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Path of Peace and Magic: World Labyrinth Day, May 4

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Debi Kermeen dancing the Nature-Inspired painted canvas labyrinth
(Image by Labyrinths in Stone, used with permission)
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Note: This is the sixth in a series of Opednews articles about labyrinths by Meryl Ann Butler.  Previous articles are listed at the end of this article.

May 4th, 2013 is the fifth annual World Labyrinth Day (WLD)  and  people around the world will participate by walking labyrinths. An initiative of The Labyrinth Society (TLS), World Labyrinth Day is celebrated every year on the first Saturday in May.

TLS World Labyrinth Day Coordinator, Carol House, encourages participants to "Walk as One at 1" by walking the labyrinth at 1 pm in local time zones in order to "be part of a rolling wave of peaceful energy" around the Earth.

A variety of events during past WLDs have been held at locations around the world, including the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., public parks, churches, a maximum-security women's prison, and at many private labyrinths in the United States, Canada, England, the Bahamas, France, Spain, New Zealand, China, South Africa, and Australia, among others.

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Two labyrinth styles
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)
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Two main styles of labyrinths are the classical (or Cretan) and Chartres (Medieval).

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17-month-old Judah romps in Alex Champion's labyrinth at Huntington Gardens.
(Image by Photo Credit: Darin Mark)
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People of all ages enjoy walking the magical labyrinth. 17-month-old Judah romps in Alex Champion's Earthworks labyrinth at Huntington Gardens in Pasadena, CA.  Judah's dad said, "thank you, Alex. My boy truly loved his time in your labyrinth."


Alex Champion's labyrinth at Huntington Gardens, 1999
(Image by Alex Champion)
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I asked Jeff and Kimberly Saward of Thundersley, England, co-directors of Labyrinthos: the Labyrinth Resource Centre, Photo Library and Archive,  to share some basic information with us about labyrinths.

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Jeff is a world authority on the history and development of labyrinths and mazes, the author of Magical Paths and Labyrinths & Mazes, and editor of Caerdroia -- the Journal of Mazes and Labyrinths.


Magical Paths by Jeff Saward
(Image by Jeff Saward)
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MAB: Jeff, thank you for joining us! Can you share with us the difference between a maze and a labyrinth, and tell us how long they have been in use?

JS: Yes, thanks for inviting me! Labyrinths have a history that is as circuitous as their designs might suggest, and although they are often confused with mazes, their forms hide an important difference:

Mazes invariably have choices in their pathways, and often contain dead-ends. These multi-cursal (many-path) creations first appeared around 500-600 years ago for the express purpose of perplexing visitors, and are familiar as traditional hedge mazes, and more modern installations created from a variety of materials in parks, gardens and other attractions.

Labyrinths, on the other hand, generally have only one pathway that leads from the entrance to the goal, albeit by the most complex and winding of routes.

The earliest examples are at least 4000 years old, and they have been employed for a wide variety of purposes, as a symbol within a mythology or drawn in a manuscript, they are also found marked out on the ground and within buildings, designed to be walked or run.


Turf Labyrinth, Cambridge, England. Photo: www.labyrinthos.net


MAB: And where are these labyrinths located?

JS: Historically they have been documented throughout Europe, from the Mediterranean to the high Arctic, they also occur in north Africa, in parts of Asia, throughout India, as far away as Sumatra and Java and also in the American Southwest, although many questions remain around when and how the labyrinth spread to many of these regions.

Modern day labyrinths, many open for the public to walk, can be found on the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator website. It's an online database, which lists over 4000 labyrinths around the world. Public labyrinths can be found in many schools, parks, hospitals, spas, churches, and retreat centers.

MAB: Thanks so much, Jeff!


Labyrinth Wisdom Card: Moon Goddess
(Image by Tony Christie)
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Next, I talked with Kimberly Lowelle Saward,  Ph.D, who is a past president of TLS. Like myself, and many other labyrinthophiles, she also has an interest in beadweaving, knitting and other fiber crafts. So it's fascinating to note that a knitted item - like the labyrinth - is created by the twists and turns of one long winding thread or path. Kimberly blogs at http://www.ariadnesthread.net
 
MAB: Kimberly, thanks for visiting with us today! We see a resurgence of focus on feminine principals in the world lately, a consciousness that is more and more aware of the strengths of the Divine Mother. Can you tell us how this might be related to labyrinths?


