Labyrinths & Magical Practice
Article links may be buggy on some phones - scroll down to find articles.
Labyrinth Workings - from Dancing the Spiral, our new book
Walking Between the Worlds - by Sarah Campbell
Walking Our Spells - by Rowan Phillips
Labyrinth Reflections - by Angela, Rain, Brook, Mer, Debbie, Beth, Selchie
The Labyrinth in Culture & Society - by Jacques Attali (review)
Labyrinth Challenges Ritual - from our Teen Earth Magic Workbook
How to Draw Labyrinths - diagram at end of this feature
Five-Minute Labyrinth - how a group can quickly draw a labyrinth
Labyrinth - a portal, a challenge, a grounding cord, a journey...
In the following articles, RQ shares reflections, artwork and photographs from nearly a dozen Reclaiming community members. The pieces run the gamut from impressionist poetry to nuts-and-bolts ideas on using labyrinths as magical tools.
A labyrinth is a great tool for focusing a meditation. They're also fun to walk! Following the twists and turns of a labyrinth carries us into a magical realm. This page offers several ways you can use labyrinths in rituals and classes.
If a labyrinth is not available at your site, you can create one in an hour, following directions at end of this feature. Once you’ve blessed a labyrinth, people can walk it on their own, especially if you give them some ideas.
There are three typical labyrinth layouts: three, seven, and eleven.
Eleven circuits is a traditional form that appears in European churches such as France’s Chartres Cathedral and has been replicated in some North American churches. These have very elaborate layouts with many twists and turns.
Seven circuits appear in ancient Mediterranean sites and elsewhere. The layout is simpler, yet resembles eleven circuits in that one does not move steadily from the outside to the center.
Three circuits is a simplified arrangement that we use for TEM workings such as the Labyrinth Challenges ritual (see below).
Prep - Time, Space, Numbers
A limited number of people can move through a labyrinth at once. If the group is too large for your labyrinth, try using it as part of a “stations ritual,” where you work as smaller subgroups.
It’s difficult to do any labyrinth working, including transitions, in under 30 minutes. If time is short, share some ways to work with labyrinths, and let people do it in their free time.
If you’re making a labyrinth, you’ll need at least 10 feet square for a three-circuit, and 15 feet for a seven-circuit. Outdoor labyrinths can be bigger. We made a seven-circuit at Witchlets from fallen tree branches that was 40 feet across.
Walk & Meditate – 7 or 11 Circuits
Walk a labyrinth with magical intent. Approach the entrance with a question or issue in your heart. At the entrance, kneel and touch the Earth, grounding yourself at the portal. Walk slowly, doing your best to keep your question or issue foremost in your mind. As you follow the turns, let go of linear thought and allow images to float past.
Each time the circuit turns, stop for a breath and recall your question or issue before starting off in a new direction (with 11 circuits, you’ll be stopping a lot!). When you reach the center, kneel and re-ground and be receptive to insights and intuition. Do this again when you exit the labyrinth.
Chakra Meditation – 7 Circuits
In some Eastern traditions, chakras are energy centers running up the spine. You can match the seven circuits to the seven chakras, with the outermost circuit corresponding to the root chakra.
As we make our way through the circuits, we can meditate in turn on each chakra, applying its insights and tools to our question.
You can find chakra meditation tools online.
Mirrors at the Center – a Shadow Working
Set up a small table in the center as an altar. A veiled priestess stands at the center of the labyrinth. Place some hand-mirrors face down on the table. Having several mirrors lets several people do the working at once.
This takes a cue from the ancient Greek story of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur, and could be part of a larger ritual arc based on that story. What if the creature at the center of the labyrinth is your own reflection?
This working needs enough light for people to see themselves in a mirror. Also – unless you’re a small group, everyone won’t be able to do this at once, so you’ll need something for folks to do as they wait their turn – fire or water scrying, tarot, drumming....
A second priestess begins with a short meditation about walking the labyrinth and opening up to the parts of ourselves that we do not usually see and acknowledge. Priestess asks: “What if the creature at the center of the labyrinth is parts of myself that I don’t want to look at?”
As people arrive at the center, they are invited to gaze into a mirror and get acquainted with the “creature at the center of the labyrinth.”
As they walk back out, they are invited to meditate on what they just saw.
Song: Let the Beauty We Love; Opening Up In Sweet Surrender. (Visit our playlists)
Draw a seven-circuit labyrinth on a sheet of paper (see next page for directions). When it’s complete, ground yourself, then slowly trace the circuits with your finger. Try doing a chakra meditation this way – see above.
