stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Labyrinths

On St Catherine's Hill, Winchester

One of my recent labyrinth adventures was recounted here, but I never went into much details about labyrinths in general. The Other Val asked about "the large pebbles" at St Columba's Bay, they are laid out to form a labyrinth. And yes, they are quite large stones actually!

St Columba's Bay, Iona

I came across labyrinths a few years back, and was very intrigued. To quote a very informative website "Labyrinths are a potent symbol in many cultures, and have been for thousands of years. When Theseus killed the Minotaur he defeated the beast at the heart of darkness - and created a myth that is still vibrant and evolving. Roman mosaics often depicted labyrinths as fortified cities, while in medieval Europe they symbolised the one true path to Christian salvation. They have been used as ceremonial pathways, protective sigils, traps for unwelcome spirits and for games and dancing."

They are recently popular as a tool for personal transformation, along with many "new age" things. But what intrigued me was the length of time they had been around, and how they occur in so many cultures, even Shakespeare mentions them and they are found carved in ancient stones.


Breamore labyrinth in Hampshire, near the Elizabethan Manor

Its the English turf labyrinth that I particularly enjoy, but have only visited a few ancient ones so far. A farmer near here built one recently on the top of chalk downland, and they constructed one at the Eden Project. I enjoy drawing them in the sand on beaches or doodling them during boring meetings!

Recently created at the Eden Project under living willow canopy

They were used in medieval churches, most famously in Chartres Cathedral. If a person was too poor to make the pilgrimage to Jerusalem (and most were!) they would walk the labyrinth instead. Ive been to workshops in English churches run by the lovely Helen Raphael Sands.


Helen and her canvas Chartres labyrinth

I find walking them a meditative and calming experience, but then kids find them great fun. So something for everyone. If you want to read more then I can recommend the Labyrinthos home page, or Sig's website or the Labyrinth Society.

3 Comments:

At 11:09 am, Blogger Val said...

Val,
thanks for all this information. It's so interesting, and I'll be following up the labyrinth links too.

Hope you enjoyed your Earl Grey tea, sitting on the patio. We've just rediscovered Earl Grey ourselves, having drunk only peppermint tea and bush tea from South Africa the last few years. I had forgotten how nice Earl Grey is.

 
At 3:42 am, Blogger Sonia said...

Great post, Val. Very interesting.
Love the Eden Project under living willow canopy. And thank you for sharing all these information.

 
At 5:06 am, Blogger Kerri said...

Yes, Earl Grey is good!
Very interesting information about labyrinths. The stone one at St. Columba's is particularly nice.
I hope I have more time to visit my blogger buddies now that school is out. I need to stop by more often!

 

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