Labyrinth - An Tobar, Ardbraccan.
Labyrinth at the An Tobar retreat house in Ardbraccan, Co. Meath, Ireland.
Classical 7 circuit
labyrinth - An Tobar, Ardbraccan.
Box hedge and grass on a bright frosty November morning.
First National Labyrinth Day
On Saturday, July 16th 2005, a number of labyrinth enthusiasts met at
An Tobar to celebrate the First National Labyrinth Day. In 1988 Fr. Michael Kane,
director of An Tobar, had taken a training course at Grace Cathedral, San
Francisco and on his return, with the help of Martin Dier had created a Cretan
labyrinth in the grounds, using box hedges. Since then, the many groups who come
to the Centre have been introduced to the labyrinth and some have been inspired
to create their own.
The various forms of labyrinth have a long history, stretching back thousands
of years. As a primeval archetype it occurs in many parts of the world and in
almost all religious traditions. It is found in Egypt, Greece and Rome from 1300
BC onwards. It would seem to have found its way into Christian symbolism only in
the second millennium, AD. The most famous is in the floor of Chartres Cathedral
and dates to 1220. Further large examples are found in the cathedrals of Sens,
Arras, Amiens, Reims and Auxerre.
Their proliferation seems to have been linked
to the fall of Jerusalem to the Muslims at the end of the Crusades, which led to
the merits and indulgences to be gained by pilgrims to Jerusalem being
transferred to walking the labyrinth in an interior pilgrimage. The custom fell
into disuse in the 17th and 18th centuries but is now being revived across the
world, in response to the growing felt need for a spirituality to counter the
materialism and chaos of our time.
As an archetype, the labyrinth represents the road of life: our inner and
outer journeys. It’s path spirals inwards towards the centre. Unlike the maze,
there is no possibility of getting lost. It is an individual journey but as we
pass slower or are passed by faster walkers or meet those returning we realize
that we are never alone. On this sacred path we can experience God walking with
us and see life’s events as a pattern of curves rather than a straight line.
On some stretches we seem to be going away from the centre and must trust that
eventually we will reach our heart’s desire.
The labyrinth is a journey:
We began our day at An Tobar by sharing how each had come to the labyrinth
and what it meant in our lives and the lives of others. Fr. Michael Murray then
led us on an hour-long journey to the centre of the labyrinth and back
accompanied by the music and simple steps of a contemplative sacred dance. We
shared our thoughts and feelings and then enjoyed a picnic lunch. It was a
glorious summer day and the Meath landscape was looking its royal best.
- To the centre of the universe where the “Big Bang” brought it into
- To the centre from whom all energy emanates: God.
- To one’s own centre, source of our images, feelings, desires, thoughts
and actions where we may find the answers to the questions: “Who am I”?
and “Why am I here”?
- To the centre which is the present moment on which all my previous
experiences converge and from which all my future will flow.
lunch Martin Dier led us on a Four Elements labyrinth walk. Fr. Michael Kane was
to have brought us through a seven chakra walk but time was running out so we
spent the time remaining discussing what the labyrinth is all about and ways in
which it can be used for growth and healing. The day ended with a visit to a
ruined 14th century church in Rathmore where we saw one of the two medieval
stone-carved labyrinths in Ireland. The second is from Hollywood, Co. Wicklow
and is in the National Museum.