One Reclaiming teacher drew a large seven-circuit outline, then went back and carefully drew in hundreds of “stones” along the lines that separate the circuits, meditating on each one as if she were laying the stones in a real labyrinth.
Labyrinths are a great tool for personal meditation and workings. You can draw a labyrinth with chalk on concrete, or make yourself a finger labyrinth.
Try any of the above workings on your own. You can even do the Labyrinth Challenges working (see below). Journal afterward.
If you can return to a local or regional labyrinth, keep an ongoing journal about your experiences. What thoughts and images recur for you? What distractions keep popping up? What changes over time?
Labyrinth Myth: Ariadne, Theseus, & the Minotaur
The ancient Greek myth of Ariadne, Theseus, and the Minotaur is built around a magical journey into (and back out of!) a labyrinth. We’ve used this myth as the core of a one-day workshop, and at Witchlets in 2012, where we searched for ways to challenge older gender assumptions.
Labyrinth Challenges Ritual
See below for a complete WitchCamp-style labyrinth ritual - for groups, small circles, or solo work.
Labyrinths: Walking Between the Worlds
By Sarah Campbell
What are labyrinths? What are their meanings? Their messages?
The questions are seemingly endless and, to some extent, unanswerable.
Labyrinths are among the most ancient and powerful of magical tools. As I work with them, in my personal practice and as a coordinator of community labyrinth walks, I have found myself wondering whether they are aligned with the North/Earth, or the Center where all things come together and are transformed. Sometimes they seem to be one, sometimes the other, and sometimes both.
Most of all, the labyrinth seems to be a tool of Mystery, which is anchored in the Earth. They are rock art, cave drawings and ancient earthworks. I sense that the labyrinth is a tool of integration, which we can use to understand multi-dimensional ideas, and to expand our ability to walk between the worlds. We walk the labyrinth as it floats on the earth plane. At the same time the labyrinth exists both Above and Below. We can use it to help us find our way to other realms and realities — and our way back.
Working with the Chakras in the Seven-Circuit Labyrinth
The labyrinth I use most often is the classical seven-circuit labyrinth. Often, I walk the labyrinth with an awareness of the connection each of the seven paths has to one of the seven in-body chakras, or energy centers. Using this practice, the walker can connect with each chakra individually, activating all of their energy centers during the walk. With practice, the walker will make observations, including the existence of “blocks” or injuries, and then use that information to heal and balance the chakras.
This exercise gently requires that the walker spend a significant amount of time attending to the lower chakras (Root, Sex, Solar Plexus) which are most connected to the physicality of the body, because those corresponding paths will be encountered first. The fourth path, which corresponds to the Heart chakra is walked next, and is a transition to the upper chakras (Throat, Third Eye, and Crown), that are more spiritual in nature. Exiting the labyrinth, the walker returns to the lower chakras at the end of the walk. It’s a familiar pattern: ground, do spiritual work, re-ground. To include this as part of a ritual, or as a piece of work in your personal practice, build small, color-saturated altars at the beginning, and perhaps the end, of each path.
You might also lay colored ribbons along each path. Use the color that is associated with each chakra for an added visual cue. This will tell the walker which path they are on and to which chakra the path corresponds. Assign the paths to the chakras in numerical order from the outside to the inside. The outermost path corresponds to the first, or Root, chakra, which is Red. The innermost path corresponds with the seventh, or Crown, chakra, which is Purple. The Center corresponds to the Divine, Goddess or God. [see diagram.]
The pattern in which the chakras are walked is not straight from the Root to the Crown. Rather, the path corresponding to the 3rd chakra is the first one walked — suggesting that Will is exercised in making the decision to walk. The pattern for walking the paths is quite interesting, and has provided me with many hours of meditation. It is (on the way in) 3-2-1-4-7-6-5-8 (Solar Plexus, Sex, Root, Heart, Crown, Third Eye, Throat, Goddess).
The 11-Circuit Labyrinth
Last August, I facilitated the building of an 11-circuit classical (or Cretan) labyrinth at a Quaker camp in northern Ontario. Through my reading, I’d learned that in Scandinavia, the 11-circuit labyrinth is quite commonly found on rocky shores. In fact there are hundreds of stone labyrinths along the coastlines of Sweden and Finland. I think there may be something important that we don’t yet know, that compels people to build 11-circuit labyrinths at more northern latitudes. Adding a second “L” or chevron in each corner makes the seed pattern for the 11-circuit labyrinth.
