A vacation should be total “time out”.
One element that has been lacking from most of our Celtic Ways tours and journeys is a physical labyrinth, though the ritual of a labyrinth has still been shared.
I approach our tours, journeys, pilgrimages and vacations as a time of renewal and reconstruction, just like when we try to set our resolutions in January after the Christmas and Hogamany indulgences. The imagery I set is like the shedding of old skin and the growing of a new skin. This is what I believe a vacation should be.
A true vacation should be an essential part of our health protection. During the 19th century in Ireland and Britain a vacation was a time to head for the beach and sea or natural spring water spas for rejuvination. I still think that’s an excellent starting point, but people today want to move around more and see more. We try to serve this and still maintain a spirit of renewal.
A vacation should be total “time out”, at least two weeks at a time, if you can manage it. Time to be separated from stress, worries, details and pace of your regular life. Our lives are full and our souls dry up empty. A vacation should be the time to fill up again so that when you go back to your regular life you have new energy and an excellent ability to deal with matters better and faster.
About labyrinth design
Labyrinths have been created as paths of prayer, meditation and connection to a greater spirit, probably as long as man has been around on this earth. It is a tool of ritual that is accepted by most religions and faiths.
They are not mazes that are full of surprises, hidden turns and a quest to find the centre without getting lost. A Labyrinth has a carefully measured path that automatically finds the centre without you needing to think much about it, so getting lost is unlikely.
The earliest Labyrinths were continual rings as seen on a lot of ancient megalithic art such as at Newgrange and Loughcrew. These are often not single labyrinths, Multiple labyrinths have been created, doubled as a male and female image, or tripled for the trinity, or quadrupled to honour the elements, or even quintrupled to follow the oriental five elements.
Individual labyrinths are also constructed with varied numbers of rings (wheels). They are usually 5 ring, 6 ring, 7 ring, 8 ring and 9 ring, with 5 ring and 7 ring being the most popular.
Many Labyrinths created since about 300 BC actually create trinity or four element imagery within the outer circle. This is what has caused them to be associated with mazes. The art of maze construction was probably inspired by this.
Some labyrinths have even gone a step further and created a double entry for two people or two groups to walk symmetric mirrored paths. These are popular for union ceremonies such as marriage or treaties between people, families and even tribes.
About labyrinth creation
Most labyrinths are created on flat land with the paths marked by stones, bushes, hedges or trees. Stones either create the path to follow, to walk on, or they form boundaries like the hedges and trees do. They do take up quite a bit of land.
What is becoming popular today are mobile labyrinths made from wool, cotton, linen, grasses, tough paper or even plastic. These are rolled out in halls, theatres or outside. There’s nothing strange about this because most ancient labyrinths were constructed for events and then dismantled. This is why ancient remains of them are very scarce.
About labyrinth ritual.
Labyrinth “keepers” today usually have their own ideas, intent and even agenda of how their labyrinths are to be used. Fortunately, most of them are open to ritual ideas outside of their own “design” as long as the alternative ideas are respectful for people and nature along with care and protection of the labyrinth.
The rituals are usually of quiet prayer and meditation along with some orientation before the experience and shared revelations followed by closures at the end of the experience.
About the Celtic Ways labyrinth ritual
Most labyrinths are built with the same material such as the same type of stone cut the same way or the same species of bush or tree all around the labyrinth. The intent here is not to distract the user from the ritual and tradition of prayer and meditation, often served with eyes closed.
Our approach is a kind of reverse of this!
The labyrinth we are creating at our Tintean Clairseach center is being created with an intentionally distracting array of different bushes, plants, trees, sculptures, seats, aids that encourage wildlife to join us such as bird feeders. The pathway is to be of aromatic creeping plants like chamomile, thyme, pennyroyal and mint. This is to provide an ultimate barefoot experience for the senses.
Out labyrinth intent is to arouse the senses and empower a strong connection to nature. I feel nature does not sustain the stable perfection and geometry of a typical labyrinth. Yes, at any single moment nature does sustain stable perfection but this moment is forever finite and forever changing, but never sustaining.
The intent of the Celtic Ways labyrinth is to create the distractions that loosens the visitor’s barriers so that we become more and more connected to nature and its flow, while our senses become more aroused, as we venture deeper into the labyrinth. This is not a labyrinth for taking a journey with eyes closed, unless you want to, as we will include sensory plants for the visually disabled. Maybe at the centre you will be called upon into a full meditation due to the wisdom of using the labyrinth and the feeling of security and protection from the middle.
Another of our labyrinth intents is to release visitors from fear. A lot of fear today has developed from unfounded fears about nature and its flow.
However, despite our design and intent any visitor can use our labyrinth in any way they are called upon as long as it does not damage its construction and spirit.
About the Celtic Ways labyrinth design
My design for our labyrinth has largely come from all of the four Celtic Festival traditions.
It is to be both sides of a water flow that is to be aligned to the sunrise points of both Imbolc and Samhain as these are at the same point in the horizon. Where the water flows we will enter and leave.
This water path takes the visitor straight to the centre, so this is where they enter.
The left half of the labyrinth is then entered for for shedding the old skin which is then “burned” when the visitor returns back to the centre and a water blessing ritual follows. The visitor then journeys the right half of the labyrinth as a ritual of creating new skin. Believe me, after the burning of old and the water blessing of new this works very well!
After everyone is passed the ashes of old are mixed with the remaining water which is all sent to flow out of the labyrinth.
Not only is our labyrinth built for individual renewal but a system of four gates changes this structure to become a two way flow of union for possible marriages, treaties, vows and decision making.
About the Celtic Ways labyrinth creation
This will commence Imbolc 2008, on sunrise Monday February 4th when the sunrise will be aligned as the entry path. From then on the labyrinth will be created. Hopefully the first people will walk our Labyrinth by June, though we are trying to have something ready for a visiting May group.
The labyrinth will then be an ongoing creation with no end as elements will flow away from there and new elements always introduced.