Thursday, 19 April 2018

Labyrinth - Saffron Walden - some thoughts

The ancient labyrinth on the common at Saffron Walden is the largest 'free to walk' labyrinth in England and is believed to be based on the labyrinth in Chartres Cathedral (which dates to the twelvth century but is not always available). This one has four raised areas at the quarters and a mound at the centre. It is reputed to be a portal to otherworlds and perhaps on a ley node. The round trip to the centre and out again is 3,000 meters or two miles. I visited on my birthday to meditate on the year ahead. Before I had left home, I had opened a gift from a friend. It was a tiny bright sculpture of mythical beasts emerging from an egg and was titled, 'new beginnings'.

This was appropriate for my labyrinth walk on this special day. Many thoughts came to me whilst walking to its centre, as walking from the outer world to the inner, I left behind the world and concentrated on aspirations for the year ahead. Walking the labyrinth with others is a treat, as sometimes on the journey we are close enough to touch and at other times are separated by a vast space, sometimes walking towards each other and sometimes seeing another's back and turning one's back to them. On my inner journey, I was transported to ancient days, when the people who built and walked the path of the labyrinth had only one path which they could tread without the many avenues we have as choices - if they left the straight and narrow, they could be ostracised from their community, could be placed in the stocks or hanged. The Essex witch trials touched this area during the late 16th and early 17th century. I was wearing leather sandals on my feet and a long skirt which swished about my ankles. A walk in those times would have been one to pray for the health of family, to think of the difficulty in payment for necessities and for relief of the hardships of life. Theirs was not a life of seeking happiness but of purpose and responsibility. At each of the quarters, I stood for a moment and prayed, conversing with a guardian spirit to provide insight and understanding. As I approached the centre, I thought of death, this great place of passage to the otherworld. Sometimes the path led me right up to the centre and then quickly turned me away, sometimes skirting entirely around it until the path led me right into it. I rested for a moment on the central mound, and then made my journey outwards. The church of St Mary the Virgin on the hill, looking as though it is floating in the sky, changed colours with the passing clouds, sometimes white, sometimes golden and sometimes darkest grey.  I am far more comfortable with my inner world than the outer. Contentment, spiritual nourishment and inspiration occurs whilst I am in a quiet place, often out of doors and where I can allow my mind to wander, back and forth, freewheeling yet with direction. My outer world involves dealing with difficulties that are less easily controlled than my inner life. The outer world offers much to enjoy. I am fortunate to live in the days of prosperity and freedom. The world has possibilities but also great challenges. I find problematic relationships with people and the creation of finances  are two bug bears for me in my outer life. I asked the powers that be to help me become more placid and to grant me good health to deal with 'new beginnings' this coming year. I pledged to always do my best in terms of kindness and honesty and to seek justice and peace for all people where-ever it might be in the world.  

This day, shared with friends, brought great joy. Saffron Walden is a chosen place to visit for special days, with the vast church with some of my favourite stained glass, and the newly designed Bridge End Garden. The museum and art gallery are well worth a visit!  Article by Wendy Stokes

The word labyrinth and maze were interchangeable in the past, now the word labyrinth is accepted as a single path from the entrance to the centre and it is not possible therefore to get lost. A maze is a complex puzzle, with dead ends, and so one must remember and make good decisions to find the way to the centre and then out again. 

Labyrinths have been found all across the globe; Europe, Asian, Africa, Americas. In Crete, coins where made with a labyrinth design in 400BC. There was a legend that Daedalus built a labyrinth and a great beast, known as the Minotaur, lived in the centre of this dark cavern. A young man named Theseus risked his life to slay the beast. Ariadne was concerned how he would find his way out and gave him a spool of thread.

There is a Labyrinth Society: A labyrinth is a single path or unicursal tool for personal, psychological and spiritual transformation. Labyrinths are thought to enhance right brain activity. The Classical Seven Circuit Labyrinth in this example shows that you enter a labyrinth through the mouth and then walk on the paths or circuits.

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