This seed pattern overlays in an interesting way over the magic square of 49, which is traditionally associated with the planet Venus. (The 7-circuit labyrinth is connected, via the magic square of 25, to Mars.) Because of its energetic connection to Venus, I think it is possible that the 11-circuit labyrinth may exude a peaceful, loving energy.
I wanted the participants of the workshop to experience the connection of the paths with their chakras, so after some experimentation on paper, I set up a walk using color-coded altars at the beginning of each path, and ribbons along the length of each path to subtly identify the paths to the walkers. In addition to the seven in-body chakras, I assigned a path to each of the four elements. Depending on whether the elements are the outside paths or the inside paths, the pattern for walking is altered, and I have not developed a sense for which I prefer. For this particular walk, I put the elements on the inner circuits. Most of the people at this workshop had never worked with their chakras or the elements. Before the walk, I led them in a Tree of Life grounding meditation and included an activation of each chakra. That gave them enough information so they responded to the messages the altars and ribbons were giving them as they walked.
My father, one of the walkers that day, told me afterward that he had never before felt so connected to the Earth and the Divine as he had during that meditation and walk.
The numerical order for walking the 11-circuit labyrinth is 5-2-3-4-1-6-11-8-9-10-7-12 (12 being the center).
Assigning the elements to the outside paths or the inside paths, the patterns are walked in the following orders:
5-Root Chakra (Red)
6-Sex Chakra (Orange)
10-Third Eye (Indigo)
7-Solar Plexus (Yellow)
3-Solar Plexus (Yellow)
6-Third Eye (Indigo)
As I work more with this labyrinth, I hope that these patterns will reveal some additional information or connections. Are they astrological? Musical? I don’t know.
Working with Giving and Receiving in the Labyrinth
Several years ago I began incorporating another piece of work into my labyrinth walks. I’d been meditating in an effort to learn about “Receiving What Is Offered.” What began as an effort to be more psychically receptive grew into something quite exquisite, and continues to expand my understanding of the process of Receiving. Walking the labyrinth, I often found myself holding my cupped hands in front of me, in a posture that to me meant I was ready to Receive.
Soon I felt compelled to walk while carrying an empty bowl. I was the vessel I carried. Before long I realized that the posture I was using for Receiving was the same posture I might use for “Giving” or “Offering.” As I walk the labyrinth with my empty bowl, Receiving and Offering, it seems to me a seamless act of Being. This is very similar to the Breathing Practice that many of us share as an expression of our relationship to the plants. We breathe in with gratitude for the very oxygen in the air, and we breathe out with love, exhaling carbon dioxide for the plants to breathe.
I’ve come to think of both of these seamless acts as Service. When I am clear and in the moment, Receiving and Offering becomes a continuous sustainable circuit of moving energy. The sense that Giving and Receiving are two separate, and even opposite, acts falls away and I can feel that that it is one act of balance. And — this is thrilling to me — one is not sustainable without the other. We can no more give without receiving than we can exhale without inhaling.
Many of us try to give and give, denying ourselves, thinking ourselves generous, but eventually we will deplete ourselves. Learning to Receive will heal us.
We live in a culture that is, in many ways, based on a false dualistic Either/Or paradigm. We are taught to understand the world around us by defining each thing and then separating ourselves from it. In the Reclaiming tradition, we are practicing a religion that utilizes a more inclusive Both/And model for understanding the Universe and Beyond. This viewpoint allows us to understand All That Is by aligning and integrating with all that exists. The labyrinth is a tool that can help us to understand in our bones, perhaps even on a cellular level, how it is that Both/And works. The labyrinth can assist us as we make a global paradigm shift away from dualism, to an integrated and interconnected understanding of all that is.
Sarah Campbell is a priestess in the Reclaiming tradition, a labyrinth builder and devotee, as well as an aspiring herbalist. She is thrilled to be teetering on the brink of grandmotherhood. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah coordinates labyrinth walks in the Lancaster, PA area.
Walking Our Spells
Labyrinths of Healing
by Rowan Phillips
During a visit to Chalice Well in Glastonbury, England in the mid 1990s, I spent hours walking the rugged sides of the tor and meditating at the well. Like the planets in my own chart, this was earth and water, and the places where they converged to create a liminal site of pilgrimage. When it was time to leave, I wondered how I could re-create this sense of pilgrimage and liminal time for myself and for others. The labyrinth has provided one powerful answer.
