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Walking and Making Labyrinths

Updated on April 3, 2011

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

The Chartres Labyrinth: The Model for Grace Cathedral, San Fransico and Around the USA
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

Labyrinth at Columba Bay on Iona, Scotland
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.

Building a Backyard Labyrinth

The Light

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Have You Walked? Would You Like to Share It?

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    • PromptWriter profile image

      Moe Wood 5 years ago from Eastern Ontario

      Cool, now I want one of these in my back yard.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      They a labyrinth in a corn field here each fall for the kids to go through during the Halloween season. Kind of fun for all ages.

    • WoodlandBard profile image

      WoodlandBard 6 years ago

      Stunning lens, beautifully written with passion and lovely presentation. It was a delight for me to see the labyrinth on Columba's Bay on Iona as i was a stone mason there for 11 years through the 70s and early 80s.

    • hlkljgk profile image

      hlkljgk 6 years ago from Western Mass

      i love walking labyrinths. i plan to make one in our yarn next pring.

    • hsschulte profile image

      hsschulte 6 years ago

      I agree labyrinths are fascinating. I didn't understand the significance until I read this lens. Thank you.

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 6 years ago from San Francisco

      I have walked the inside labyrinth at Grace Cathedral twice and the outside labyrinth several times. On stressful days at work, I sometimes took the long bus and cable car ride to the cathedral so I could restore my spirit in the labyrinth. Every now and then, I am charmed to discover yet another labyrinth while out walking our city, or traveling elsewhere. This healing ritual seems to have moved a great many people. Thank you for a beautiful lens.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 6 years ago from United States

      Fascinating! The closest I have come to walking a labyrinth is in corn fields at halloween. This is totally awesome!

    • Susan300 profile image

      Susan300 6 years ago

      I'm so glad I found this lens!!! Ionly got to do this once, and then I couldn't find pictures or instructions to set up one of my own. (until now!, LOL) Thank you! Thankyou!! :)

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 6 years ago

      Blessed! Labyrinths are cool!

    • profile image

      reasonablerobby 6 years ago

      This is so timely, my partner Sally is conservation and environment officer for our local community and she is developing a so called 'Forest Garden' for the community. She wants to plant it in the form of a Labyrinth and needed some ideas and information. Fantastic!

    • ChrisDay LM profile image

      ChrisDay LM 6 years ago

      I was inspired by the one at Chartres. Nice lens.

    • caffimages profile image

      caffimages 6 years ago

      Very interesting lens! I enjoyed reading about labyrinths.

    • profile image

      7Suze7 6 years ago

      I did this once and it was surprising. Worth doing.

    • capriliz lm profile image

      capriliz lm 6 years ago

      We have the corn mazes in the fall. I suppose those are similar to labyrinths, but more clausterphobic! The labyrinth sounds like fun.

    • howdoyouspellst profile image

      howdoyouspellst 7 years ago

      I've always thought that labyrinths like these would be so calming and mind-clearing. I'd love one of these finger-labyrinths! Very nice, informative lens.

    • profile image

      Clyde2 7 years ago

      I built one in our pasture when I lived on a farm. I walk them whenever I can. Once when walking a large outdoor labyrinth, I felt like I had become someone else, like a very old Native American woman.new york city walking tours

    • awakeningwellness profile image

      awakeningwellness 7 years ago

      I often walk the labyrinth at Unity Village, it is such a spiritual experience feeling the energy build as you walk. I have to spend quite a bit of time in the center before I walk back out.

      Lovely lens!

    • toriphile81 profile image

      toriphile81 7 years ago

      My Mom has tried to talk me into doing this, and after reading this lense, maybe I will! :)

    • SaraMu LM profile image

      SaraMu LM 7 years ago

      I have walked a few, and I'd like to explore more. The history alone makes them interesting to me, but I can also say that there's something about just giving yourself permission to move and reflect. Labyrinths give you a sense of purpose.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 7 years ago

      This is an excellent lens on a great subject. Blessed and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

    • GoodBug profile image

      GoodBug 8 years ago

      This is what I love about Squidoo. It opens your eyes to things outside of your own experience. I never would have gone searching for info on this subject but when I saw the title it "called" to me - and I came.

      And I'm very glad I did. Fascinating lens. I feel inspired to build a mini-version in my backyard.

