Although I just happened to stumble upon my first labyrinth, quite unintentionally, I would – in time -- grow quite fond of the labyrinth experience. It became a coping mechanism, a place of peace, a way of preparing for the day ahead.
Let me explain: Last summer my church set up a labyrinth walk, which I ignored because I was too busy preparing a four-week curriculum and lesson plans for India. Fortunately, I got a second chance: a labyrinth in Tamil Nadu, India, on the Lady Doak College campus.
As a former teacher of English Language Learners, I was part of a group of 10 American teaching volunteers who spent a month teaching English at a southern India orphanage. The orphans were cheerful, friendly, enthusiastic and bright — a joy to teach. The Indians who assisted in our program were thoughtful and competent, but I ran into a problem.
Even though I was her supervisor, one of my co-volunteers – a professional person turned volunteer teacher – disagreed with many of my teaching techniques. She was big-hearted and generous, but I found her opinionated and bossy. In short, we made each other angry.
Eventually, we had a confrontation.
Too agitated to be around others, I decided I would walk the school’s labyrinth. Before I got very far, my mood began to ease and my turbulent thoughts mellowed. My initial brisk pace slowed. By the time I arrived at the center of the labyrinth, I found myself talking with God and brainstorming solutions.
When I stepped out of the labyrinth I felt better and ready to resume my work.
The labyrinth, as I said, became coping device for me. I got to know that labyrinth pretty well and, after a time, I got to understand my strong-willed co-worker. Although we probably never will be close, we came to an understanding -- an understanding that started on the pathways of a labyrinth.
Header from samulli
That experience inspired me to learn more about labyrinths. Here are 13 things you might not know:
1. Although some definitions might disagree, labyrinths aren’t mazes. Mazes have intersections and require you to make choices about which way you go. No such decisions are needed in a labyrinth.
2. Labyrinths have one pathway into and out from the center.
3. Unlike mazes, labyrinths don’t attempt to trick you. There are no dead ends or blind alleys.
4. Labyrinths require you to make only one choice and that is whether or not to enter.
5. Labyrinths are found in many cultures. The Hopi nation used the labyrinth as a symbol for “mother earth.” It wove that labyrinth into its baskets and actually carved some just outside their pueblos. Archeologists believe these labyrinths date back to around 1,100.
Petroglyph Hopi Arizona 1000dc
6. Apparently labyrinths were common throughout England and France in the late 16th century. Shakespeare may be referencing labyrinths in his play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
7. Sweden and other Scandinavian countries have created stone labyrinths along the coasts. People believe sailors built them to gentle fierce winds by trapping them within the stones.
8. In the Christian tradition, labyrinths mirror the spiritual journey.
9. One of the earliest Christian labyrinths is in the church of St. Reparatus in El Asnam, Algeria. It was formed out of black and white tiles in 324 A.D.
Labyrinth in S. Maria-di-Trastavera, Rome found in Mazes and Labyrinths by: W. H. Matthews
10. You can make labyrinths out of many mediums. There are stone, turf, fabric and tile labyrinths.
11. Some churches such as Grace Cathedral in San Francisco have traveling labyrinths made from wool or canvas.
12. There are even paper and painted labyrinths you can trace with your fingers.
13. Labyrinth walking has gained popularity recently. In 1998 the New York Times dubbed that interest the "Labyrinth Movement.”
Want to learn more about this intriguing subject? You’re invited to visit these sites:
“Walking a Sacred Path,” by Lauren Artress
“Mazes and Labyrinths,” by W. H. Matthews
“Mazes Around the World,” by Mary D. Lankford
“Labyrinths and Mazes,” by Jurgen Hohmuth