Anyone who has walked a labyrinth may know that it is a wonderful, kinesthetic way of calming the mind, dropping unwanted cares, and working out problems. One way to use this sacred tool is as a walking spell, either for healing or for gathering and focusing intent.
Labyrinth spellwork can become a physical journey inside the structures of the body. A woman I've known for several years recently commented that a Chartres labyrinth we'd walked reminded her of a brain. To improve memory, or to recover some information I need, but cannot consciously recall about an important event in my life, I can drop into trance, and search the structures of my brain. By opening my intuition, listening, and feeling with my hands, the journey becomes a chance to recover awareness, and to build or strengthen neurological pathways among these many channels. In the center, I'll speak or sing my intention, and walk slowly out, celebrating memory, and continuing to repair and connect any points that need my attention.
Similarly, a person with digestive problems can enter the bowels, soothing and listening, and asking for the support of the body, and any allies or deities she has invoked, in restoring health and mending damage. I like to think of the goal, or center of the labyrinth, as a major organ, with the paths becoming the structures leading to it. While obviously not a substitute for good health care, the labyrinth can be a means of trancing into the body for a look at what ails us, and can be a tool for tending the places that need magical as well as medical attention.
Two priestess friends who attended Witchcamp this summer returned with a small green finger labyrinth which they gave me as a gift. They knew that earlier in the year, days after taking my Master's exams, I got Bell's Palsy, a spontaneous episode of rapid and usually temporary damage to a cranial nerve. For the first few months, my face sagged, coffee dripped unglamorously from my mouth, and my speech was sloppy. The gift of the green classical labyrinth, charged in the healing ritual, helps me to focus my intent on regenerating the nerve as I trace the seven circuit pattern in my daily practice. I often sing Donald Engstrom's beautiful chant, "Every step I take is a healing step" during this kind of work.
During a class I co-taught this summer, I walked the labyrinth as part of the Isis and Osiris myth. I entered at the point where Osiris's brother Seth enters the cave in jealousy to hack his divine brother's body to bits. In the midst of my own walk, I encountered the family member I've cut off, the one I've excised from my own life, and I focused my awareness on experiencing the path from her point of view. After the ritual, I followed up by using a clay finger labyrinth as the foundation of a spell which I placed on my altar to help me explore the hidden parts of that troubled relationship.
An important way of enhancing the power of a labyrinth for use in healing spells is to site it properly. If you know how to dowse with a pendulum or dowsing rods, these can be used to determine where the best location might be for sitting and working with a finger labyrinth, or for placing the goal and entrance of a walking labyrinth if its location is within your control. This process can be as simple as invoking a healing deity and asking that deity to show you, through pointing with a pendulum, where to sit and work on your own behalf
Labyrinth experiences have a way of becoming cumulative, like erased words from an old manuscript page seeping to the surface, and blending mysteriously with the new writing found there. For this reason, it is helpful to be patient with healing spells, and to be willing to trace and retrace a pattern over time, whether by hand or through walking. At times part of the answer will emerge, but will not make sense, or will not become visible or audible until a later labyrinth experience draws the elements together, providing a flash of insight or clarity.
Rowan Phillips is a geomancer, priestess, and labyrinth devotee who lives in Portland, Oregon. She builds earthworks, dowses, teaches, and helped spark Portland's Magical Activism Cluster.
The Labyrinth at Vermont Witchcamp
By Angela Magara
I step onto the rock that marks the mouth of our labyrinth at Vermont Witchcamp. It lies before me, an interesting shape, folding and turning back upon itself. Ahead and behind are the other people in Earth path pacing the loops of its shape. I drop my consciousness from my head into my belly and step onto the path.
That summer, the labyrinth re-connected me with my body and its wisdom — my wisdom. The discovery I made, walking the labyrinth day after day, was that it and my body were having a conversation. I could not, with my mind, understand the language of the Earth. But as I walked my body understood. Each walk through the coils of the labyrinth empowered and enlivened me.
I came to understand that my wisdom lay in my body and in that body’s open connection to the Earth body. It speaks through the countless cells of my body which hold the essence of the water and air, fire and earth which have formed this material manifestation throughout its existence. Walking the labyrinth, anchored in time and place, I can access that accumulated wisdom for my life, my art, and my community. Anchored and grounded, I can be admitted to the source of all I need.
Direct Action Labyrinths
After a series of amazing experiences in the last six months I have come to the conclusion that every activist can use a labyrinth and the more of them we make the better off we will be.
