Thursday 30 September 2010

Riverdale Labyrinth

trickling fountain
loud in the silent air --
labyrinth room

with moontime flow
I enter the labyrinth
the ancient seven circuits
honouring the Divine Feminine

I round the turns called
the breasts of the Goddess
I go to the centre
and back again

I am a 21st century woman
yet this labyrinth stirs
an ancient response

many before me have walked this path


theirs and mine

too soon
the labyrinth ends
the world beyond

© Debra She Who Seeks 2006

[Photos © Sheryl Ackerman. Used by permission. Thanks, Sheryl!]

Wednesday 29 September 2010

My Favourite Labyrinth

For ten years, I have been walking a beautiful labyrinth handcrafted by two Edmonton women, Sheryl Ackerman and Jean Ure. On a large broadcloth base of blues and violets, they stitched down long strands of golden beads to form the classic Cretan labyrinth design. This portable labyrinth is set up four times every year in a local Edmonton community centre, Riverdale Hall.

Each quarterly walk occurs during one of the four seasons -- winter, spring, summer and autumn. Riverdale Hall has gloriously large windows through which the seasonal outdoors can be viewed as you walk. And a seasonally appropriate centerpiece is always placed at the labyrinth's centre, usually involving a candle, small altar cloth and flowers. The labyrinth room is silent except for a trickling fountain in the corner. Men, women and children of all ages come to walk on the appointed Saturday morning.

I fell in love with the Riverdale Labyrinth as soon as I first walked it in 2000. I have never seen such a creative or beautiful labyrinth anywhere else. (And coincidentally, Sheryl was one of the women who designed and created the hayfield labyrinth in Manitoba where I had my first labyrinth experience -- small world, isn't it?)

My next two posts will be poems I wrote which were inspired by the Riverdale Labyrinth.

[Photos © Sheryl Ackerman. Used by permission. Thanks, Sheryl!]

Tuesday 28 September 2010

HRH's Hot Date (Part 2)

Well, HRH's suitor was a big handsome tom cat, I'll give him that. Beau bien, le chat français -- a French cat to boot. Very difficult to resist that Gallic charm, very difficult indeed.

He took HRH to a nice French restaurant. Spent good coin on her.

It was a delicious meal. Much better than the gushy food and kibble she would have got at home.

And afterwards, tickets to a fine arts performance . . . .

HRH seemed a bit disheveled when she got home after midnight. But she had a big smile on her kitty cat face, so I'm sure she enjoyed herself. She slept in very late on Sunday morning.

I suppose that waiting up nights for her to return home after hot dates is now my new lot in life. *Heavy martyred sigh*

Monday 27 September 2010

HRH's Hot Date (Part 1)

Unbeknownst to me, my cat has started flirting with a cat who lives down the street. Oh don't worry -- the vet took care of that little issue years ago. But still, Her Royal Highness does enjoy attracting male attention from time to time. And on Saturday night, HRH had a Hot Date.

Well, of course, she had to get all gussied up for it. First, a nice pedicure . . .

. . . and then it was off to the beauty salon . . .

. . . for a wash and set . . .

. . . and a professional comb-out (what, my brushing isn't good enough anymore?)

But I must admit, the results were stunning.

Promptly at the appointed hour on Saturday evening, there was a yowling and a scratching at the front door and . . . there he was! HRH's Hot Date!

[Like any good soap opera, to be continued . . . .]

Saturday 25 September 2010

Never Say No to Panda

Hey, check out this series of oddly hilarious Egyptian cheese commercials! The last one is the best!

Friday 24 September 2010

My First Labyrinth Walk

I first walked a labyrinth on the Summer Solstice in 1997. It was a large Cretan labyrinth mown into a hayfield located on womyn's land south of Winnipeg, Manitoba. About 20 women attended the event, many of whom I knew from the local Goddess, feminist and lesbian communities.

It was a perfect prairie summer day -- hot and sunny, with an endless blue sky and only a few fluffy white clouds. We could hear the meadowlarks singing and smell the beautiful scent of clover all around us. We danced our way into the labyrinth, holding the hand of the woman ahead of us and behind us, taking two steps forward and one step back. The dance of life!

While we were spiraling toward the centre, the sky suddenly grew dark and the wind picked up considerably. Out of nowhere, menacing clouds appeared. Then the heavens opened and poured cold, cold rain on us. There was thunder and lightning in the distance. But we kept dancing, two steps forward and one step back.

