Sacred geometry

2008-02-22 00:00

As I drive past the local butchery in Ashburton with a pounding headache, I think that the last thing I want to do is look at a labyrinth in a garden in the midday heat. Listlessly, I turn into the driveway, where the sign reads “Labyrinthe”. Cheryl Shuttleworth rushes out to greet me. She leads me to a cool wooden deck which overlooks the green bush surrounding Ashburton. After a few Disprins and a bottle of mineral water with the Labyrinthe label — “It’s been charged with the energy of the Labyrinth by being placed in the centre overnight” — I begin to unwind.

We can just see the labyrinth at the bottom of the slope from where we sit in her newly opened coffee shop. Cheryl Shuttleworth tells me her story.

“About seven years ago I opened a copy of Odyssey and saw a picture of a labyrinth,” she says. “I had no idea what it was and I hadn’t even read the article but I was drawn to its shape immediately. After I’d finally managed to visit the labyrinth in the Karoo myself I was even more determined to make my own. Walking the labyrinth in Barrydale was a strong confirmation that I must make time for the work I felt compelled to do.”

Building a full-sized labyrinth is no easy task, especially as Shuttleworth was working full time. So she determined to trim her workload to half days so that she could focus on her big dream. Shuttleworth explains that she and her partner, Stephen Tabori, bought the large property in Ashburton 12 years ago and have taken years to build it up into what it is now.

“We’ve done all the work around the place ourselves in our spare time,” Shuttleworth says. It took three years to build the labyrinth which is 28 metres in diameter. Sacred geometry underpins the design and Shuttleworth battled to get the 13-point star in the middle of the labyrinth aligned correctly. Each measurement has a specific meaning and is intrinsic to the design.

Shuttleworth based her design on one of the best-known labyrinths at Chartres Cathedral near Paris. It was built in the 1200s when the Catholics used labyrinths for meditative walking, as a pilgrimage or as an act of repentance. The Chatres design had a rosette at the centre which symbolises enlightenment. The six petals of the rose symbolise the six days that God took to make the world. The arms of the cross are also evident in the shape of the four quadrants of the labyrinth. The 13 points of the star and 13 turns in the walk symbolise Christ and his 12 disciples as well as the 13 full moons in the year. Labyrinths differ from mazes as there is no choice about which way to walk. One is compelled to move on a specific path towards the centre, and one follows another path out. There are also 114 lunations — horseshoe shapes — placed around the labyrinth. They represent the moon’s cycles, 28 per quarter.

After all this information, I am dying to see the labyrinth and, headache abated, I brave the midday sun to begin the journey. I am amazed at how beautiful it is. Shuttleworth has planted wild garlic between the pathways and these are in full purple bloom. A variety of coloured plants fill the entrance and the centre. The size of the labyrinth is also impressive. I enter the labyrinth from the east. Walking slowly, I reassess my own life path which has seemed a bit rocky lately. I reach the centre after a surprisingly long time. I admire the petals of the rose which are surrounded by chunks of rose quartz. I am eager to begin the outward journey. Full of energy for my literal and figurative path ahead, I complete the walk quickly.

Shuttleworth waits with yet another cool bottle of Labyrinthe water. I have nothing but praise for her remarkable creation. It has a healing energy.

Shuttleworth agrees. “People love to be in the presence of this labyrinth,” she says. “I’ve hosted a number of special events here recently. The SPCA held their Carols by Candlelight, and a yoga teacher will give classes next to the labyrinth soon. We’ve also held a holistic fair recently. The labyrinth was not built with the intention to make money, though. I want people to come here to destress. Life is very stressful at present. People should come to the labyrinth simply to put one foot in front of the other. They can walk it for healing or simply to get in touch with themselves again. After all, if we don’t take care of ourselves, how can we take care of those who depend on us? If we heal ourselves, we will heal the Earth and those around us too.”

• The Labyrinthe Coffee shop is open at weekends as part of the Ashburton Amble. It specialises in exotic coffees as well as the usual cream teas and cakes. It costs R10 per person to walk the labyrinth which is also able to accommodate wheelchairs.

• For more information phone Cheryl at 033 326 1919.

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