Spiralling into control

2013-08-07 00:00

A WALK with a difference. The picturesque Rietvlei Farm near Estcourt offers moonlight walks on their labyrinth, and on special days this unusual pastime must be experienced to be believed.

Many people are fascinated by these intricate passages that have existed for centuries. They may look like crop circles or beautiful patterns in the earth, but they have a deeper value that is hard to describe.

Some have described them as a route that facilitates a physical meditation. A long swirling passage that twists and turns and as you walk you think … or maybe pray … sometimes just focus on the pacing … one foot in front of the other.

The designs of labyrinths range from simple circular designs to other much more complex designs that twist in and out, always leading into the centre and then outwards. Do not confuse a labyrinth with a maze because when you walk inside a labyrinth you cannot get lost … there is only one path. In a maze there are many options to choose from and getting lost is half the fun.

Jane Renton, who lives on Rietvlei Farm, and her landscape designer husband Shaun, built the fascinating labyrinth a few years ago on their farm. It was created on the area where a tennis court and a bowling green once were. They visited many other labyrinth sites around the country and then they decided on a site on the farm to create their complex design. Their labyrinth is a total of two kilometres long and it is one of the largest in southern Africa.

The labyrinth is a circular design that represents feminine energy, but the outside area is square and this represents the masculine energy. This 11-circuit Medieval Chartres design is 33 metres in diameter and the entrance is situated at the east — associated with new beginnings.

The labyrinth is made in the grass and the passages are defined by white paving stones, between each passage are planted beds of herbs, flowers and plants that fully come into bloom in summer. While walking the labyrinth, you will see the elements of earth, air, fire and water represented on the outside corners.

They have planted shrubs that have fragrances like lavender and roses, and those that emulate the colours of the rainbow. They have chunks of rose quartz inside the labyrinth, too, for positive healing energy. Strawberries are abundant.

Renton explained: “We chose to plant lawn underfoot as some people like to walk barefoot so they can connect with the Earth. We found that paving stones can get very hot and sand can also burn.

“In a maze you will get lost but in a labyrinth the purpose is to get found — in a physical and metaphorical sense. People have used the labyrinths for different purposes, but traditionally it is used to work out a problem. Once you step into the labyrinth you take in a problem or issue that you would like to think about or ask for spiritual guidance.

“As you walk, you find yourself concentrating on the path that you are following and you begin to lose sight of the world around you. You become lost in the meditative state. In a spiritual sense, you are offering your problem to the higher powers. You are relinquishing control.

“The labyrinth is a metaphor for life because as you walk you may notice that as you think you are reaching the end you have to turn and continue. Life is full of twists and turns and hidden obstacles. As you get to the centre, you can stop and pray and ask for an answer. When you leave the centre, you should leave your problem in the labyrinth and emerge with a solution.”

This is one interpretation of the labyrinth and the original use of it was to give pilgrims who were unable to afford to go to Jerusalem on a religious pilgrimage a chance to complete a “symbolic” pilgrimage by walking the labyrinth. Labyrinths were created on the floors of churches and in the gardens of churches and monasteries.

In medieval times, the passage of the labyrinth was also a journey to God. The entrance was a symbolic birth and the exit a rebirth. In other cultures, the labyrinth symbol has also been found — it was used by the Native American Indians in the United States, who regarded it as a symbol and journey to reconnect with their ancestors.

Labyrinths are used by modern spiritualists to help achieve a contemplative state. Walking among the turnings, one loses track of direction and of the outside world, and thus quiets the mind. The Labyrinth Society gives a list of labyrinths around the world.

Renton says she opens her labyrinth to the public on certain days and nights. Usually,the new moon and the full moon offer people a chance to walk the labyrinth in the dark under the stars. She has opened the site to church groups on request and the Michaelhouse schoolboys finish one of their expeditions at the labyrinth.

At night, it is lit up with solar lamps and candles; the atmosphere is magical and a warm camp fire invites walkers to end their journey with a hot cup of cocoa. Renton said that she explained the etiquette of the labyrinth walk to newcomers.

“Everyone walks at their own pace and one must be considerate of the person in front or behind. Young children love to run as they have a natural exuberance and old people walk slowly. We must learn to accept others and know that we will all get old. We especially made the passages wide enough so people can pass easily.”

Outside the labyrinth, Renton has created a fairy garden in the dense bushes and inquisitive children will enjoy seeking the ornamental treasures hidden in the undergrowth. In the summer, the irrigation is switched on and children love to run the labyrinth while getting dripping wet.

The Rietvlei Farm is a historic farm and has been in the Renton family for six generations. They have recently built a healing centre from all the natural resources on the farm. It is situated behind the labyrinth on a small dam. The idea is that groups can use the space and enjoy the magical natural energy of the farm.

•To find out when the next labyrinth walk will happen check out the website www.awakeningcircles.co.za

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