The Labyrinth, A Circular Path

“And the seasons go round and round” – Joni Mitchell, songwriter



Once upon a time there in a land long ago, a young princess is sent away from her father’s kingdom, away from the world, to a castle of supposed safety. She begins to explore her new home and encounters an old woman spinning thread in a tower. The woman introduces herself as the princess great grand-mother. She tells the princess that she has awaited her for years. In time, the great-grandmother gives the princess a ring to which she attaches an invisible thread. This thread, the great grandmother tells the princess, will guide her through the challenges she meets in life. The child is disappointed in her gift, because she cannot see the thread or the ball it comes from, which remains with the grandmother.

This is a story told at the beginning of a book called Walking a Sacred Path, by Lauren Artress, an Episcopal priest and psychotherapist. It is a book about a great circle game, walking a labyrinth. Today, May 2nd, is World Labyrinth Day. The day this book arrived in my mailbox I opened the first page and could not put it down. It was the beginning of my love affair with this symbol from the natural world, the one that is as familiar to us as the swirl on a conch shell or the crown of hair on a baby’s head. Labyrinths can be found in every religion, and have been known to the human race for over four thousand years.

The thread, and I love the golden part (when I was nine years old and pretending to be Wonder Woman I made myself a belt from a piece of twine, and painted it gold) is the reminder that we already know, within, the path, our path, the whole complete path: the way. Walking the labyrinth opened up for me a feminine element of the Holy Spirit, in my own Christian tradition. It helped to warm God up a little, for me, I suppose. Now, when I walk, I sometimes hear my long ago grandmother’s voices there, supportive, and wise.

The power of a great symbol is that is does not give answers, it asks questions. Walking a labyrinth works, because, as Lauren Artess says, it “utilizes the imagination and the pattern discerning part of our nature. It offers a whole way of seeing. ” One reviewer said of her book (which is written with such clarity) that ‘it is clear that we are at the beginning of a new age where linear, logical, frame by frame thinking is no longer a roadmap we can trust’. Daniel Pink, in his recent New York Times bestselling book, A Whole New Mind, ‘Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future’, argues the same point.

As as artist, the physicality of walking in this swirling pattern is also what captivates me. It has a beginning and an end, and a center. Your feel like you are lost, but you are not. Like life. It twists and turns, one gets close to the center, then far away. And it soothes the monkey mind, as Ms. Artress amusingly refers to her own. Have you ever had difficulty with making quiet time, meditative time? The one I walk is like the one built in the 12th century at Chartes Cathedral in France. It is based on sacred geometry principles, which is another fascinating element of study based on numbers.

I invite you to find a labyrinth and walk one today. As the Irish say, “May the stars light your way, and may you find the interior road!”

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in art, creativity, religion
6 comments on “The Labyrinth, A Circular Path
  1. I enjoyed walking the labyrinth, with you, mom. It reminds me of yoga. It is a physical practice to induce spiritual contact.

  2. joan says:

    Did you know that we are building a labyrinth under the oak trees at Bon Secours St. Francis Hospital – West Ashley? It is almost finished. Let me know if you want to come take a look. It will be open for anyone to use when it is complete. It is a beautiful spot.

    • Joan, I am thrilled to hear this! I would love to come visit, and meet you. Thank you SO much for writing to tell me about it. I plan to be on Edisto Island after mid June, so I will make visiting a ritual I know. How wonderful that you have done this! I am considering becoming a facilitator through Verditas, Lauren Artess’s organization in California. Will be in touch in coming weeks!

  3. mischa mangum says:

    Love your blog! So proud of you and your new work here! Great place to show off those photos, family history and your paintings. Congrats and cant wait to read more!

  4. mischa mangum says:

    dont know of a labyrinth here in Raleigh, but the next time I am in Charlotte, you will have to take me on your ritual walk…. I keep imagining it, everytime we talk.

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What’s this?

Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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