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11-circuit Chartres-style Labyrinth

Symbols, Shapes, Natural Wonders Posted May-20-2005
Theme Week: Folk Art

Yesterday I shared my appreciation for learning a little history about the hex sign mentioned in Richard Panchyk's book American Folk Art for Kids. He noted that hex signs used in decorative arts often included symbols such as stars and rosettes that "have been used by people for thousands of years and have religious significance."

Today I want to step outside of Panchyk's book and share a 'coincidental' experience I had yesterday regarding some of these religious symbols that are still very much in use today.

A few days ago I found out about a women's center in a nearby town that offers a variety of art classes, workshops, and discussions about creativity, spirituality, and other life-enhancing topics. The center was founded in 1975 and is situated on a 7-acre "campus" surrounded by nature. It includes walking trails, meditative gardens, and an 11-circuit Chartres-style labyrinth made of stones.

After learning about this center, I decided to go check it out yesterday — especially to get a glimpse of the labyrinth featured on the center's Web site. Upon my arrival, I met two support staff who informed me that the founders were "off taping a show about the labyrinth." One of the staff graciously put her work aside to take me on a tour of the center and its accompanying art studio. It was everything I imagined it would be.

After seeing what was inside, my tour guide introduced me to the outdoor features. "The path to the labyrinth begins over there," she pointed. A few minutes later I started towards it on my own self-guided tour while my guide went back to her work.

Anticipating the Labyrinth

I walked through a small forest of evergreen trees before coming out into an open area displaying the labyrinth with a winged sculpture in its center. Except for a few homes peppering the landscape off in the distance, the labyrinth seemed to present itself as a wonder of an ancient world. You know those images you see of ancient ruins in biblical lands? That's what I saw. I felt as if I were transformed into another space in time.


Photo of the 11-circuit Chartres-style Labyrinth

I stood before the labyrinth for a few minutes trying to decide what to do. Is this a maze? Will I get stuck? Should I go in?

Although I didn't get instruction on how to 'properly use' the labyrinth, I knew it was for meditative, contemplative purposes. It was not a game, and finding the center quickly like a newspaper puzzle wasn't its goal. I quietly entered and began my walk.

My experience:

As I walked, I listened to the chirping of the birds. The buzzing of the bees. And felt the morning sun mix with wetness in the grass from last night's rain.

I walked slowly towards the center, and when I arrived I saw offerings of stones at the base of the sculpture. I looked around and found a fragmented piece from the labyrinth itself and humbly put it forth. I don't know if I did the right thing, but I had to say, "I'm here." And the pain from the previous week became known. Tears welled in my eyes, and pressure from my heart rose. I wanted to sit down and tell the sculpture with the stone offerings everything I carried to it.

After a few moments, I turned around and followed the labyrinth path outward. Nobody told me how to walk the path, or what to think about. I just followed my instincts and hope I didn't offend.

I knew this labyrinth held the delicate journeys of a thousand women before me. It was beautiful.


Topical view of the labyrinth
Courtesy of Lessons4Living.com

Afterthoughts

After allowing my labyrinth experience to settle in for a day, I realized that the center of the labyrinth featured the same rosetta symbol discussed in Panchyk's folk art book. In addition, it had a sculpture in the center of the rosetta reminiscent of a winged creature (see above photo).

I found an excellent topical view of the labyrinth pattern from Lessons4Living.com. This site also features background on the Chartres Labyrinth and the religious significance of the quadrants and rosetta symbol, in addition to lots of other labyrinth information.

It's cool when things synchronicitly coincide in life: here I was discussing folk art symbols in Panchyk's book, and on the very same day witnessed application of a rosetta symbol used in a modern day "ancient" labyrinth. AMAZEing, isn't it? (© 2005 Chris Dunmire)

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