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article imageSaturday May 4 is World Labyrinth Day

By Karen Edwards     May 3, 2013 in Science
The first Saturday of May is celebrated as World Labyrinth Day all over the globe. On Saturday, May 4th; folks everywhere are encouraged to "Walk as One at 1" (or 1:00 PM) independent of the meridian time zone.
Now in its fifth year; World Labyrinth Day is an initiative of The Labyrinth Society. The Labyrinth Society was established in 1998 and is headquartered in Trumansburg, New York, USA.
The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, Inc. cosponsor a worldwide labyrinth locator to help find the labyrinth nearest to you.
Labyrinths may be selected inside or out of doors depending on your personal preference and weather restrictions.
Labyrinths are found in both religious and secular settings, including but not limited to churches, churchyards, universities, hospitals, parks, botanical gardens, retreat settings, bed and breakfast inns, farmyards, personal lawns and private homes.
Labyrinths may be permanent floor or landscaped installations. Or labyrinths may be temporary portable structures.
Often characterized as a walking meditation; modern day labyrinths may also be wheelchair accessible. Finger labyrinths may be found on some sites.
Some portable labyrinths are made of canvas held together by Velcro. Canvas labyrinths are not wheelchair accessible by design. Canvas labyrinths are to be used indoors only and walked in socks or stocking feet.
Labyrinths come in a variety of styles; including but not limited to classical, roman, medieval and contemporary. However of these four; classical and medieval are currently the most popular forms.
Apparently, the classical or archetypal labyrinth has existed for approximately 4,000 years. Classical labyrinths are historically found in Europe, North Africa, India and Indonesia as well the American Southwest and in parts of South America.
Classical labyrinths are also known by the misnomer Cretan labyrinth. The term Cretan labyrinth more aptly refers to the Labyrinth at Knossos, which according to folklore sported a multicursal pathway characteristic of a maze whereas modern day labyrinths consist more and more of a unicursal pathway.
Due to its simplicity; classical labyrinths are considered particularly child friendly.
But the labyrinth style you will probably encounter more often than not is the medieval labyrinth or some contemporary version thereof.  
The medieval labyrinth is based on the 11 circuit labyrinth installed as part of the flooring of Notre-Dame of Chartres Cathedral in France even though all medieval labyrinths are not necessarily that elaborate. The Chartres Cathedral labyrinth as it is more commonly known worldwide was installed back in 1230.
The length of time it takes to complete your labyrinth journey of course depends on the style of the labyrinth, your personal pace and the pace of others on the path.  But on average, it seems to take about an half hour. The journey is about 1/3rd of a mile.
In modern times; the term labyrinth is often applied to a pathway of a unicursal design. The most noteworthy characteristic of a unicursal path is that there are no deliberately built-in dead ends or cul de sacs. In theory, the sojourner should not get lost.
The second most notable characteristic of a unicursal pathway is that the pathway into the physical labyrinth serves as the pathway out of the physical labyrinth.
Today's unicursal labyrinths are not designed to be a brainteaser of any sort. The unicursal pathway of a labyrinth is not constructed to deceive the sojourner in anyway.
As long as the sojourner remains on the path the sojourner is expected to complete the journey without faltering.
On a multicursal path -- today called a maze by many modern day labyrinth sojourners; the pathway is designed as a brainteaser full of false starts, dead ends or cul de sacs.
But please note that worldwide not all sojourners subscribe to this very specialized definition of the term labyrinth as a unicursal pathway or maze as a multicursal pathway. In some places the term labyrinth and maze are still used interchangeably.
If seeking to join the celebration on World Labyrinth Day; make sure that independent of the style of labyrinth you choose to sojourn that you have also selected a labyrinth with a unicursal path.
If you use The Labyrinth Society and Veriditas, Inc. labyrinth locator; your sojourn is on a unicursal path.
While the modern day labyrinth movement was reintroduce to society by Lauren Artress, a Canon of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, California -- an Episcopal parish in the Anglican cycle of prayer and touted as a spiritual tool; social science research is being conducted on the beneficial effects of labyrinth sojourns. But this research is still very much in its infancy and often anecdotal.
Nonetheless, very much like the Westernized practice of yoga with or without its religious underpinnings; labyrinth sojourns may very well prove of psychological benefit to the sojourner.
In an attempt to help standardize the use of labyrinths as an investigative tool in the social sciences -- whether for your own personal growth and development or as part of a more formal research design; I suggest conceiving of the sojourn in a tripartite design in keeping with Artress' spiritual model.
However, I have dubbed the three phases of the labyrinth sojourn in more scientifically neutral terms: (1) entering (2) centering and (3) re-entering the latter of which occurs when physically exiting the labyrinth. Like Artress; I suggest pausing at your discretion at these three points in your sojourn.
These three phases are applicable when sojourning a medieval unicursal labyrinth or some contemporary version thereof.
It is also important to note that unicursal labyrinths are designed to be traveled in single file. Of course, it is possible to travel side-by-side but this will require some special maneuvering.
Although unicursal labyrinths are designed to be traveled without incident; there are some special circumstances when that rule may not seem to apply.
The point of entry for a unicursal labyrinth is also the point of exit. That is to say, that the way into the physical labyrinth is along the same path as the way out of the physical labyrinth.
So from time to time; you may encounter other sojourners heading directly toward you coming in as you are going out and vice versa.
As such, I suggest literally stepping to one side keeping one foot on the path at all times to retain your position.
If you get completely off the path; you may find you are not able to use the person you just passed as a marker to identify your spot. More likely than not, that person has sojourned onward.
Also if outdoors on a child friendly labyrinth; I let children sojourn at their own pace even if running as long as it is done in a thoughtful non-injurious manner.
Indoor labyrinth sojourns are usually quiet retreats even though some folk journey with headphones. Canned or live music may be part of the experience depending on setting.
Also depending on the setting and time of day; candlelight may also be provided. Unless otherwise specified; it is usually best to remain unencumbered and leave carry ons like purses, laptops and so on elsewhere.
Unless organized as part of a corporate retreat, symposia or so forth; labyrinth sojourns are usually conducted free of charge for the individual even though in some settings donations are accepted.
People sojourn labyrinths for all sorts of reasons. Personal rationale notwithstanding, if possible; I suggest attending a labyrinth orientation to serve as an introduction and an organizing framework.
Most orientations are not designed for children. But children may be oriented to labyrinth etiquette in an age appropriate manner by their sojourn accompanying adult.
Relax and enjoy; World Labyrinth Day is part of an awareness campaign only and not a part of any research design.
More about World Labyrinth Day, The Labyrinth Society, Lauren Artress
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