Using The Tree Labyrinth Garden
At Sunday Sessions
At Carrowcrory Labyrinth Gardens we now have a Dancing Lady Herb Spiral Labyrinth Garden, Triple Spiral Lavender Garden, Fire Dance Garden, Fruit Serpent Garden and the Queen of them all, the Tree Labyrinth Garden.
On most Sunday afternoons between April and end of October we host Sunday Sessions. Through these, we explore folklore, most of it being local. We suggest ideas from them for guiding our current life choices.
Our Sunday Sessions are micro vision quest journeys. First, a folklore story or genre is explored. Then some contemplation on this is combined with our invited Tree Labyrinth experience.
Together, this can inspire the creation of poetry, or at least some journaling, to express and perhaps understand the folklore more.
The Tree Labyrinth Dream
Allow me to introduce the origins of the Tree Labyrinth Garden that started as a repeated dream and then became an expression of ancient mythologies combined with local folklore.
The starting point was repeated dreams I experienced during 2008. I tried drawing an image from them, but at that time did not think this was the start of a labyrinth design. After seeing some pictures of labyrinths for another project, I became curious about what the word 'labyrinth' did mean, and what was it's origin?
When some people think of Labyrinths, they may think of the Minoan story of Theseus, Ariadne the daughter of King Minos, and the underground Labyrinth of Knossos, Crete, where the half bull and half man Minotaur lived.
The Labrys Inthos
I discovered that the word Labyrinth has much older origins than that mythology. It seems to have originated from a Minoan phrase said in Greek as ‘Labrys Inthos’, translated into our English as 'a place of the Labrys'.
A Labrys is not a geometric creation of circles, but is a double edged axe, one side being dark, and the other side being light. It seems to have some corrupted link to the more flowing Yin and Yang symbol, 'tàijítú', though the Labrys seems to be a much older symbol. Interestingly, one of the translations fro 'tàijí' is 'pole'. The Labrys is on a long pole, according to the mythology stories I have been told.
The Labrys was curated by a queen, princess, or high ranking or highly regarded woman of the community. When she raised 'her' Labrys all people present were commanded to pay attention. From this she would tell the people around that she has 'guidance' from the woman of the earth for the people to follow. I would assume this to be related to weather, the farming cycle, health and wellbeing, and ways to heal tensions within a community.
The Labrys was to present the essential balanced duality of the dark and light into any explanation, plus the shaft, the pole, the connecting rod to the 'woman of the earth', a kind of ultimate absolute of emptiness that is the foundation of the dark and light duality. I tend to describe this as the flowing conduit of life that we first translate into our sensory language that vision us with the unity of elements and our different 5 senses. From this we now translate further into the multiplicity of our calibrated symbol joined languages that we write, read, and speak from. Its as if wisdom is the balance of light, dark, and all that flows from the dreaming.
So here we have the Tree Labyrinth Garden here at Carrowcrory that was constructed through taking on the shape of the Labrys. My original intents were to have some kind of labyrinth to walk through in the garden, plus an area for a miniature woodland. At first, I had no idea that the two intents would become one.
The Labrys Mating Dance
At first, I thought the Tree Labyrinth would be a perfect place for human unions.
I had been fascinated by the mating dance of seabirds like puffins, auks, cormorants and fulmers where males seem to walk in a circle in one spot and females doing the same in another. Eventually males and females would meet, then fly off together and consummate. If chicks were born from this then these birds would be partners for life and would meet up with each other each breeding season. If not, they would rejoin the mating dance circles again.
As a child, I was told that humans copied this ritual. At Beaghmore Circles in the Sperrins, Co. Tyrone, Northern Ireland. there are figure of 8 circles with a mound dividing them, so what was on those mounds? Around Co. Donegal, and other places, there are stones on mounds and those stones have holes in them. The holes, I was told, were mating holes. If a male and a female captured each other's 'eye', then both put their fingers in the hole they would also go off and cunsummate. If a child was born then they would be mates for life and there would be a ceremony to bond this. It is said the mating was done early May, Bealtaine and Hawthorn blossom time, and children born at Imbolc, Brighid;s Day.
So, at first, I offered the Tree Labyrinth as a place of unions where each person of the couple would each enter separate entrances. walk a small labyrinth to contemplate how the union was happening. Then a small ceremony of union and vows in the centre, before they flew off together down the shaft.
Well, we facilitated a couple of reconciliations that way, but the call of the Tree Labyrinth Garden was for something that seems to be more creative, and is certainly connected to unions and unity/
The single entrances were closed off and the new purpose began.
Tree Labyrinth Construction
I will pause here to go back to the construction. I did start marking out the pathways for the labyrinth design from about Lughnasadh 2008, but the serious work did not start until Samhain 2008 when 300 bare foot tree plants were delivered, From then I finalised the paths design and flow, and where the trees were to be planted.
Before any of this, the centre was marked by an attempted firewalk using the embers of some fallen birch trees were used. Unfortunately, the ground was boggy and firewalkers started sinking with the embers.
