by Raven Bloodstone
originally in Fall 2010, pp.42-43
I walked my first labyrinth at PSG 2009. I was expecting it to occur in the daylight so that anyone could stop by and walk it at their leisure. But it was at night, and one night only. So after a long day of being hot and tired, I stopped by to walk through it.
I was amazed at the number of people walking the labyrinth and even more amazed at the number waiting their turn to enter. It was very quiet, even with all those people there. A few spoke about the lights, or where to turn, when to go, but over all it was very serene . . . very reverent.
This particular labyrinth was outlined by plastic cups that held candles and sand inside. The luminaries cast a soft, flickering glow about the area that made the whole experience seem tribal.
When it was my turn, I stepped into the Labyrinth behind a few people so I wouldn’t get lost. From the outer perspective, it appeared that people were just walking back and forth with no clear distinction of where the beginning, middle, or end was.
The pathways were wide enough that people entering and exiting were passing by each other. At each of the four corners, the altars had been placed inside the labyrinth so those who wanted could interact with the Elements.
Inside the rows, I kept thinking that it wouldn’t take long to get through this so I could go back to my tent and sleep.
Each time I passed around the center I kept thinking that next turn would be the sacred center. Yet each time it was another turn or an altar stop. I was getting frustrated until I realized that I had lost sight of the whole experience. It was supposed to be reverent, sacred . . . not express lane-like. Get in, get through, get on with life. I’d missed a lot of beautiful experiences being in a hurry or being in the middle of something too important to put down.
At the second altar stop, I decided to slow down and actually listen and observe those around me. What were they saying? To whom were they praying? What were they asking for? What were they looking at on the altar? What were they leaving on the altar?
Suddenly it was like a vortex had opened and I was having a different experience within the current experience. It became the sacred journey that it should’ve been from the beginning.
As I heard others mumbling about their triumphs, their obstacles or worries, I began to mull on my own.
Most recently I had converted myself from a life of Christianity for 31 years to a Pagan. I had considered myself Wiccan in the beginning, but discovered that I like several different things that other Pagans were doing outside of Wicca.
As a solitary practitioner, I was still very much in the closet. I read a lot of books and talked to a few people, but I was missing a community mind-set. I felt lost most of the time because I wanted to work magic with people in public to deal with public or community issues. I wasn’t living in an area that was supportive of such things. Just making and following through with the decision to attend PSG was very nerve-wracking and scary.
Yet, walking through that labyrinth let me know I’d made the right decision for me and it didn’t matter what anyone else publicly or privately thought about it. Working through all those thoughts became easy as the labyrinth wound around and around, back and forth.
Suddenly the energy and people in front of me shifted and I was there, in the sacred center . . . just like that.
It was smaller than I thought but very powerful. I wanted a bench to sit down on, to feel what it was like to be in that space and marinate in it for a while. After all those things I had to do to get there, I wanted it to last more than 30 seconds.
Before I knew it, I had moved and was walking back out the way I came. Other people had moved into the center and I wanted to keep my distance and my solitude.
As I walked out to the periphery, I realized that I sometimes go back and forth on problems, searching for solutions. That I can’t wait to get on with life and get to the good stuff, move out of this weird place of awkwardness, and not knowing.
The truth is, the solution, much like the sacred center, has been in sight the whole time. There were just more turns or insights to make . . . more barriers and resistance to drop, before I could get there.
The next day the labyrinth was gone. The meadow it had been in had the grass beat down in the exact patterns of the labyrinth. So many people had walked their thoughts and praises through that path. So many had found solitude, answers, and a wonderful experience.
Others had remained on the outside and just watched the ones who went about their journey.
As PSG continued I wished that the labyrinth had been more than one night so that I would have multiple chances at new discoveries walking that path.
The first week I was home from PSG was my saddest time. I had found the community mind-set I was looking for and now I was without it. I contemplated several things I could do to recreate my PSG experience. My yard was large enough to host a labyrinth, but I didn’t know how to make one, nor did I have the patience at that time. It took the PSG volunteers a few days to get the labyrinth together and running. I only had myself and my husband. We were just too tired and depressed to do it.
I muddled through the second week after PSG, and started to get back in my normal groove until something happened that made me angry. I skipped the gym and went straight home. I wanted to sit on my porch and be by my tree.
Sitting on the porch was fine for a while, but I soon found myself walking around my tree in a circle. I followed the lay of the land, walking up and down the little hills and roots, around fallen branches. I decided to change directions every 10 circles, then I decided to walk for 70 laps or until the sun went down. I walked and walked, gaining enough confidence to walk with my eyes shut.
Several days passed where this was my afternoon hobby. I kept telling myself I had enough room to make a labyrinth in the yard, but I just didn’t want to. Then I realized that I had made a labyrinth, almost by accident. I had chosen a spot, picked a specific pattern and set to task. Mine just happened to have a tree in the middle of it.
Upon looking at other aspects of my life, I realized that I’ve made several smaller labyrinths currently and in the past.
In high school we had plays to run in team sports. At a certain time, we should be in a certain spot. In track, we ran around in a circle. In cross country, we ran through the woods in a specific direction and pattern. On my way to work, I went the same route. When I left my car at the mechanic’s, I walked back to work through the cemetery. Getting ready in the morning, I did the same routine, walked the same path in the house.
All these things had seemed like redundant routines for me, when they were actually my personal labyrinths. And they’ve always been there, I just didn’t see them until now.
I look for opportunities to create new labyrinths now. Not just in the physical, but the ether as well. I go on journeys with a certain guide on the astral plane to the same location. We sit and contemplate or receive a message from the Goddess herself.
My latest labyrinth discovery has been the weather. Arkansas doesn’t usually get the kind of winter weather the northern states do. Our state recently had single digit temperatures and significant amounts of snow. While everyone had electricity, it caused things to move at a slower pace and some to stay inside.
One of my regular clients was complaining about not being able to run outside during this type of weather. He had to go to a local gym and run on a treadmill, which he hated. My only question to him was “what did you see or learn during this time?” He didn’t understand what I was asking.
I explained to him that when a weather pattern causes a significant change to occur in the people and community, it’s a slowing down mechanism. It’s the impetus to get people to stop, hold still, and look at or experience something they would otherwise miss or appreciate. My client never came up with an answer to my question since he had been so focused on being inconvenienced by the weather.
My learning experience from our recent weather was in my gratitude. I was also grateful that last year’s ice storm had warmer temperatures when it knocked out the heat. If we’d been without residential heat during this year’s temperatures, some people would’ve died or had severe frostbite or hypothermia.
This weather also slowed down my thoughts enough to consider writing this story and submitting it to be published. Thanks be to the forces that sometimes slow down our thoughts and speed up our impetus!