I hope you enjoyed the spring equinox, the promise that spring is well on its way. We decorated our Ostara tree, and I was given a lovely gift – a small hare with a hanging loop to add to the tree. (When I say tree, I actually mean a small branch/large twig from the garden.)
I have been giving some thought to how to celebrate key occasions, how to have ritual when it is difficult to get out and about, and the days of trekking through the woods are probably long gone.
I love labyrinths. The single decision is whether to enter or not, to commit to the journey. The path may have many twists and turns but the aim is clear, to keep going till you reach the destination.
I find walking a labyrinth to be peaceful and helpful. I focus on what may be a pressing issue or question as I walk and stop at the centre to see if I have found an answer, or at least a better understanding of the way forward.
I walked the labyrinth at Hereford with family and friends. The design was inspired by the Mappa Mundi, this is a medieval Map housed in a specially built new building at Hereford Cathedral. It dates back from around the end of the thirteenth century. The tiny drawing of the labyrinth can be found on the island of Crete and is only a few centimetres across. http://www.kindlecentre.org.uk/our-environment/the-hereford-labyrinth/
In the past, I have made a finger labyrinth out of string glued to paper, to run idle hands around. My daughter has produced a much nicer one from cross stitch embroidery.
One summer holiday on the beach in Wales, we drew a labyrinth on the sand, a large one as there was plenty of space. And when I worked at a hostel for homeless women, we created one from sand on the grass behind the building. The creation is soothing, and the slow meditative walking is calming.
So why am I talking about labyrinths in terms of space for ritual? Well, I have an ordinary garden. It’s certainly not huge. Some years ago, I removed the grass as it was becoming too much to keep tidy, and replaced it with paving slabs. I recalled that a while back we drew a labyrinth in chalk on the slabs. There was just enough space to make it fit. It gave us a lot of fun until rain washed the chalk away.
So for the Spring Equinox, I recruited help to design a labyrinth, making the best use of the space we had. The design was initially loosely based on the mediaeval labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France. This labyrinth was probably constructed in the first decades of the 13th century. This design gave as many circuits as we could while keeping the paths wide enough so I didn’t stumble at the turns due to my gammy knee. So there we were with chalk, tape measure and sticks to draw straight lines, helped (if that’s what you can call it!) by Teddy, our Collie/Malamute cross, who thought it was fascinating, these people rolling about on the floor.
At the end of the day, we had a pretty good chalk outline, and also realised we had space for an extra circuit. My maths isn’t brilliant nowadays and I had miscalculated the size. We added an extra simple ring. In ritual, we usually cast a circle by walking round it. This addition gave us space to do that.
We are now in the process of making this a permanent feature in the garden. My daughter is gamely painting the pattern on the floor. The space is aligned so that quarters can be marked. We intend to put a water feature in the west, a lamp in the south and there is a flowering bush, a red Weigela, already growing in the north. We are still looking for inspiration for east. We are also searching for something appropriate to hang up so that when you reach the centre of the labyrinth you can stop and reflect on it.
What we hope to end up with is a special space where you can walk in peace, meditate and make time for yourself to settle your mind, which can also be utilised for ritual, knowing that the energies of the space will support your work and intentions. It is a work in progress. I will share photos when it is completed. Wish me luck!
Written by Portland Jones, PF Disabilities Liaison for the Midlands