At the centre, we had a (shortened) guided meditation and the rain finally stopped. We each walked out of the labyrinth at our own pace, alone or with others as desired. As we did so, the wind and clouds disappeared and the glorious summer day returned. It was hot and sunny again by the end of our labyrinth walk.

That particular summer was a real crossroads in my life. I was single, turning 40 and newly unemployed due to government down-sizing. Who knew what the future held? Things seemed very uncertain. Yet within a month or two of my first labyrinth walk, my life changed completely -- a new relationship, a new job, a move to a new city in a new province.

I was definitely on a new path!

[Unfortunately, I have no photos of that long ago hayfield labyrinth. These pictures come from the internet but are reminiscent of what the experience was like.]

Thursday 23 September 2010

Walking Meditation

There are many ways to walk a labyrinth. You can meditate on a specific topic or issue as you walk, asking for clarity or guidance. Or you can walk with nothing in mind and just see where your thoughts take you. Sometimes it's nice just to practice mindfulness and use all five senses to notice what surrounds you.

Some walk the labyrinth quickly, some slowly. I've even seen one young woman walk with her eyes closed, feeling her way with a bare foot. Some people stop to pray at certain points in the labyrinth. When you meet someone on the path, you just briefly step aside for them and then resume your place on the circuit.

Walking a labyrinth is always an introverted activity. You turn and look inward. No one can walk a labyrinth for you, just as no one can make your spiritual journey for you. Silence is the norm, although some labyrinth spaces may feature soft instrumental music in the background.

A labyrinth is, of course, a beautiful metaphor for our relationship with the Divine and for our spiritual journey through life. At times, you find yourself walking close to the centre, to the source. Then the next thing you know, you are far away from the centre on the outskirts of the labyrinth. You turn and turn on the unicursal path, wandering but never lost. And then, when you least expect it, you suddenly arrive at the centre. After a few minutes of prayer or contemplation, you're back on the path, spiraling outwards this time, assimilating what you have learned or experienced.

I like to walk a labyrinth at least three times per visit. I find that it takes a couple of completed walks just for my mind and pace to slow down in order to achieve a more leisurely, contemplative stroll. So I usually plan to spend at least an hour or so for each labyrinth visit. And I always like to finish my visit with a final "gratitude walk" to express my thanks to the Divine for all the good things in my life.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Guess what?

And tomorrow I'll resume my labyrinth series.

Friday 10 September 2010

Yeah, what He said . . .

. . . but when I say that I'll "be right back," I mean in just a couple of weeks, not in a couple of thousand years (and counting).

So I'll see you later this month, okay? Just taking a little break from the blogosphere . . . .

And hey, here's the real reason Jesus is so tardy about returning:

Thursday 9 September 2010

Just One More! It's My Fave!

In all honesty, I quite like Keanu Reeves. I think he's actually a good actor, although I know it's fashionable to deride him for allegedly having only a single facial expression. And you know, I doubt if he really was sad, dejected or depressed while sitting on that bench and eating his sandwich. Keanu Reeves has always struck me as a thoughtful, introverted man. He was probably pondering something, mulling it over. I think he's a lot deeper than he's given credit for. Then again, I watched him on Jay Leno once and he seemed like a complete doofus. But there you go.

Part of my soft spot for Keanu Reeves is that in 1995 he turned down some lucrative movie work in order to come to Winnipeg (my old home town) to play Hamlet on the stage of the Manitoba Theatre Centre. He chose to try and stretch himself as an actor rather than just make more easy moolah by filming Speed 2. You gotta respect that.

And also, the coolest film sequence in history is Neo's final battle with Agent Smith in The Matrix. Oh yeah.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

No, Keanu, NOOOOO!!

It is NEVER appropriate to vomit on cute little bunny rabbits, Keanu, even if you DO barf rainbows and twinkly stars.

Did that never-ending sandwich finally upset your stomach, poor Sad Keanu?

You may have started off dejectedly eating that sandwich on your lonely park bench but it ended up taking you to many exciting places, didn't it?

Want to see more photos of the Sad Keanu meme? Click here!

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Christian Labyrinths

In medieval Europe, one of the greatest acts of devotion which a Christian could perform was to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. But such a pilgrimage became impossible when the Crusades turned the Middle East into a bloody war zone. So (it is said) a special labyrinth was designed as a substitute for that pilgrimage. If a Christian traveled to a far-off cathedral and walked its labyrinth, that act of devotion was considered equivalent to going to Jerusalem.

The most famous of these Christian labyrinths is found in the French cathedral of Chartres. Inlaid on the cathedral floor in 1201, it eventually fell into disuse once the Crusades were over and labyrinth walking was no longer popular. At one time, rows of chairs were bolted (!) to the precious labyrinth floor but have since been removed, now that labyrinths are popular again. However, as you can see in this photo, moveable chairs are still assembled on the labyrinth when needed.