I am happy to report that nobody was damaged. What this showed my was that we first needed plenty of water drinking willow and alder trees onto the site to convert from the bog and allow us to bring in other trees. This firewalk was June 2007.
The Imbolc sunrise of 2008 was when I plotted where the 'pole entrance would be. This aligned with the Sheecor hill in the landscape, Coire na Síoga, hollow hill of the sí, the fairies, the fae world. In between the labyrinth and Coire na Síoga is a hawthorn fairy tree in the middle of a field. The Cire na Síoga is one of two paps hill that is part of the landscape image of the Cailleach (bluntly describing the goddess builder of hills and mountains) with her Mór na Coire Cíuín (Mor Rí Grainne, Morrigan) womb with it's lough lake and faluchtra fire in the middle ... but that's all a story I feature elsewhere.
So here was, and is, the alignment with the breast of the Cailleach, the Hag, in the landscape laying ready to break the waters and give birth to the new life of Spring, Imbolc, Brighid, and the centre of Aquarius, the water bearer.
Back to the near present, Imbolc 2009 until the present and beyond, I did not know that the design I kept dreaming of night after night could become a 'place of the Labrys'
It exists here with the invitation to be that for visitors, without the commanded ‘pay attention’. Paying attention is a choice ... that is encouraged :-)
Sunday Sessions Rooted
Our Sunday Sessions here commences with a focus on the 'ultimate absolute of emptiness', the conduit of our life energy, instincts, and inspiration that moulds into motivation.
Our human culture is now mainly bonded with what we read, and sometimes through the stories preached to us. We seem to life most of our lives, sometimes all of our lives, living according to what 'we are told to do'. We do this without realising how much we are at service to the command of our parents, family, close friends, employers, churches, politicians, and corporate advertising.
I remember waiting in a line in a post office in Scotland years ago and the post office had introduced a photo processing service. A long time before digital, of course. A personal in front of me asked the teller, "Is that photo developing service any good?", and she replied, "Well, it's advertised on television, so it must be good".
What we lose through this 'do as you are told' culture is the value of our 'voice', and the value of listening to the 'voice' that is not of the other human telling us what to do and how to live.
I truly believe there is value in some 'do as you are told' stuff as it does bond us as pack animals and helps our animal unity and peace ... but I believe we must also never be starved and disconnected from our 'voice' nourished from listening to inspiration, activating our senses, and motivating our expressions and creations.
To cut off from this, or be cut off from this, I feel is the source of loneliness, depression, worthlessness, feelings of shame and guilt, and all this can manifest through addictions.
Being Holders Of The Labrys
So, I feel that we do not need to be a 'special queen, king, of be of a higher order to be the holders of the shaft, the pole, of the Labyrs. Also visitors to our Tree Labyrinth Garden can be holders of the 'ultimate absolute of emptiness', the pure conduit of our life energy, Tat 'emptiness' is not the loneliness sort of emptiness, but the flow of pure love.
From this I encourage the rebuilding of your language. First through the sensory response to the space and what it says to you through sight, sound, smell, touch, and event taste, without any human calibrated language words.
Then slowly move onto applying your sensory language into the symbol language, or languages, you have been taught to read and write. These are what Cloud Dancing, from the Dr Quinn TV series called, 'tracks in books' :-)
To me, this is a far more nourishing path of wisdom than starting with a modern book and working backwards. But here we are, me explaining this to you through modern language, and suggesting not to do this. Oh dear, a real chicken and the egg situation.
One important focus to contemplate that may move us away from this chicken and egg challenge is the vast change in communications accelerated since about 2008, when I commenced this Tree Labyrinth Garden. Before 2008 social was people talking on phones with just voices, and meeting up in each other's homes and maybe meeting in cafes and pubs too. A 'friend's wall post' back then was the gossip you could bring along to a conversation and the latest pack of printed photo snaps to hand around. Few had mobile phones. because for most of us phones were cabled to walls.
Even so, there were some people who would ask to use the bar phone and spend the entire evening phoning up friends saying what an amazing evening they were having in the bar, and how about coming along joining in. That person's entire evening was phoning people not present, and spending no time with the people present. These were the pioneers of social media friending, I think.
The Invisible Friends
Today, its about mobile wireless phones texting to each other around a table, and everyone else around the world. 'Friends', are no longer the support people in our presence but the people not present. We become along, we become empty, and wonder why.
Alone time is good. We need it to recharge, and feel the love within us, because that is what we use to truly connect. We cannot really connect with others through commands, expectations, and fantasies of what we went the other people to be.
During our Sunday Sessions, and midweek group sessions, the Tree Labyrinth experiences are short time opportunities to explore the transitions from the love and life emptiness conduit, translated through the sensory language of the trees, plants, birds, and all presence of nature around us and onto expression through the trained symbolic language we now learn and share.
Before visitors enter the Tree Labyrinth, I challenge them to leave behind their familiarity of of their common language. We all seem to now speak, read, and write language that uses symbols chained together into words, sentences, text and story.
