In this week’s blog, two of UCOH’s labyrinth docents, Jodi Kruger and Debby Cole treat us to a brief history of labyrinths, including UCOH’s very own contribution to labyrinth history, and give us the spiritual heads up on this Saturday’s Worldwide Labyrinth Day celebrations.
Last week’s blog article, “Affirmative Prayer and the Power of Yes” closed with a focus on the creative power revealed when we engage in meditation and affirmative prayer. For many, walking a labyrinth is the equivalent of meditation. However, throughout history, walking a labyrinth has also taken on some other connotations outside of meditation. No two walks are ever the same, because no two walkers are the same. Nor, are we the same each time we may walk a labyrinth. For many, walking the labyrinth becomes an integral part of a dynamic life, centered on wholeness and spirit.
The Creative, Healing Power of UCOH’s Sacred Labyrinth
It is still somewhat of a secret in the larger Austin community, but, located on the sacred grounds of Unity Church of the Hills in far northwest Austin is one of Central Texas’ premier public labyrinths. In its brief two-year history, this sweet space has quickly become a cherished site among regional labyrinth devotees. Attracted by the divine healing energies of peace, love, joy, forgiveness and reconciliation emanating from within its boundaries, labyrinth enthusiasts find themselves returning time and again.
Tucked away just off the Unity Oaks Pavilion behind Unity Church of the Hills, this lovingly created, 11-circuit Chartres labyrinth is sheltered by a magnificent canopy of native live oaks and bounded by a beautiful meadow of wildflowers. Additionally, there are twelve meditation benches available for labyrinth walkers to use for silent rest and reflection. Each meditation bench energetically represents one of the twelve powers articulated by Unity co-founder Charles Fillmore in his book, The Twelve Powers of Man. Their presence reminds labyrinth walkers to bring the creative powers of love, faith, imagination, discernment, understanding, power, will, order, strength, renunciation, zeal and life into their labyrinth meditations.
It Takes A Community To Create A Labyrinth
The idea of locating a labyrinth on Unity Church of the Hills’ beautiful campus grounds has been around since the original plans for developing the main church building. Earlier plans fell to the bottom of the priority list as more immediate community needs were addressed. In early 2015, a community yearning for a sacred outdoor labyrinth once again began gaining traction. Seemingly without effort, a small team of committed volunteers coalesced and before long had manifested a world class labyrinth. This sacred site has quickly become an essential and cherished presence on UCOH’s spiritual grounds.
When the energy around the labyrinth began building, a volunteer team formed to explore the logistics of the project, including the funding. The exploratory team quickly turned into an action team and over the course of a few short months, the labyrinth went from idea to manifestation. In that short time, planning, design, fund raising and construction were all completed so efficiently that the labyrinth opened mere months later in May 2015, just after that year’s World Labyrinth Day celebration. Almost immediately, UCOH’s labyrinth found itself in regular use as the site for spiritual ceremonies and celebrations throughout the year, and has become a desired location for many individuals who incorporate labyrinth walks into their personal spiritual practices.
A Brief History of Labyrinths Around the World
Historically, labyrinths have been appearing on coins, in literature, architecture, and other drawings since as early as 500 BC. However, their actual usage predates these appearances, possibly as far back as 4000 years ago. Labyrinths have been mentioned in Greek and Roman mythology, and are often confused with mazes. However, they are quite different from one another. A maze is a complex branching, multicursal puzzle with many paths and directions that lead to the center. By contrast, a labyrinth is unicursal with only a single path to the center. A labyrinth has a definite route to the center and back. There are no navigational challenges associated with labyrinths, unlike mazes, which are intended to be difficult.
It is possible to find ancient, unicursal labyrinths rendered on various creative forms, including pottery, basketry, body art, other fine arts, and in the wall etchings found in caves around the world. Today, labyrinths are also found on the floors of churches and cathedrals, as well as many outdoor locations in sacred sites the world over. Depending on the needs of the local and regional users, labyrinths may be drawn, painted or physically constructed, and may be created for temporary or permanent usage. The popularity of labyrinths has waxed and waned over the centuries. Over the last quarter century or so, some estimates indicate as many as 10,000 new labyrinths have been created worldwide, which evidence that labyrinths may be experiencing somewhat of a golden age in popularity.
The Many Myths and Meanings of Labyrinths
Some scholars believe that some of the prehistoric labyrinths discovered may have been used as traps for angry spirits. In medieval times, the labyrinth symbolized a path to God with the entry symbolizing birth and the clearly defined center, God. Historical sources suggest that medieval labyrinths drawn on cathedral floors served as alternatives to physical pilgrimages to the Holy Land. Traditionally, labyrinths are walked, but there are depictions of some being walked on the knees. Regardless of their orientation or customs, a common thread between labyrinths of old and those of today is the personal meaning they hold for those who avail themselves of their energy.
The golden era of the labyrinth seems to have occurred historically somewhere between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries. During this medieval age, elaborate, paved labyrinths appeared in grand, gothic cathedrals such as Chartres, Reims and Amiens in France. These labyrinths symbolize the pilgrim’s route to Jerusalem. Through the centuries, untold numbers of visitors have offered up their own prayers and devotions while walking the labyrinths in these sacred locations.
The meanings and potential uses for labyrinths are not precise or prescribed. Many view labyrinths as ancient symbols relating to spiritual wholeness. Today, modern labyrinths combine the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering, yet purposeful, path to connection with the divine at the center of our own being. In a tangible sense, walking a labyrinth may represent not only that journey to our own center, but also how we may walk our divinity back again out into the world.
You Are Invited To “Walk As One At 1”
How would you feel being part of a synchronous, worldwide wave of peaceful energy, encompassing the planet in the healing resonance of its creative power? How would you feel knowing that you were synchronistically connected with others around the globe holding the same intentions in the same moment? If this idea resonates with you, then UCOH’s Labyrinth Docents invite you to join them this coming Saturday, May 6th for “Walk as One at 1”. The event is being held synchronously with labyrinth celebrations around the world to commemorate Worldwide Labyrinth Day.
“Walk as One at 1” participants will be joining with others around the world to synchronously create an energetic wave of peaceful energy and send it cascading across the time zones. Unity Church of the Hills will host this worldwide, community walk on the site of our own gorgeous labyrinth space. Participants may choose to bring a dish to pass at a potluck picnic held in the Unity Oaks Pavilion during the noon hour. The labyrinth walk will begin at 1:00 and run until 3:00 PM. UCOH’s Labyrinth Docents will provide music and guide our walk, as we enjoy the peaceful energy we create together on this beautiful, sacred ground we know as our spiritual home.