Despite its Christian origins, the Chartres labyrinth retains many characteristics which are distinctly reminiscent of traditional worship of the Divine Feminine. All Christian labyrinths are devoted to the Virgin Mary, for instance. Because of this, the labyrinth's centre is always represented as a multi-petaled rose, the traditional symbol of Mary.
The Chartres labyrinth's centre recalls the magnificent "rose windows" often found in cathedrals and which are sacred to Mary as well.

Like labyrinths sacred to the Goddess, the Chartres labyrinth is also circular in shape, the symbol of the Divine Feminine. Notice as well that when one rounded turn meets another in the Chartres labyrinth, a special black space is created (there are a total of ten). Christians call this black space a "labrys." But this is in fact a very ancient Minoan term from the island of Crete. It is the name of the Goddess's sacred double-headed axe used in ritual worship. Clearly it forms the basis for the name "labyrinth" as well.

While Christians continue to use the pagan term "labrys," the characterization of the rounded turns as "the breasts of the Goddess" has disappeared. Guess it came a bit too close to acknowledging the true nature of She who is really being honoured by the labyrinth!

Friday 3 September 2010

Pagan Labyrinths

The Cretan (or Minoan) labyrinth is the oldest form of labyrinth. It comes from the ancient Goddess-centred Minoan civilization which once flourished on the island of Crete in the Mediterranean Sea. This labyrinth is sacred to the Great Goddess, as evidenced by its circular shape (a central symbol of the Divine Feminine). The four rounded turns within the labyrinth are known as "the breasts of the Goddess."

How does this labyrinth's unicursal nature fit with the ancient Greek myth of the Minotaur? The Cretan priestess Ariadne gave a ball of red yarn to the Athenian hero Theseus so he could trace his way into the labyrinth, kill the Minotaur at its centre and then safely find his way out again. That's a description of a maze, not a true labyrinth.

I think the myth we know today is a later patriarchal version interpreting (and distorting) much older symbolism. We know that bulls were sacred to the Goddess in ancient Crete. "Minotaur" means "moon bull" so it was probably a revered symbol of the Divine Feminine in Crete's early days. In the myth's patriarchal version, the Minotaur becomes a symbol of death and evil which must be slain. Scholars also believe that Ariadne was originally the Great Goddess Herself but was downgraded in the patriarchal myth to simply being the daughter of the King and a priestess in the temple. She betrays her people and her religion to help Theseus, who callously uses and deserts her.

So, given these later patriarchal distortions, it's not really surprising that a unicursal labyrinth gets recast as a multicursal maze. It moves the plot along, creates suspense and sets the context for Ariadne's betrayal. In fact, this Greek myth as a whole may be understood as a metaphor for the ascendancy of patriarchal culture over the Goddess-centred culture which preceded it.

Now that the Divine Feminine is being actively revered again in the western world, walking Her labyrinth has become a popular expression of Goddess spirituality and devotion among pagans.

We tread Her sacred path once more.

Thursday 2 September 2010

Labyrinths Are Not Mazes

Many people use the words "labyrinth" and "maze" interchangeably. But they are not the same thing at all.

A maze is deliberately designed to fool and confuse the walker. There are twists, turns, dead ends. You can get lost in a maze. A maze is multicursal -- it has multiple paths but only one path gets you to the destination. A maze is a puzzle to be figured out.

But you can never get lost in a labyrinth because it only has one path. The path may twist and turn, but there are no dead ends or misleading alleyways. A labyrinth is unicursal -- it has a single path that leads to the centre and back again.

That's why a labyrinth can be used for meditation -- you don't have to use your left brain to figure out the correct path. Knowing that you cannot get lost, you can turn off your left brain. Your right brain is then free to take over and conduct a truly meditative experience for you.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

Labyrinths: Walking the Sacred Path

The popularity of walking a labyrinth as a spiritual exercise has enjoyed an amazing resurgence over the past 15 years or so in both the Pagan and Christian communities. I first experienced the power of a labyrinth on the Summer Solstice in 1997 and immediately fell in love with this ancient form of walking meditation. Since then, I have walked many labyrinths -- some close to home and some far afield. I'd like to share some of my favourites with you so I'm starting this new series of blog posts discussing labyrinths I have known and loved. As usual, the series will not be sequential and there may well be gaps between postings on this particular subject. But come along with me anyway and together we'll walk the sacred path!