Labyrinths only became popular as meditation devices in the past 20 years, according to Dr. Lauren Artress, author of “Walking a Sacred Path” and a priest at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. Artress started promoting labyrinths in 1991, founding the organization Veriditas with the goal of “peppering the planet with labyrinths.”
Artress said she started promoting the use of labyrinths when she noticed people needed something to give them sustenance and solace that was not exclusive to Christianity. She said her first experience with a labyrinth captured her imagination.
“It was such a wonderful way of being able to quiet the mind and focus, so I had control over my thoughts rather than my thoughts had control over me,” Artress said.
While labyrinths are used for walking meditations now, it is still uncertain what the original creators of labyrinths had in mind. Labyrinths appeared in pre-history in a variety of cultures around the world, said Kristin Doll, a doctoral candidate in religious studies at NU who wrote a master’s thesis on the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral in France.
“The way they actually used and conceived of the labyrinths is still mysterious,” Doll said.
Despite its mysterious origins, there are many labyrinths around the country. According to Veriditas’ website, there are 2,660 portable and permanent labyrinths in the U.S.
Cloth Labyrinth at Northwestern U
Students and faculty at Northwestern University looking for a spiritual experience or calming environment can visit Parkes Hall, Room 122 and follow a winding, circular path to the center of a labyrinth.
The labyrinth is not a permanent fixture but a piece of fabric laid on the floor with a printed maze-like pattern. Candles are placed around the cloth, which is the size of an average classroom. It is open for anyone to visit every Wednesday throughout Spring Quarter.
This article was excerpted from The Daily Northwestern.