Temporary labyrinths can be made anywhere. On the back of your hand, on asphalt with chalk, on grass with flour or cornmeal, in the sand with your hands. Pens, chalk and flour are readily available and much easier to explain to a cop than your athame. As a magical activism tool, labyrinths are easy to construct, can’t be confiscated and make an immediate difference.
One of the biggest challenges we face as direct action activists is staying grounded and in the realm of the possible in the midst of police and other terrors. When we drew labyrinths in Seattle, both downtown before the action, and at an intersection during the protest, I could feel the energy shift, become more grounded. I could feel myself reconnect to the magical, to the possible, in the midst of tension and expectation. Each time a person walked the labyrinth, I could taste the change in the quality of the air, see the difference in the way we held our bodies, and hear the clarification in the tone of the singing. During these experiences, I did not think about the seven chakras. I walked to shift energy, to ground and connect, and got it every time.
On Earth Day a group of us drew a flour labyrinth in a San Francisco park. The labyrinth reaches across the dimensions and as I entered the labyrinth the world melted away, and yet I was deeply connected to land I had never walked, to which I had no previous relationship. We can use this tool to make a place for ourselves, and change that place wherever we are. So throw some chalk in your bag on the way to the next protest and build a labyrinth. You won’t regret it.
How I Walk the Labyrinth
Often, when walking a labyrinth, I use a meditation that I learned at the 1996 California Witchcamp from Starhawk, Oreana, and Kevin. I coordinate my walking meditation with my seven chakras. Each path of a seven pathed labyrinth corresponds to one chakra. The paths are numbered from the outermost to the innermost. The outer path is for the base chakra, the 2nd path is associated with the 2nd chakra, and so one to the innermost path and the 7th, crown chakra.
I enter the labyrinth with a question. The entrance path is the 3rd path, which is associated with the 3rd chakra, my will, seated in the solar plexus. I ask myself, “How is my will related to my question?”, and meditate on that as I walk. The next path is the 2nd chakra, the creativity and passion of the matter, or, “How does the question sit in my belly?” The lowest chakra is addressed next, as I walk the outermost path. There, I focus on my life, my blood, my essential existence and the question.
The order of the remaining paths is 4, my heart, 7, my spirit and spirit guides, 6, my intuition and the dark out of which all creation springs and to which all things must return, and finally, 5, my mind, my conciousness. Each of these aspects of the question is meditated upon in turn as I walk to the center of the labyrinth.
In the center, I open myself to receive the wisdom of the Goddess. I wait until I have an answer to my question. Then I usually make an offering or gift as thanks before beginning my walk back.
As I walk out, my meditation turns to each chakra as it relates to the answer that I’ve received. For instance, “What are the conscious, thinking aspects of the question?”, and so on. The order is the reverse of my meditation on the question, starting with 5, my mind, and ending with my will, the 3rd chakra.
Each Rock is a Jewel
Each rock is a jewel. Each rock is alive. Sparklers of mica. Green volcanic glass in brushed patterns. Jade serpentine. White quartz. Black obsidian. Red jasper. Blue granite. Many I have no names for. Rounded from years of running water, or squared new from the land. They have bands, veins, swirls of color, fingers of otherness branching through them. There is wonder in how they formed, slowly in sediment, or abruptly in great heat. What would they whisper of time and patience, if I had ears to hear?
These jewels come from the creek. I arrived there with large plastic crates and canvas bags. So much beauty in that place, where fresh new water rushes down to a hidden sea. Shimmering alder trees. Bright wildflowers. Paw prints of a mountain lion. Nettles that demand awareness. Music of water against stone. It was not a chore to gather rocks, but a joy. Like a child playing. Like an elderly priestess lost in rapture. I asked each rock: “Would you like to come with me? I promise you a place of honor.” A few stayed behind; most wanted to come. Lugged one by one, crate by crate, to the waiting VW. Sometimes friends helped. More often I worked alone. Meditation.
I made my labyrinth out in the far meadow, in the hills by the ocean. Hills that are green in the winter, gold in the summer. Overhead, a huge sky. An enchanted place. I prayed and sang and whispered to the spirits here. I felt heard.
Shakuhachi and the Labyrinth
by Debbie Danbrook
The Labyrinth is an ancient sacred symbol that has re-emerged to help us with the huge energetic shift we are currently experiencing. Each time people walk the Labyrinth they are inviting energy into the space and at the same time helping to ground themselves. I see the series of Labyrinths popping up all over the world as beacons of light connected to each other like a huge web of light enveloping the globe.
