Survivors of domestic violence are connecting with an ancient symbol designed to promote peace and restoration of the soul.
The new HealingPath Labyrinth, recently dedicated on the grounds of the YWCA of Oklahoma City’s Passageways Shelter, was created through a partnership between the YWCA, St. Paul’s Episcopal Cathedral and the Kirkpatrick Foundation.
The Rev. Susan Joplin, a canon at St. Paul’s, said the labyrinth came to fruition as part of St. Paul’s ongoing support of the YWCA shelter.
Joplin, a certified labyrinth walk facilitator, said she helped design the shelter’s 11-circuit labyrinth, which is patterned after the labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France. The Chartres labyrinth was built in 1201 and is one of the most famous labyrinths in the world.
Joplin said labyrinths were used in the Middle Ages by Christians who walked the circuitous pathways when it became too dangerous to make the spiritual journey to Jerusalem during the Crusades. She said labyrinths in cathedrals such as Chartres were designed so the Christian pilgrims could take symbolic walks along a sacred path.
Both Joplin and Jan Peery, the YWCA’s executive director, said the new labyrinth fits well with the Y’s mission to help domestic violence survivors journey from pain to peace.
“I began thinking any labyrinth walk is a metaphor for our lives,” Joplin said.
“People coming from broken situations where everything has been stripped away need a place where a calm can be restored. To me, it seemed a perfect fit.”
Peery expressed similar sentiments.
“This gives one more opportunity for people to have a space for reflection,” Peery said.
“When they come, they are in crisis. This is a place where you are surrounded by trees, by nature. It’s a respite.”
A sacred space
Joplin said her idea was to create a labyrinth that is nonthreatening and inviting. She said it was also important to include some unique design elements.
It is 23 feet, 10 inches in diameter, and 2,450 red bricks were hand cut to create the labyrinth pathway.
She said much symbolism is incorporated into the labyrinth.
The red color of the bricks symbolizes the red dirt of Oklahoma. The red hue also is part of the American Indian four directions and colors symbolism, Joplin said.
The center medallion features four “root balls” of four trees. The root balls are red, to symbolize birth and spring, and yellow, symbolizing maturity and noon. Another root ball symbolizes old age and evening, and a white root ball symbolizes life challenges and night.
Joplin said the colors and the trees symbolize the four seasons of an individual’s life: spring, summer, winter and fall.
Joplin said she plans to develop a labyrinth walk program for the shelter’s clients and staff so they get full use of it as a path of peace and restoration.
“I’m hoping that the residents will see this as a place where they can safely bring their broken hopes and dreams and feelings and begin to formulate a better life, a more healed life,” she said.
The Rev. Justin Lindstrom, dean of St. Paul’s, said the cathedral’s vestry, a group that governs the church, did not hesitate to give the OK to help pay for construction of the labyrinth.
“It’s a small way for us to bring hope to the world,” Lindstrom said.
“It’s the beginning of many other opportunities for us to do that.”
Did you know?
Many people confuse labyrinths and mazes. Here is how they vary: