The pattern of the labyrinth has been known to the human race for over 4,000 years. The current popularity of the ancient design began in the early 1990s and has continued to expand. They are frequently found in churches, hospitals, schools and prisons.
The oldest Christian labyrinth is probably the one in the fourth-century basilica of Reparatus, Orleansville, Algeria. Christians used labyrinths that were built on pre-Christian sites and modeled their own after ones used by earlier cultures. The high medieval Christian seven-circuit labyrinth was a breakthrough in design. It was a time when pilgrimages were popular. For Christians who could not take the long, hard pilgrimage journey, the labyrinth served as an alternate form of prayer. Its path of seven circles was shaped like the Cross. Gradually, it became one of the central symbols in the Christian tradition.
The labyrinth is a physical representation of the journey of your life, including experiences, changes, discoveries and challenges. As you walk the path, you are invited to remember the story of your life.
The center can represent Heaven, God, self-discovery or a personal goal. For Christians, the seven circuits can represent the seven Sacraments: Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Marriage, Holy Orders, Reconciliation and Anointing. They can also represent the spiritual gifts of Paul's letter to the Corinthians, which include wisdom, discernment, teaching, leadership, knowledge, helps and prophecy. Finally, they can represent the experiences of your life that have led you to follow your desire for a relationship with the Holy. There is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth; it is a sacred experience for everyone who takes the time to journey its circular paths.
Our labyrinth was designed and built by Taffy Lancer, founder of the international Labyrinth Society. Taffy is a resident of Carefree, Arizona. Her knowledge and respect for this ancient form has led her into areas of lecturing, radio, TV appearances, experimental workshops and labyrinth design/construction around the country.
The following is a list of the seeds we've used in the labyrinth area. All of them are drought-tolerant natives of the Southwest deserts. With a minimum of extra help from rain and watering, they should do quite well. Watch for them and enjoy the process of growth, flowering, and seed production. How is your own life mirrored in the life cycle of these plants?
- Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
- Mexican poppy (Eschscholtzia mexicana)
- Desert verbena (Glandularia gooddingii)
- Firewheel (Gaillardia)
- Bluedicks (Dichelostemma pulchellum)
- Desert primrose (Camissonia brivepes)
- San Felipe dyssodia (Dyssodia porophylloides)
- Scarlet bugler (Penstemon subulatus)
- Bluebells (Phacelia campanularia)
- Arizona bladderpod (Lesquerella arizonica)
- Owl clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens)
- Arroyo lupine (Lupinus succulentus)
- Desert lupine (Lupinus sparsiflorus)
- Desert senna (Cassia covesii)
- Globe Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua)
- Triangle leaf bursage (Ambrosia deltoidia)
- Quailbush (Atriplex lentiformis)
- Desert saltbush (Atriplex canescens)
- Brittlebush (Encilia farinosa)
- Turpentine bush (Ericameria laricifolia)
- Creosote bush (Larrea tridentata)
All of these plants are useful for wildlife cover, soil protection and construction, human health and enjoyment, or wildlife food. To find useful information about these plants, please refer to A Field Guide to the Plants of Arizona
by Anne Orth Epple, ISBN 1-56044-314-6 or Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes
by Judy Mielke, ISBN 0-292-75553-8.
Need a great place to obtain a catalog of native plants seeds locally?
Try: Wild Seed Inc., Box 27751, Tempe, AZ 85285. (602) 276-3536
Suggestions for Walking the Labyrinth
The labyrinth is a path for prayer and meditation. Collect yourself before you start. Sit and rest at one of the benches for a while. Take off your shoes if weather permits. Walking barefoot on sacred ground is a rewarding experience. Think of different people, events, situations, places or things in your life to develop a specific intention as you walk. Get centered.
There are many ways of walking, two of which are: the way of silence and the way of image. In choosing the way of silence, it might be helpful to focus on breathing. The way of image might be done by reciting a prayer or a name for God over and over to yourself. Ask yourself: How am I loved? How do I love? In either way or in some other manner best suited to you, be open to your heart and mind. Pay attention to your thoughts as they rise and then let them go.
The labyrinth is a place of presence; allow yourself to be present to yourself and to God. The labyrinth is a teacher; let it teach you through the mysterious power of God. As you walk the path, thoughts and ideas may rise up for you and in you - often in refreshing and startling ways.
One way to feel more connected to the experience is, again, to walk barefoot and slowly. There is no need to rush. Some people feel a sense of confusion as they first start; remember, there is only one path in and one path out. You will not get lost. For some people, walking as quickly as possible to the center, resting there, and then walking quickly out is a powerful experience. You set your own pace and pattern for your journey.
Here are a few suggestions in ways of walking the labyrinth:
- Gracious Attention: Let all thoughts go. Allow a sense of attention to flow through you.
- Ask a Question: Focus on a question. Walk with a listening heart.
- Use Repetition: Repeat a word, mantra, or phrase over and over.
- Offer Petitions: Bring to mind persons or issues for which you wish to pray.
- Honor a Benchmark: A birthday, a lifestyle change, an anniversary. A memorial can be the focus of your walk.
- Body Prayer: Move spontaneously as your body wishes. Dance the path. Move your arms and legs, bend and sway.
We hope that you find the best combination of methods to get the most out of your labyrinth experience.