The instrument that I play, the Shakuhachi flute, is an energy tool. Traditionally this Japanese bamboo flute was played by Zen monks as they wandered through the countryside. Playing the flute was part of a Zen practice known as ‘suizen’ or blowing Zen. The Shakuhachi’s revitalising and powerful sound vibrations lead to a relaxed meditative state where healing can take place for both the player and the listener. The Shakuhachi player draws up chi or life force from the planet, and then energetically it is transmitted through the sound. When the healing energetic power of music, especially from a sacred instrument such as Shakuhachi, is combined with the Labyrinth, the possibilities for transformation are monumental.
I have been blessed with the opportunity to play my healing music at Labyrinth events and workshops all over North America. Each time I play the Shakuhachi within a Labyrinth I feel that I am sowing a seed of powerful light that will grow there for all time. I begin with a Shakuhachi Meditation. No previous experience with a formal meditation technique is required by the participants; the mindful listening to an appropriate type of music is in itself one of the oldest forms of meditation.
There is incredible power for healing and change with breathwork, and I teach the participants at my workshops the Zen breathing technique that I use with the Shakuhachi. As the walkers move through the Labyrinth, working with breath and intention and being bathed in the sound of the Shakuhachi, the personal experiences of healing and energetic shifting are incredible.
I would like to extend gratitude for all the beings who have brought forth the Labyrinth in our time.
Debbie Danbrook lives in Toronto and has recorded a CD of music inspired by the Labyrinth entitled, “Circles of Discovery.”
Also in her healing music catalogue is ‘The Spirit of Shakuhachi’, a seven-CD set of chakra balancing music. For more information, visit www.healingmusic.com
by Beth Carlson
The Moon lights the icy Labyrinth’s paths.
My boots kick broken shards of ice covered grass.
I hear the brittle skitter across the frozen expanse.
Help me find my way.
The labyrinth always brings me back to where I started.
Perhaps it is the Journey.
So They say.
There may be something, at least, in taking the time to go nowhere.
And I try, (this is the hard part), not to go nowhere too fast.
My first step on this path occurred four years ago at summer solstice. A group had gathered to prepare for the initiation of a friend’s labyrinth. Mowed into the meadow on her land was the eleven-turn pattern of Chartres.
That afternoon we set candles at each turn to light our way that evening. As the harpist practiced a few tunes I took a practice walk. Circling until I felt called to enter, I immediately noticed the shift in energy. The journey through to the centre felt removed from time and place. There were moments when I was sure I was almost there, others when I wondered if I would ever arrive. I walked noticing these shifts in myself. I spent time in the middle allowing the feelings of centre and grounding to deepen.
Moving to the outward journey I slowly returned to the world outside the labyrinth. I had entered with a question and come out with so much more than an answer.
That evening I returned; excitedly anticipating the candlelight walk, wondering what this experience would hold. An amazing display of thunder and lightning made it unsafe to walk the labyrinth. Some returned the next night but I was not among them.
Since then I have had many opportunities to work with this magical tool. Large cloth labyrinths in both the eleven- and seven-turn patterns work well indoors. I was delighted upon arriving at Vermont Camp to find the labyrinth there.
I have also created lap labyrinths. With eyes closed and tracing with the index finger of my non-dominant hand, this is an excellent way to move into a meditative state. Each journey is unique and each the same, for I take my initiatory walk with me.
The Labyrinth in Culture & Society
by Jacques Attali
Jacques Attali sets forth an intriguing look at the origins and history of labyrinths. The topic, shrouded in mystery and controversy, does not allow definitive interpretations. But Attali is not hesitant to offer his reading of this ancient magical tool.
A sampling of his opinions gives a flavor of the book:
“The spiral is smooth, regular, ordered and of heavenly inspiration. The labyrinth is tortuous, convoluted, disordered, and of human inspiration... Every human being’s first labyrinth is that of a woman.”
“If the [Chartres] cathedrals’s design is seen as a representation of Christ on the cross, the labyrinth is at the level of the thighs, governed by Sagittarius, which is also the sign of travel and pilgrimage.”
“...the labyrinth is the material manifestation of a collective unconcious, of a message sent into the beyond. It represents the first abstraction of a sense of human destiny, of an ordering of the world.”
Touching on many cultures, from medieval Europe to South African Zulus, Attali’s observations are concise and provocative. Eighty illustrations round out this volume.
Published by North Atlantic Books. Reviewed by George Franklin.
Labyrinth Challenges - A Ritual
This ritual evolved as a climactic working at WitchCamp paths – a way to pull together different threads from the week into a final working. People enter the labyrinth one at a time and are met by a priestess who issues a series of challenges. Each time, the person gets further into the labyrinth, until on the final visit they reach the center.
