I’ve always loved walking a labyrinth as a spiritual tool. The process of walking slowly and silently into the centre, standing or sitting for a while, and returning slowly outwards is the most profound experience. Usually I’ve done it on a retreat and more often than not, a word or phrase comes to me clearly in the centre. A couple of weeks ago I went to a very well-attended local “prayer labyrinth” walk. It seems to be one of those silent spiritual practices which appeals to a wide group of spiritual seekers.
I was reminded that I’d originally hoped to create a labyrinth at Retreat by the Dart. After the renovation works were under way, what had been the garden was a mud bath after taking out overgrown trees, unwanted tree stumps, and generally tramping around with diggers and the like. The garden designer was sympathetic to my idea, but more keen on creating planting spaces. The compromise was a “celtic triple spiral” made out of Japanese box hedging. I’ve successfully grown tulip bulbs and cosmos each year in them, and the displays have been stunning. But now the original desire to offer a meditative tool to people who come to stay has been reignited.
I called Helen who ran the indoor labyrinth event and she came over for tea and to look at the space. I’d assumed with a slightly heavy heart that we’d have to dig everything up and start again. But she was immediately excited by the idea of creating something from what is there, and was inspirational in her enthusiasm to see how it might work.
A Celtic spiral (also called a “triskele” meaning “three-legged”), ideally created in one continuous line, consists of three interlocking spirals. Images have been found in both pre-Christian (Newgrange, Ireland) and Christian (illuminated manuscripts) places. No-one knows what it meant to the pagans who built Newgrange, but it took on new meaning in Ireland as Christianity came to the forefront, as a symbol of the Trinity, and as a symbol of eternity. In more recent Celtic pagan lore, it has come to represent the “three realms” : land, sea and sky aswell as the “triple goddess” – maiden, mother, crone. The Celts believed that the most important things in life came in threes and so other connotations include: life-death-rebirth, spirit-mind-body, mother-father-child, past-present-future, creation-preservation-destruction, power-intellect-love, father-son-holy spirit.
The Celtic spiral is one of the most popular spiritual symbols and can be used with any of the connotations ascribed to it to reach understanding and personal insight. it’s going to be an interesting process.