Two weeks ago, I was going down various paths on the internet which sometimes feels like going down a rabbit hole. Down and down you go! Poof! There goes the morning.
Some of the search terms: charms, voodoo, voodun, sigils, veves, Celtic knots, hemlock, protection. Remarkably enough, at some point using the query “veve, protection,” I came to a site with information about Yoruban cosmology that included a picture of the walking labyrinth at Boston College. It is particularly remarkable when you consider that by then I was specifically hoping to find a symbol from my own (Irish) tradition.
And there it was: not only my tradition, but my neighborhood, and even, my alma mater (which a friend reminded me means, “nurturing mother”) (BCLS ’89). This labyrinth is less than two miles from my home. So, of course I went.
Based on a pattern found at Chartres Cathedral, it is a unicursal — meaning that there is only one way in and one way out. The labyrinth was built as a memorial, dedicated to the twenty-two Boston College alumni who were killed in the 9/11 attacks.
The design was an aid to meditation because no choices needed to be made about what direction to pursue. As I walked it, I prayed for my sons, for the descendants of the enslaved, for justice and peace and healing for our country — the usual, urgent things. But braided in and around those other things, was the prayer that I could somehow come to more regularly believe in my own essential goodness. It took about an hour. Afterwards, I felt grounded and renewed.
I went into the library and found more lovely and potent Celtic images — I’ll save those for another time perhaps.
Here is the charm I came up with. It’s a first pass and not original.
I like how the photo on the right crops the door molding into a crucifix.
Before the labyrinth walk, we went to Montreal. After, Schenectady. This weekend we will lay down compost and mulch and I will cook chicken and wilt greens with loads of garlic and we will figure out where to put some of my son’s things.
And: I will finish the Hearts for Charleston quilt (she said, but really meaning it). The front has been done for weeks but the labeling continues. Liz Ackert helped out generously by supplying some very beautifully stitched names. I am writing up the cover letter and ‘legend’ and will photograph the piece as soon as the last labels are on. My goal — by Friday of next week.
The first anniversary of the Emanuel AME murders in Charleston is only five weeks away.
How lovely that this labyrinth is close to home and you can walk and contemplate. Maybe next time I’m in the area I’ll search it out. I’ve always wanted to walk one.
I can’t wait to see the quilt finished. I so appreciate all of the work you’ve done to pull this together. I can’t believe how the time has gone by.
Will you be on the east coast again any time soon?
our friend Eric mows a double spiral labyrinth next to his Dragonglass studio that takes nearly an hour to walk, such a beautiful way to listen to the land
Even the mowing of it must be meditative.
A sweet find, a beautiful memorial and such a fine place to walk the walk, and I do like the talisman you fashioned very much. With so much on our minds and so much that must be done, the walking meditation of no mind is what I choose whenever I have the opportunity…just breathe in and breathe out. It is prayer enough for me.
Hi Michelle. I will be going back. Definitely want to walk it following the breath. That day I needed prayer.
I have been a labyrinth walker ever since I visited Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. They have one inside and one outside, both modeled after the one at Chartres. The experience was so powerful that I have sought out labyrinths ever since. We mowed a small one into our lawn at home and were very glad to have it when the attacks came on 9/11. More recently a seven circuit (as opposed to the eleven circuit Chartres style) was installed on the grounds of the Methodist church in our town, which I visit often. It never fails to smooth me out. I think it is providential that you have discovered one at your alma mater. All of the threads you have been following have formed a Celtic knot at the center of which is you.