The three labyrinth challenges can be changed and modified to suit the skills and issues your group has been working on.
We’ll describe the working for solo or a small group. For a class or WitchCamp path, see our Teen Earth Magic Workbook.
PREP (lots for this ritual)
Lay out a three-circuit labyrinth in a mysterious spot – or your basement or back yard. (See below for directions.)
Or – create a personal finger labyrinth (see below).
Find a magical location – or make it magical. At Loreley Camp we laid the labyrinth inside a little chapel. To enter, a person had to knock on a heavy wooden door. At Witchlets we laid it in a redwood grove. At Vermont WitchCamp it was in the middle of a wooded glade.
Choose three workings and gather materials. See Workings chapter for ideas and lists of materials. For a circle, it may help to write these workings out on a sheet of butcher paper.
For the labyrinth challenges as described here, you’ll need a tarot deck plus a veil or cloak for the labyrinth priestess if you have one (see below). Read the section on intuitive readings at Workings: Tarot.
Get beads or another “reward,” and a pouch to hold them (plus spool of waxed bead-string). Labyrinth priestess holds pouch. If indoors, determine materials to use for altars, or create a different first working.
Have some substantial food ready for afterward unless a meal is about to be served.
Journals – bring your journal or Book of Shadows and set it at your gathering/ending spot.
Priestess – for more than a few people, one person will be the labyrinth priestess, guiding the others through the working, holding tools such as Tarot deck, answering questions, etc. For solo working or small circle,2. you can self-priestess.
Gathering spot – for more than a few, you’ll want a nearby place to gather at the beginning of the working, so people can approach the labyrinth one at a time – a quiet space with music and journals works well here. Also use this spot for the end, to hold the energy until everyone is done.
Music – cue up Reclaiming’s Labyrinth Meditation Music, created for a WitchCamp ritual and recorded by Crow for Reclaiming’s album Witches’ Brew. Put the 8-minute track on repeat. Free on youtube, spotify, etc – or download it at the usual sites. Find it near the end of the Chants Megamix at WeaveAndSpin.org/playlists.
Labyrinth Challenges - The Ritual
Create Sacred Space
• Welcome / teach songs
• briefly explain how the labyrinth challenges will work (and the priestess role in a larger group)
• Cast circle
• Invoke deity / energies – possibly:
• Theseus & Ariadne & the Minotaur (possibly invoke the Minotaur as “alternate possibilities”?)
• energies such as openness, dedication, mystery
Labyrinth priestess takes their position and invites others to begin a minute or so apart.
For solo or small circle, read through the working below. Write your three workings on notecards and set at the three spots in the labyrinth (see below) Put the pouch of beads (or whatever) at the center of the labyrinth.
Set tools such as Tarot deck in a convenient nearby place – once people understand, each will self-priestess.
We’ll describe the working here for a circle with a labyrinth priestess. See below for solo version.
Labyrinth Working (for Class or Workshop)
First visit – one at a time, people approach the labyrinth, about a minute apart. Let’s say Chris goes first and enters labyrinth. Labyrinth priestess greets her at end of first circuit (see drawing on page XXXX) and says,
“Stop!” Then gives her the first challenge.
First challenge – take 10 minutes to build a personal altar using objects you find. Create a magical space where you can return to do a couple of short workings.
Chris goes back out of the labyrinth , finds a spot nearby, gathers leaves, stones, and twigs, and builds a small altar. When complete, Chris goes back for her second round. Others may finish before her, so order may change.
Second visit – Chris enters labyrinth again, and this time gets to end of second circuit (see drawing on page below), where labyrinth priestess again says: “Stop!” Then priestess gives the second challenge.
Second challenge – draw three tarot cards, then go to your altar and do a simple reading for yourself about a
question such as, “What is one change I would like to make in my life?” or, “What is my next magical step when I get back home?”
Chris walks back out of labyrinth (possibly silently passing others coming in). Draws Tarot cards, goes to altar and does intuitive reading.
When Chris finishes her reading, she returns to the labyrinth.
Third visit – Chris enters, and this time gets all the way to the third circuit before hearing: “Stop!”
Third challenge – go back to your altar and do a short personal ritual (including quickly grounding, casting a circle, and invoking whatever elements or allies you wish) that empowers your “next step” from your Tarot reading. Create one phrase or sentence that expresses your commitment. Remember to devoke and/or thank your allies at the end.
