The Ubiquitus Labyrinth

Posted: May 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

Out beyond the walled garden, the football field sized area boundaried with tall red brick wall, the place where the Abbey grows its many vegetables and flowers, the Launde labyrinth spans the last grassy plateau this side of the fence, the other side of which begins crop fields for as far as the eye can see. On the one hand this labyrinth is like so many others modeled after the mother in Chartres cathedral, an eleven track labyrinth, the form of which shows up in places like Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and in New Harmony, Indiana. That’s not hard to explain; people were moved by the one and replicated it in other places. Though the material and size/number of tracks varies, the form remains remarkably the same. These many labyrinths are constructed with pavers, gravel, hedges or paint on portable canvas. In this regard the Launde labyrinth stands out.

The Launde labyrinth is created in the natural grasses of the Abbey. That is, the track is laid out among the natural plants that grow there, the flora and creatures that are attracted to it. As you walk the path your feet tread on the turf itself, all banked with wind flora. In fact, the farther I walked the more I felt like one of the creatures who visited the circuitous pathway. With English courtesy I excused my bother to the bee before me. The two legged walkers are the most clumsy.

By the time I completed the labyrinth my shoes were sopping wet from the heavy dew. After all, I wasn’t walking on human-made materials, just a human created path through nature.

By strange contrast just a month earlier I was in the desertscapes of Arizona when I happened upon a familiar pattern. In the Kitt Peak area lived an ancient cluster of indigenous tribes that went loosely by the Tohono O’odham. They were hunters and gathers but also skilled farmers in the Sonoran desert. As I looked upon their ancient art and symbols I ran across something curious and familiar.

The “Man in the Labyrinth” is grounded in their foundational myth of origins in which the original first man makes a sacred journey across the desert to a holy mountain and a sacred cave within it. The same universal symbol is used to describe the long life journey each one must make and the wisdom that may be discovered among the joys and hardships. The universal symbol of origin and journey for the Tohono O’odham is the man in the labyrinth.

To find labyrinths where the source is fairly obvious – borrowed and transplanted elsewhere – is not a mystery. But this remote and isolated confederation of tribes did not have that type of exposure. Though they did assimilate the Spanish use of horses, they did not import their symbology. Why then is their primary symbol a labyrinth and a form almost identical to other labyrinths of the world? From whence did the design and its meaning come? Is there a universal underpinning that spans many cultures and geographies, one that even provides sacred shape to the human story?

Was I walking the same story through the grasses of Launde, England as those living in the Sonoran desert of Arizona told and walked? And if so, what basic, universal, primary fields of energy shape that all?


  1. Helen says:

    You’re at Launde Abbey! I’ve been on retreat there too… There’s a thought that the Nazca lines in S America were also walked like a labyrinth, and to music, as repeated steps are thought to be good for our brains…

  2. Marie says:

    Thanks for postingg this

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