In my fourth year apprenticeship in Lynn V. Andrews’ shamanic school, our group walked with our mentors to a desert area in Arizona and set our pipe bags on a sitting bench with a table. We unwrapped the items in the bags, like tobacco, sweet grass, a lighter, and began the ceremony. Afterward, we went to the labyrinth nearby. One of the apprentices brought her flute, others brought their rattles. The woman with the flute led the group. She played charmingly, reminding me of when my Native American teacher played his flute.
I had nothing to hold and was last in line. The moment my feet touched the sand, I felt myself walking as a child in the streets of Baghdad, on the way to school, dressed in a uniform, silk ribbons tied around my braids and ponytails. The memory caught me off guard. How did I get here?
The flute and rattle sounds kept bringing everything to the surface, the wide boulevards, the grassy traffic circles, but mostly, the vast desert oasis with unpaved roads, some of which I had heard have the biggest and best types of hawks and an abundance of rare birds. By the time we left the labyrinth, I fell into utter silence. I couldn’t speak. The next day, my teacher, Lynn, did a healing ceremony with me which took years and years back and then brought to the present moment, to full circle.
I wrote about my experience in Lynn’s school through a four-part memoir series which chronicles the teachings of each year. The books are called Healing Wisdom for a Wounded World: My Life-Changing Journey Through a Shamanic School and the labyrinth experience is in Book 4. Prior to this, I’d never known the spiritual or historical context of a labyrinth which has been known to the human race for well over 4000 years.
The word labyrinth comes from the Greek labyrinthos and describes any maze-like structure with a single path. That’s what differentiates it from a maze which has multiple paths. A labyrinth is unicursal and the way in is the way out. It can be found in ancient cultures, traditions and countries including China, Ireland, India, England, Scandinavia, France, Crete and others.
One of the best known legends is the story of Theseus, who with six Greek youths and seven maidens was sent into the Cretan labyrinth to face the terrible Minotaur. He killed the monster, but would have been unable to find his way out of the innumerable twisting passages of the labyrinth had not Ariadne given him a skein of thread to unwind as he entered. The great labyrinth of Egypt, which Herodotus considered more marvelous than the Pyramids, was long ago torn to pieces, but its site can still be traced. The massive temple complex was said to contain 3,000 rooms full of hieroglyphs and paintings and it’s said that perhaps it holds the key to mankind’s history.
Prehistoric labyrinths may have served as traps for malevolent spirits or as paths for ritual dances. Many Roman and Christian labyrinths appear at the entrances of buildings, suggesting that they may have served a similar apoptotic purpose. The oldest existing Christian labyrinth is probably the one in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, Orleansville, Algeria. It was a time when pilgrimages were popular. Christians used labyrinths that were built on pre-Christian site and modeled their own after ones used by earlier cultures. For Christians who could not take the long hard pilgrimage journey, the labyrinth served as an alternative form for prayer. Its path of seven circles was shaped like a Cross. Gradually it became one of the central symbols in the Christian tradition.
Labyrinth has long been used as a meditation and prayer tool. In recent years, there has been a rebirth of interest in it as it is a physical representation of the journey of your life, including experiences, changes, discoveries and challenges. As you walk the path you are invited to remember the story of your life. The center can represent Heaven, God, self-discovery or a personal goal. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth. It is a sacred experience for everyone who takes the time to journey its circular paths.
In an interview, Lisa Argo, second level Reiki practitioner and a student of the Center of Enlightenment Ministry program, shares her recent experience walking the labyrinth. Lisa serves the congregation as a certified Medium of spiritual messages and Spiritual Healer. She is a nanny and is working on a series of children’s books centered on a group of boys and their spiritual and emotional growth.
Lisa will be leading a workshop at the Path of Consciousness spiritual and writing retreat called “Spiritual and Writing Labyrinth.” Upon entering the labyrinth, there’s only one path to follow – same with the writing path. You need to trust that you are exactly where you need to be, surrender to the process of writing, and allow it to take you where you need to go. There’s something about the mindfulness required to navigate the gently winding path that makes the cares of the world drop away.
For more info, visit https://thepathofconsciousness.com/program-schedule/