Chris goes back out, goes to altar and does a 10-minute personal ritual, creates her commitment phrase, then shares it with roving priestess (aloud or silently). When roving priestess says “OK,” Chris goes back to labyrinth
one last time.
Final visit: Chris travels all the way to the center of the labyrinth, where priestess asks if she has completed her challenges.
When Chris says, “Yes,” labyrinth priestess invites her to reach into pouch and draw a bead (or another gift).
Chris silently returns to the original gathering spot till all have finished. People are journaling or quietly gazing at candles – focused and low-key. Bead string can be available.
Transition – when all have gathered, have everyone re-ground. Then go around and let each person share their phrase of commitment (aloud or silently). Or if time permits, you may want to use the phrases as part of an Overflowing Cup Spell (see Dancing the Spiral - Workings chapter).
Song – raise energy to empower the pledges with singing – dial up a favorite online and have it ready to sing along. Song Ideas: Spiraling Into the Center; We Are the Rising Sun; Welcome Flame (visit our playlists page for links)
Devoke in reverse order and open circle.
Afterward – have something substantial to eat. Maybe it’s meal time. If not, have some fruit, bread, cheese, etc.
Labyrinth priestess– take a minute and re-ground.
Labyrinth Working (Solitary)
Drawing a Labyrinth – for your fingers?
If you don’t have enough space, or want to do this work privately, create a finger labyrinth – a small version that you can “walk” by tracing the paths with your finger.
Carefully draw a three-circuit labyrinth on paper – maybe in your Book of Shadows (see next page).
Drawing the labyrinth is part of the magic. One Reclaiming priestess outlined a seven-circuit labyrinth on heavy paper, then as a meditation carefully drew and colored dozens of little “stones” to outline the pathways.
When complete, place it on a table or altar where you can work with it.
Choosing Your Workings
Decide on three workings that you feel belong together in a ritual. Your intuition is your best guide. Browse the Workings chapter for inspirations – or make up your own. Gather whatever materials you will need.
If you follow our example – what materials will you have handy to create a personal altar? Perhaps you already have an altar in the space you’re using? Great – think about how you will change it, spruce it up, or simply honor it as part of this working.
What will be your “reward” at the end – a small talisman that symbolizes completion of the work. At camp we use beads. Choose some simple magical item that you will “receive” at the end of the working. Place it on the alter near the labyrinth, covered with a cloth.
Doing a Personal Labyrinth Ritual
When all is ready, step out of the space you will be using. Get a drink, use the bathroom. Before you re-enter, take three breaths. Step into the space and say: “I am (we are) now entering sacred space. I am (we are) now entering sacred time.”
Your ritual follows the flow described for the camp ritual above. Create sacred space (for ideas, see Dancing the Spiral - the section on Ritual Skills). Then follow the descriptions above, or three workings you choose.
Pause to breathe and perhaps write in your Book of Shadows between each working.
At the end, take three breaths and state that your working is complete. Then remove the cloth from your bead or talisman and pick it up with your non-dominant hand. Take a breath and blow the magic of your workings into the bead.
Say: “Blessed be!”One you have devoked and opened the circle, remain in the space for a while. Have some snacks, write in your journal, listen to music, color your labyrinth....
When you finally leave the space, stop and place your hand on your center and say thank you to yourself for the work.
How to Draw Labyrinths
The diagram below shows how to draw a seven-circuit labyrinth. It’s easy after you practice a few times.
The distance between the tips of the beginning lines is the width of the paths.
Note that the cross is not the center of the labyrinth – the cross is below and to the left of the center.
The first loop you draw is the actual center – you might want to make this more of a bubble so there’s extra space.
Where To Make Your Labyrinth?
You can draw a labyrinth on paper and walk the paths with your fingers. One Reclaiming teacher drew a labyrinth, then as a meditation colored dozens of little "stones" lining the pathways.
If you have a driveway or patio, sketch one in chalk.
You can draw a 15-foot diameter version on dirt with about 30 pounds of corn meal (get extra).
Or scratch the design into the ground and place rocks along the lines.
At 1996 California WitchCamp, our first year at Mendocino Woodlands, the Earth Path made a daily practice of gathering and laying rocks for a 7-circuit labyrinth.
The Woodlands staff liked it, and years later the labyrinth is still there, the rocks long since embedded in the ground. Other groups have added rock altars, an entry pathway, etc. Sometimes it's overgrown with weeds when we arrive, other years carefully tended. It's a surprise every year to see what it looks like!