Enhanced graphic of the Rad labyrinth at Hanover
(Image by Graphic by Jeff Saward and Meryl Ann Butler)
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KS: Yes, wherever the labyrinth symbol has gone over the course of its long history, it has served as a means for bridging the mundane to the Divine. For many,  the lines making up the central section of the classical-style labyrinth resemble a goddess figure looking to the side with arms outstretched. Walking the labyrinth can elicit an experience of being contained by the Divine Feminine,  and has been likened to threading the Great Womb of birth and rebirth, where arriving at the center marks the symbolic beginning of reconnection with the feminine soul.

On the labyrinth's paths, I feel like I am held in the arms of the divine feminine, safe to explore whatever feelings are current for me at the moment.

MAB: And would you share with us your favorite labyrinth? I know that's a tough question, like asking which is your favorite grandchild!


Touchstone Labyrinth near Strathpeffer in Scotland
(Image by Photo credit Jeff Saward)
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KS: That's funny, and true! And while I tend to love whatever labyrinth I'm visiting, I have a soft spot in my heart for the Touchstone Labyrinth near Strathpeffer in Scotland. Created of huge stones from around Scotland, it is tucked into a clearing in the woods; for me it combines the delight of the labyrinth with the groundedness of standing stones -- evoking mystery and imagination as it welcomes and protects the walker.

MAB: Thanks, Kimberly for sharing part of your path with us!


KS: You're welcome, it was a pleasure!

Ronald Esquivel is a labyrinth builder in Costa Rica. His Labyrinth of the Earth is located in the park El Prado in Curridabat, and is always open to those wishing to walk it.


Labyrinth of the Earth by Ronald Esquivel
(Image by Ronald Esquivel)
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Labyrinth of the Earth by Ronald Esquivel
(Image by Ronald Esquivel)
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Ronald notes, "It's called "the Earth' to honor Gaia, our mother, from which we were created and where we can create 'the life of my dreams.'"


Labyrinth of the Earth by Ronald Esquivel
(Image by Ronald Esquivel)
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Ronald says, "From the geometric perspective, your starting point is the egg shape, a figure whose power is to contain everything inside, like the circle, but with a gesture of expansion, reproduction. Its shape indicates that the transformation process is to create something new."


Drawing the egg shape in the Labyrinth of the Earth
(Image by Ronald Esquivel)
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In this diagram, Ronald shows how he constructed the egg-shape from the foundation of the vesica pisces figure.



Divine Feminine Labyrinth at Stillwaters Studios, designed by Meryl Ann Butler
(Image by Stillwaters Studios)
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Stillwaters Studios' pair of labyrinths in northern Virginia have been used in weddings, rituals, drumming, coaching sessions, and music celebrations. (http://www.stillwaters-studios.com) The "Divine Feminine" labyrinth is inset deeply into Mother Earth.

The "Divine Masculine" labyrinth is encircled by tree stumps, rescued from a felled, century-old, scarlet oak that stood in front of Unity of Fairfax, VA. It has been lovingly nicknamed, "Stumphenge."


Divine Masculine labyrinth (Stumphenge) designed by Meryl Ann Butler (detail)
(Image by Jeff Wolf and Mary Shapiro)
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'Stumphenge' at Stillwaters Studios
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)
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Stillwaters Studios is a residential recording studio "with state of the art equipment dedicated to recording music with a positive message of peace and goodwill for all ages, races and faiths." On WLD, the labyrinths at Stillwaters will be open to the public by appointment from 12:30 pm - 7 pm, weather permitting. (More info at: http://www.stillwaters-studios.com/events/)

Stillwaters Foundation (501c3) hosts monthly positive music concerts and an annual Positive Music Festival in Marshall, VA, during which these two labyrinths are open for walking. The 2013 Positive Music Festival is on Sat., June 22. 


Use of Intuipath labyrinths lessens ADHD behaviors
(Image by Relax 4 Life)
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A recent study shows that ADHD subjects using Relax4Life's "Intuipath" -- a mirror-image, double finger labyrinth -- showed a significant drop in ADHD behaviors. Relax4Life has pioneered the development of unique labyrinth products for use in therapeutic settings.


