Walking and Making Labyrinths
The Labyrinth: Ancient, Medieval and Modern
Lauren Artress, of Grace Cathedral, San Fransico, is credited for bringing the Medieval Labyrinth to America and reviving the ancient spiritual tradition in the United States and Europe.
The Cathedral at Charte had a centuries old Labyrinth which was usually covered by chairs. Anyone interested in walking had to ask a bemused priest let them remove the chairs so they could walk. However, Dr. Artress saw the potential for spiritual discovery and brought the pattern back to San Fransico where she is a priest at Grace Cathedral.
She wrote her first book about it and people started coming to San Francisco to walk and many others to make their own.
The Medieval Labyrinth began in France, most famously the Cathedral at Chartre. It was designed for people who could not go on a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It was meant to symbolically represent the Holy City.
Of course, the Classic Labyrinth has existed for as long a people can remember. Pliny, talked about several in his Natural History. The Classic Labyrinth is also popular in the US.
I will talk about my experiences with the Labyrinth and give you information about getting one for your church or even your home.
The Chartres Labyrinth: The Model for Grace Cathedral, San Fransico and Around the USA
My First Labyrinth Walk
I saw the advertisement in my Baptist Church for a Labyrinth Seminar at a Lutheran Church given by an Episcopalian Priest. I had no idea what it was, but I liked the Ecumenical sense of the thing.
I listened at the Seminar and learned that there is a three step process. Walking in one sheds one's cares and ego, in the center one communes with God and walking out one prepares to reenter the world.
It is suggested that one go in with some intention and draw or journal at the center or after leaving.
The Labyrinth itself was a massive piece of canvas with a Medieval representation. I admit to wondering what the big deal was. I couldn't imagine how one could lose anything following a path that was preordained.
Then I walked. I was taken in very quickly, noticing that at first I came very close to the center, but then was taken away by the path, forces I had no control over. My God, that was something. I walked near the outside, the inside, I came across people going faster or slower than I or people leaving as I was coming in. And I was getting lost and shedding.
By the time I got to the middle I was in an emotional state. I sat down and felt a powerful energy. I stayed and prayed, meditated or just sat. There were tears and a calmness. People came and went, I acknowledged them, but was still in my own world.
At some point I got up to repeat the process, backward, and did feel a building. However, suddenly I was standing a few feet away from the exit. I felt a sudden rebellion and didn't want to continue, but there I was. I stood for a while and then left.
I couldn't have told you how long it took. It could have been a half hour, it could have been three. But I did know more 'what it was all about'.
The picture above is a slice of the Labyrinth at Chartre that I took in 2005. I remember marveling at how old it was. I knew it was ancient, but it was quite striking to be there.
People Building Medieval Labyrinths
These are the most precise Labyrinths to build. If you want own one, for personal use, to run seminars or for your religious or spiritual organization, you can purchase them from several companies.
However, people are also making their own. A youth in my church did a portable canvas one for his Eagle Scout project. He mapped it out and several of us helped paint it. A friend of mine used bricks to make one on her property in the country.
Here we have three videos of people making these Labyrinths.
Walking, and Making, the Classical Labyrinth.
I have walked fewer of these, mostly because there just aren't as many of them. However, if you want to put one on your property, and you want to do it yourself, this is probably the easiest way. It is also the most organic. It is the same must follow path, with the same in and out, and the same sacred geometry, but it does not have the same precision.
The first one I walked was out side of Asheville, NC. Two women had set one up on their country property using large rocks that they found. They say that the experience was that they were guided as to which stones to use at which places. They have it open for anyone who wants to walk. As one goes through it one notices trinkets and small pieces of jewelry that people have felt moved to leave behind.
The second one was on St Columba Bay on Iona to the Northwest of Scotland, where St. Columba first landed to start his Christian ministry and the Iona Abby. It is also made out of stone by members of the Iona Community. I was told that each year the residents make a new one. The energy of that area, one of the 'thin places' is very powerful. Of course, walking it on the Summer Solstice, which I did, added to the experience.
Labyrinth at Columba Bay on Iona, Scotland
Make Your Own Labyrinth
Walking With Your Fingers
There are many ways to walk a Labyrinth and your fingers can also do the job.
I own a finger Labyrinth like the one pictured. You can use it with eyes closed or open focusing on the movement. It is a great meditation vehicle.
There are many companies that sell these and other finger Labyrinths.
- Evolution to Medieval Labyrinth
This is a great link, basically about the Medieval Labyrinth but shows how the Classical evolved into the Medieval.
- Lauren Artress
Lauren Artress talks about the Labyrinth.
- The Labyrinth Society
Great information about the evolution of the labyrinth.
- Walking Your Spiritual Journey
About the sacred journey of your life.
Building a Backyard Labyrinth
More on the Labyrinth
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