The challenge is to connect with nature through nature’s own language that we can only interpret through our senses of sight, smell, touch, listening, and taste, and not through our memory of calibrated words.
I find it hard to apply words to describe this experience. It's all about ‘letting go’ of the chattering mind to take notice of imagery that spontaneously forms in our mind’s eye. Its about using our third eye that some people talk about.
So, I invite visitors to use the Tree Labyrinth Garden space to start off with that recharging emptiness of love, and feel trust in that. Allow personal sharing of the sensory language of the trees, plants, fungi, and all life around.
This enters the visitor into the three stages of a Labyrinth experience.
Purgation, Loving The Darkness
I use medieval origin terms, and the first is 'purgation', which used to be understood as a kind of exorcism of sins, but I define this as the dark side of the Labrys which as nothing to do with fear and nasty things. Its just we have been conditioned by the 'do as you are told' brigade to think and feel that.
The 'dark' is the Yin, in mythology. It is the woman, so woman of the earth is a great description. It is a weaving of stillness that becomes active and is the weaving, connection and community of all things in the earth.
Within this contemplation, within the language of our senses, the same language of the trees, plants and all life present, we may form an image of what we have trusted faith in. For a Christian it may be a Christ image, or guardian angel, for Buddhist a Buddha image etc. For others this could be a guiding spirit image. a sidhe image, goddess image, fairy image, bird or animal totem image. It could even be the return of a family member, or invisible friend from childhood who guided us through those seemingly huge childhood challenges better than our parents did.
It does not matter what image comes to you. It is what you trust. It is an image of your love.
Illumination, The Dreaming
The second stage of this Labyrinth experience is known as the 'illumination'. This is the carrying of your faith and love image to the centre of the Tree Labyrinth, Labrys, and contemplate it's present for your presence. You should feel centred.
I suggest people enter into a labyrinth with a question, but not to seek answers, only to learn how to live with a question and let life and its love unravel it. To me, a manufactured answer is really a doorway to hundreds more questions.
That question can be so simple, such as what to prepare for dinner tonight, or where to put an apple tree just bought, or what gift can I obtain to give to a friend, or how to solve a problems at work. There are more 'serious' questions about seemingly huge life challenges that we do not share with family and friends. It could be how to overcome addictions. The process is identical to sorting out what to prepare for an evening meal that evening.
So at the centre, second stage, the top of the pole, the shaft, that vortex of the dream realm, there could be an amazing euphoria of clarity. A feeling of "wow, I now get it!", "I now understand it".
Unity, The Joy Of The Light
At that point you will be ready for the third stage, known as the 'unity'. This is the unwinding from the Labyrinth, The Labrys, into the 'light' Yang side that receives that spirit baton of activity from the Yin and travels it to calm before handing it back to yin again. This is known as the stage of 'unity'. The trusted image of faith and love is carried and attention paid to it's 'prophecy of the present', revelations, and even story that may play out in your imagination.
I must share a common conversation I engage with at the start of several group sessions. Groups often have a leader or additional guide who describe their vocation, their calling, as being a 'lightworker'. Always happy, they introduce themselves to me as "Hello, I'm ****, and I'm a lightworker". My response, "That's wonderful because I'm John, and I'm a darkworker, so already I see we are going to get along incredibly well here, because together we may inspire a wholesome dark to light experience".
So, after those three realms of the Labrys Tree Labyrinth walk you pass out of the shaft of the Labrys, hopefully recharged and re-visioned. We try to empower and clarify this with a talking stick session. Before or after a talking stick session you may feel a profound calling of expression to flow through journaling, naked poetry, doodled art, or whittled carvings.
From Tree Language To Ogham
Returning back to the first stage, within the labyrinth, that may bring guided imagery, imagine when there was not symbols connected language like we have today. Imagine the first attempts to do that. How were the first languages created that could be taught and duplicated through several humans. The start of education as we now know it?
Imagine a simple set of symbols that may connect and form a language we could teach and duplicate. Ogham is one example of primitive language that fascinates millions of people today. Our Ogham sessions are very popular at Carrowcrory.
I will present an additional article to explain this further.
To conclude, I can suggest various steps we can slowly journey through as we return from the love source, through sensory language, and return to engage in the day to day languages we have learned. After a session we may do this with a greater appreciation of our inspiration mystery.
From Tree Language To Poetry
During the return to our familiar language I encourage indulgence in the expression we call ‘poetry’.
Our preferred expression may, instead, be a drawing, painting, a dance movement, or some music played. For the topics of this article, and the sessions we host, I am sticking to poetry.
Poetry is a symbol worded art craft that can be spontaneous and free. We can drop all cares of abiding to grammar structure, spelling, and punctuation. Our first draft is encouraged to be as naked and as free as possible. It is really a worded doodle that we can later craft into something else.
I trust you will enjoy our Afternoon Sessions at Carrowcrory Labyrinth Gardens, Such as the Sunday Sessions. I am posting some articles of the Sunday Sessions topics that we extend from the Tree Labyrinth Labrys journey experience.