    • profile image

      grannysage 8 years ago

      I love labyrinths. I built one in our pasture when I lived on a farm. I walk them whenever I can. Once when walking a large outdoor labyrinth, I felt like I had become someone else, like a very old Native American woman. I even started walking differently.

      Thank you for sharing your experience of this very old and ecumenical spiritual experience.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Margo, you have opened my eyes to something totally new -- I had never thought about walking a labyrinth. Thank you!

    • eccles1 profile image

      eccles1 8 years ago

      what a nice lens!

    • profile image

      Obey_The_Goddess 8 years ago

      This is an excellent lens! I really love it!

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      What? Where's the movie? Only the greatest movie on labyrinths ever made. This is a terrific lens on a very unique topic I might add. 5 stars!

    • shevans lm profile image

      shevans lm 8 years ago

      Very interesting. I would like to build one in my yard.

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 8 years ago

      In case I haven't shared of late, I love your lenses!

    • profile image

      rockycha 8 years ago

      Came through from facebook - excellent lensing!!! *****

    • julcal profile image

      julcal 8 years ago

      What a great lens!! i have never walked a laby on foot OR with my fingers. I've always been tempted to buy one, and now you have given me the ultimate incentive. i wish you had one on your page to sell. But I may buy that labyrhinth clock for my bedroom.

      5* a FAV, tweet, facebook, AND a lenroll onto my extraversion lens!

      you're the best!

    • OhMe profile image

      Nancy Tate Hellams 8 years ago from Pendleton, SC

      Very interesting. I had not read all of this history of the Labyrinth and when it started in America but am familiar with them. Another great lens.

    • profile image

      keithyoung 8 years ago

      Good suggestion Margo! Brilliant lens!

    • BarryKrost profile image

      BarryKrost 8 years ago

      A great lens and interesting subject. I have friends who have done some of this work, but this gives me even more to think about. I really want to do some walking sometime. I love the way you weave your own story into the mix. One of the best lenses I have seen. Fascinating. Thank you.

    • ZenandChic profile image

      Patricia 8 years ago

      Awesome lens! I have always wanted to walk a labyrinth. Welcome to the Spirituality :Group! I added you and this lens to my lens about the group.

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image
      Author

      MargoPArrowsmith 9 years ago

      [in reply to 0ctavias0fferings] I can't wait to see the pictures and will either post it here (with your permission) or feature the lens you write about it.

      In fact, you have given me a great idea. I would love to add pictures of squidoo-ers labyrinths here!

    • ctavias0ffering1 profile image

      ctavias0ffering1 9 years ago

      I have a labyrinth in my back garden but it's unfinished ... must get it done in 2009 so I can take a photo of it. Mine is asymmetrical.

    • giacombs-ramirez profile image

      gia combs-ramirez 9 years ago from Montana

      I've made two 7 circuit labyrinths (with the help of friends), one in Mexico and one in Montana. They are so wonderful to walk. On my son's first time, he raced to get to the center (he was about 6 at the time). "I won!" he said when he got to the middle. Then along came the next person. You could see the light bulb go on in his brain as he said..."You won, too!"

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 9 years ago

      I would love to have a labyrinth garden. I think they are so cool.

      Great lens

      Lizzy

    • monarch13 profile image

      monarch13 9 years ago

      Thanks for joining Healthy, Wealthy and Wise Group as well as Symbolism and Design. There is a greater design to the universe.... 5 stars.

    • Heinani profile image

      Heinani 9 years ago

      Mahalo (Thank You) for creating such a wonderful lens. I too walk the labyrinth path as I weave sacred patterns in a simple loop of string.

      Aloha from Hawaii

    • Andy-Po profile image

      Andy 9 years ago from London, England

      Excellent. I'd love to make a labyrinth. I haven't got enough space at the moment, but maybe one day.

    • TriviaChamp profile image

      TriviaChamp 9 years ago

      Very interesting and a completely new concept for me. Well done.

      All the best,

      ~Jane

    • dahlia369 profile image

      dahlia369 9 years ago

      Labyrinths were always kinda mystical and attractive to me but I had no idea people were using them that way (as you're describing). I'm quite amazed. Good job and Welcome to Wellbeing Network group

    • WhiteOak50 profile image

      WhiteOak50 9 years ago

      Fantastic Lens!! Thank you!

    • Tiddledeewinks LM profile image

      Tiddledeewinks LM 9 years ago

      I am intrigued by a labyrinth and want to make one on my property. I've never heard of the finger one! Watch the movie "Labyrinth" with David Bowie.