Winter Solstice Labyrinth

At the invitation of Pranashanti Yoga Centre, Canadian Labyrinth Ventures created a temporary labyrinth especially for the occasion of the winter solstice. It seemed a fitting combination to walk the labyrinth on the darkest day of the year in order to celebrate and prepare for the return of the sun.

The new room at the yoga centre that was chosen for the event was large enough to hold a labyrinth event but had a couple of pillars in the center of the space. Early on we had an idea for how to incorporate the pillars and transform them into an elements of the event. But as we got closer to the installation and began to consider the room size and the number of people expected, we had second thoughts on exactly what would work well in the space. As we considered the options Vanessa suggested a hexagon labyrinth. While I knew there was an octagonal historic precedent in the St. Quentin Cathedral Labyrinth in France, we had always worked with circular labyrinths because they support the sense of community we seek to engender through our work. As we puzzled out what to do, I remembered the geometry of a snowflake is the same as the geometric basis of a hexagon.  So this was the perfect justification. And because we had never made a hexagon labyrinth before, this was an opportunity to learn.

Saint Quentin Labyrinth, France 12th century

Historic labyrinths may have been laid out using a system of relational geometry rather than by measuring. I had wanted to create an oversized compass and draw arches in order to divide the space but in the end we measured, based on the sketch that Vanessa had drawn. It’s always fascinating to see how things work out in a partnership especially when there is a time line. We each have our gifts and moments of clarity come as we work through the process. Vanessa has great patience for detail. On the other hand I can move through the process without getting bogged down in the detail. Somehow we manage to accomplish together what would have been more challenging for us to do alone.

Vanessa and volunteer Chris are figuring it out, the hard way
Barb trimming the corners.

After decorating the labyrinth with tea lights and creating a kind of receiving bowl in the altar space we greeted Kathy Armstrong and her husband and performance partner Rory Magill. I gave a brief introduction and then the ting-shaw bells created the opening of sacred time and space. As I greeted the participants and created a sense of pacing I offered each person a small pebble suggesting it could represent anything they where releasing or letting go of this evening. Participants were invited to deposit their pebble into an earthen bowl filled with water. This created a ritualized way of making intentional a desire to consciously turn toward the light.

Finished Hexagon Labyrinth

As I stepped back to make room for someone entering the labyrinth I bumped into a person. I turned around and realized the line-up of people waiting had encircled the labyrinth. This was the spirituality of waiting in action! I checked in with a few people and they seemed to be doing fine and after about 20 minutes the anxiety in the room settled. It is quite something to be the keeper of a labyrinth as you hold open the invitation never really knowing what it will be for those who participate. Kathy and Rory’s delicate rhythms held the space and helped to ground the experience for all.

It was a beautiful evening and a wonderful observance of the solstice. What a great way to blend ancient practices with contemporary life. It seems people are seeking opportunities to ritualize secular living. I am pleased to be exploring ways of observing and marking our days and making our living intentional.

In all it was a tremendous evening with approximately 80 people attending and $1500.00 raised for the Ottawa Food Bank. Thanks everyone!

One thought on “Winter Solstice Labyrinth

  1. Beautiful photographs, Barb! That was some journey…

    The nice thing about the hexagon design is its origin in the vesica pisces (mother of so many of the polygons). I cannot find any historical hexagonal labyrinths (though Jeff Saward at Labyrinthos probably can!). The St Quentin, which you illustrate, is an eleven circuit octagon, a polygon featured throughout the geometry of the Notre Dame cathedrals of the 12th and 13th centuries where the eleven circuits were first installed. I wonder about the presence of hexagons in those settings? It’s a natural tiling pattern, as the honeybees know.

    Maybe next time we can try a hexagonal or octagonal seven circuit with switchbacks, like the Petite Chartres at St Luke’s?

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