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labyrinth

“The road of life twists and turns,    

and no two directions are ever the same.

Let our lessons come from the journey, not the destination.”

 

Dan Williams, Jr.

The Triangle T Harmony Labyrinth

Labyrinths were used by most indigenous cultures, from Australia to Peru , and North America to Northern Europe , in some form or another since the beginning of documented civilization. One of the most familiar is the Cretan, seven circuit, “classical” labyrinth made famous by the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur and found on the Minoan coins of ancient Crete . There is the “medieval” eleven circuit labyrinth intrinsic to the design of the Gothic cathedrals in Europe during the early 11th and 12th centuries: the only extant, original one of these is in Chartres Cathedral in Chartres , France . The key design found on early Greek pottery and architecture and on the pottery of the archaic Hohokam tribes of southern Arizona is another representation of this archetypal, mandallic design.

 

The Papago (Pima) nation of south central Arizona have a famous design they call “the man-in-the-maze” which the Tohono O’odham tribe has beautifully rendered in their baskets and silver jewelry for centuries. According to the website, www.earthart.org,  this design illustrates the human journey of life and the twists and turns of the paths are the struggles one finds along the way. Death is found in the center, but it is a place of rebirth and renewal also so the cycle continues and life goes on. The four directions are represented by the four major turns in the path and the small “key” area  before one enters the center circle is a place for reflection and purification before becoming one, pure and in harmony, with the Creator, the Elder Brother, I’itoi, in the center, accepting life and death as part of this endless cycle. Most O’odham basketry show a little man, “U’ki’ut’l”, who represents the O’odham people, standing at the entrance.

 

  Labyrinths are often confused with mazes and the words used interchangeably until recently. A maze is created to test one’s logical abilities. It’s meant to confuse and confound with many dead ends, multiple openings, and usually high walls or shrubbery to block one’s view of the paths. A labyrinth is meant for meditation and contemplation, is a unicursal (single path) leading into a well-defined center and then out again by the same path. Traditionally, labyrinths were drawn on the ground or created with stones, sticks and paving tiles with the lines the same height as the paths. Many permanent ones were made of marble or granite or drawn on the outside walls of churches near entrance doors. A labyrinth circuit is the measure of how many times around the center the paths wind. If you count the number of paths in a classical labyrinth, it will add to seven and in medieval labyrinths, eleven.

 

In the last ten years or so, many new labyrinth designs have shown up all over the world with labyrinth designers adapting the basic patterns to create labyrinths unique to a specific site or purpose. There are peace labyrinths, goddess labyrinths, church labyrinths, school, prison, and hospital labyrinths – all meant to be used by multiple communities without regard to race, color, gender, creed, ethnicity, etc. Many private and public schools across the USA include labyrinths in their curriculum as a contemplative, reflective tool that fosters individual and collaborative learning experiences.

 

Labyrinths find their place cross-curricularly in geometry, art, music, history and geography classes. They encourage visual/spatial and bodily/kinesthetic learning and foster community building. Studies have shown that when students are allowed to walk labyrinths before tests, their scores are often significantly higher. This is due to the stimulation of both sides of the brain in the simple act of walking the paths: the walker must put one foot in front of the other and stay on the path to get to the center and return (the logical, left brain side), and can, simultaneously, allow the creative, intuitive right side of the brain to wander, question, and ponder without the anxiety that mazes so often produce. Often walkers express a sense of peace and reconnection upon walking a labyrinth – something we all can use a little of in this hectic world today.

 

The Triangle T Texas Canyon Harmony Labyrinth, a seven circuit labyrinth, is an exact copy of the Tohono O’odham design mentioned earlier, except that there is an opening into the center circle so that walkers can stay and meditate and reflect there. Built in a nest of boulders to the east of the building housing the dining hall, it is a public, permanent, outdoor labyrinth approximately twenty-four feet in diameter. The rocks used for the lines were taken from three different locations on the Triangle T’s 160 acres and all have quartz properties.

 

The Triangle T Guest Ranch is on land that was sacred to the Chiricahua Apache and Hohokam Native American tribes. With deep respect and appreciation for this unique and sacred land, the labyrinth location was established by dowsing for the correct site and by asking permission of the spirits of the land entrusted with its protection. Permission to remove the rocks for the lines was asked of each rock; none were dug out or removed against their will. In fact, once the request was made, many rocks literally tumbled down the hills to fall at our feet, so eager were they to be a part of this healing, mandallic form. Prayers were made, the area smudged, and a cornmeal offering ceremony performed once the labyrinth was completed. We believe this is the first time that this ancient design is in a form large enough to walk and it is because of the connection to the old tribes and the desire for harmony and balance that this design was chosen. We hope that all who walk this labyrinth will find what they need and that the Triangle T Texas Canyon Harmony Labyrinth becomes a mecca for those wishing to renew their connection to the land and to Spirit through the simple act of walking a sacred path.