I was fiddling about on the internet a few days ago and stumbled onto something quirky. I know, I know… “QUIRKY?! On the INTERNET?!?!?” Believe me, brothers and sisters, this is much bigger than the internet.
It all began with me sitting at my desk and staring into space. My mind ran to my time in Europe and the hedge maze in Hanover that kept me occupied (and unbelieveably frustrated) for nearly a half hour. I decided to look into mazes and labyrinths here in the States. Allow me to share with you what I found…
I came upon this article and this quote:
Old stone formations are still being unearthed around the world, particularly in the East, even as spiritual yearnings have sparked an explosion of labyrinth-building in the West.
An explosion of labyrinth building? Indeed. Take this article from Milan Michigan, for example. It seems that a local contractor has found a sense of purpose (and a shot at a legacy) in his involvement in the construction of a labyrinth for The Sisters of Dominican campus in Adrian, near Siena Heights University. The article also contains this gem about the symbolism of the circle:
In the world of mathematics, the circle is “the locus of all points equidistant from a central point.” Throughout literature, science, and history, the circle has been known to, and for many still holds great symbolism. As well as symbolism, the circle has many “practical” applications: the literature circle is a discussion group focusing on a piece of writing; circles of light are commonly referred to as rainbows; in the Islamic culture, the circle is a unit of measure; for Native Americans, the circle represents the life cycle; there are crop circles, social circles, circles of influence, Stonehenge (England), the Stone Circles of The Gambia (Africa), circular wedding rings, and music circles. Our eyes are circles, we have been on planes circling the airport waiting for landing, Johnny Cash went into “A Burnin’ Ring of Fire,” and while heading west to settle California, Oregon, and other frontier states, pioneers circled the wagon for protection and camaraderie.
At this point I think I should clarify: What in the beginning was a search for hedge mazes (and the like) quickly became a love fest for Chartes-style labyrinths that people walk for spiritual reflection. My interest was piqued, but I could smell the tell-tale stench of the New Age. Boy, was I right.
According to the Labyrinth Locator, there are FOUR public Labyrinths in Mississippi, six in Louisiana, and (for the hell of it) nine in Maine. There are “private” Labyrinths in each state as well.
In MS and LA, many of the labyrinths are associated with Methodist, Episcopal, and Unitarian churches. A lot of it strikes me as new-agey. For example, Labyrinth Tenders, a company in Baton Rouge, hosts a grass sculpted labyrinth for the public. They offer consultations, facilitated walks, and design services for those who need to “get their labyrinth on”. From their site:
“So far, I’ve come up with the following: Modern man builds churches made of brick or wood or stone to consecrate spaces, conduct ceremony, and make contact with Spirit. But nomadic/pagan peoples in olden times performed a ritual of “casting a circle” which consecrated any space, indoors or out, for sacred activity. This circle, they believed, cloaked the participants in a mantle of energetic protection during the altered states of awareness they attained during ritual or prayer, a time which they referred to as being “between worlds”.
Similarly, I perceive my labyrinth as a highly charged outdoor space wherein the energy of the user/users gathers and builds quickly to serve a specific purpose. Before groups use my labyrinth, I usually walk clockwise around its outer perimeter to “charge” the space for my guests. In fact, I recommend anyone walk clockwise around any labyrinth they are about to enter, consecrating the space to your purpose, and notice the difference in its power. “
See this page for a helpful schematic.
There is even a Baton Rouge Labyrinth Project. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot? I nominate Badger as Official Orbis Quintus Labyrinth Investigator, Baton Rouge Sector. I hope he reports back to us on the vibes.
Labyrinthos– An interesting site that explores the history, symbolism, and apparent ubiquity of the labyrinth. See in particular the photo album.
The Labyrinth Society– Borges, ladies and gentlemen, is turning in his grave.
And last but certainly not least: Veriditas, “The Voice of the Labyrinth Movement”.