Labyrinths: Humankind’s Search for Self
May 7 is World Labyrinth Day.
Welcome to the magical world of labyrinths, the universal symbol of transformation. The labyrinth was created in ancient times to represent humankind’s search for the core of divinity. The pattern is an archetypal form, that is found all over the world. It dates back thousands of years. No one knows who created the original labyrinth form, but we do know that embedded within each design is a pattern that guides us to our deepest inner being. Whether walked on or traced in sand with our hand, the labyrinth pattern is a powerful tool for reflection, invocation, meditation, healing, bringing calm and a deeper knowledge of the Self.
In medieval times, the labyrinth became the symbol of the spiritual pilgrimage to the Holy City of Jerusalem not exclusive to any one religious order but to all schools of thought whose centres resided there. The pilgrimage walk to the centre of the Holy City was used for contemplation of those questions that they needed answers or resolve to. The answers were expected to come once they had reached their temple in the Holy City of God. After several days of rest, recuperation and preparation, they would make their journey back again, a mindful contemplation on how they would now implement their discoveries or realizations into their life, their family, their village, and their people.
While a garden maze has a series of false paths as a puzzle designed to daze and confuse you, a labyrinth has one linear path that starts from the outer edge, moves into the heart or centre, and then back out again. It’s a three part process. Through the act of trusting the path, of giving up conscious control of how things should go and being receptive to our inner state, we can be opened up to a whole new world and receive unexpected answers. Through the beautiful flow of their sacred patterns, labyrinths help us to ground ourselves. Some people experience a state of timelessness and find this type of surrender particularly relaxing and calming, leaving the individual with a deep sense of well-being and peace.
In our present day we are experiencing a rediscovery of the magical labyrinth as the spiritual tool it was intended for. There are communities of labyrinth lovers around the world coming together to construct labyrinths in parks, schools, hospices and churches. Hospitals are building labyrinths for patients and their families to find strength through difficult times. Spiritual centres are installing them for those on self-discovery retreats and healing as is the case with Grail Springs.
Our retreat’s sacred labyrinth is designed after the inner five-circuits of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth in France, built in 1201, one of the most famous labyrinths in the world and the one most replicated.
Some interpretations of the circuits surrounding the centre are that they represent the solar system, the centre being the sun, and each circuit a representation of the power or attributes of the surrounding planets. Another is the human body, in particular the chakra system as taught through the different yoga schools.
Most of the beautiful and ancient rocks, fossils and quartz you’ll see surrounding our labyrinth were hand dug from the Heritage Trail, used by both the Algonquin Indians and the founding settlers of this area hundreds of years ago.
We invite you to come tour our retreat center in Ontario, and we’ll show you our labyrinth. Or, if you are so inclined while traveling, simply google “labyrinths” for your area and you will be sure to find one, ranging from rustic stones and markers in a field to beautiful craftsmanship in sacred places.
As the saying goes, which is appropriate to the legacy of the sacred labyrinth, seek and you will find!
Madeleine Marentette, Founder
Grail Springs Retreat Centre for Wellbeing
Bancroft, Ontario, Canada