded a Churchill fellowship to study Labyrinths at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco and further my understanding of Art and Healing techniques at the University of creation Spirituality in Oakland.I returned to Australia as a trained Facilitator and began making Labyrinths in the community, both portable canvases and site designed in ground versions.
My first was a portable ochre stained canvas to use for introductions, then I worked as Artist in schools at Northfields Primary, making an in ground sunflower pattern. Using broken pavers and garden beds as dividers.
The work continues responding to requests, as can be seen in the portfolio.