Tony Christie's first labyrinth
(Image by Tony Christie)
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Tony Christie is the author of Labyrinth Wisdom Cards, a 48-card deck and handbook. He built his first labyrinth in his backyard in Cork, Ireland, in 2005.


Labyrinth Wisdom Cards
(Image by Tony Christie)
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Tony says, "Not realising that I could paint, I sought out artists to illustrate the images that I was seeing for each card.  This approach didn't work; so, I tentatively took up a paintbrush and attempted my first painting - the aptly named 'Simplicity;' a childlike painting where apparent imperfections were part of the desired result - and one I knew I couldn't do 'wrong'! After that it was just like walking a labyrinth, taking one step at a time and moving on to the next painting until several years later all the cards were illustrated.  Undoubtedly a case of the labyrinth enhancing creativity, and a real labyrinth journey within a labyrinth journey!"


Labyrinth Wisdom Card: Mineral
(Image by Tony Christie)
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Debi and Marty Kermeen of Labyrinths in Stone have built hundreds of labyrinths since 1998, including 50 stone labyrinths.


Miracles on the Path by Debi and Marty Kermeen
(Image by Labyrinths in Stone)
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The Heart in the Park Labyrinth, in Tonkawa OK was designed by Marty Kermeen in collaboration with Jeff Saward, and graces the cover of the Kermeen's new book Miracles Along the Path: Heart Warming Stories from the Labyrinth. It's a lovely photo album-style collection of images and stories about the labyrinths they've built around the world.


Stones are positioned in the The Heart in the Park Labyrinth.
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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Marty Kermeen cuts each stone with precision.
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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Each stone is measured and positioned with care.
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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Larger pieces are measured and cut. (Note: heart is at the top in this photo.)
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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Detail of finished labyrinth. (Note: heart is on the bottom of this photo)
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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People can hardly wait to walk the newly completed labyrinth!
(Image by Heart in the Park image by Ken Crowder)
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The labyrinth by Labyrinths in Stone at Centennial Elementary School, in Plano, Illinois is based on a drawing entitled "The Healing Tree," by artist and labyrinth designer, Sue Ann Foster. Students and teachers participated with the Kermeens in its creation.


Centennial Elementary School labyrinth, Plano IL
(Image by Debi and Marty Kermeen, Labyrinths in Stone)
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TLS notes that labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity, and uses include: problem solving, conflict resolution, walking meditation, modern day pilgrimages, and stress management. The American Cancer Society states that labyrinths "may be helpful as a complementary method to decrease stress and create a state of relaxation."

Research studies conducted in a variety of settings consistently have shown that walking a labyrinth reduces stress. In fact, over the past few years, this has been the most commonly reported finding related to the so-called "labyrinth effect,' according to John W. Rhodes, Ph.D. President of the Labyrinth Society and former Chair of The Labyrinth Society Research Committee.

To find WLD events check out the TLS events calendar, and scroll to May 4.

The Labyrinth Society on Facebook - Events also lists WLD events.

To find a labyrinth near you, check the World Wide Labyrinth Locator,
Or you can print out a labyrinth to "walk" with your finger:
Classical   click here
Chartres  click here
Or, you can try out a virtual labyrinth online.

Additional World Labyrinth Day information and resources are available on The Labyrinth Society's website.


Nature-Inspired labyrinth
(Image by Debi and Marty Kermeen)
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About the first photo in the article: The Nature-Inspired labyrinth is a custom, handpainted labyrinth by Debi and Marty Kermeen of Labyrinths in Stone.  Debi notes that "The design is the Chakra-Vyuha Design from India, the women of India have used this design through out their history as a form of protection for their families. I love it!!!!  It's an honor to walk in their foot steps!" The Nature-Inspired labyrinth was painted on a black poly-vinyl canvas for The Pond House Retreat Center in Pell City, Alabama.




Previous articles in this series:


5. Celebrate Peace on World Labyrinth Day, May 5 (05.03.12)
click here

4. Walk as One at 1: World Labyrinth Day, May 7  (05.06.11)
click here

3. Walk the Pavement to A-Mazement: World Labyrinth Day, May 1   (04.28.10)
click here
 
2. Exploring Portland Labyrinths: An A-Mazing Journey  (10.28.09)
click here

1. May 2: First Annual World Labyrinth Day  (05.01.09) 
click here

 

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http://www.merylannbutler.com

Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)
 

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