By Janet Goetze
For the Star News
Cerimon House, the site of cultural and humanities programs as well as weddings and other festive events in the Alberta Arts District, has added a monthly labyrinth walk. But the labyrinth isn’t in the circular design of most church or hospital labyrinths.
Instead, it is inspired by the labyrinth created in northeastern France’s Reims Cathedral in the late 1200s. The unusual design – an octagon with elongated corners – no longer exists in the floor of that cathedral. One account says it was created in a soft stone that became worn. Another says church officials removed it because they were disturbed by children playing on the labyrinth during ceremonies. A third says the labyrinth was viewed as a superstitious relic during the enlightenment and was removed in the late 1700s.
However, drawings of the design remain, said Randall Stuart, the executive director of Cerimon House, a nonprofit organization at 5131 N.E. 23rd Ave. In 2009, the design was recreated at Reims in the form of light projected on the floor during cultural events.
Stuart saw one of the labyrinth drawings reproduced in a book when he was young. He retained a fascination with the Reims design, even after walking the circular labyrinth at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral several years ago. Its rose-centered design is from France’s Chartres Cathedral, which is the style of many church labyrinths.
Grace Cathedral acquired its labyrinth in the 1990s when the Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, the canon for special ministries at the time, began promoting the labyrinth nationally for meditation or as a spiritual tool.
“The Labyrinth,” she has said, “is a spiritual tool that has many applications in various settings. It reduces stress, quiets the mind and opens the heart. It is a walking meditation, a path of prayer, and a blueprint where psyche meets Spirit.”
The meandering labyrinth, which is thousands of years old and appears in many cultures, is unlike a maze with split roads and dead ends. It has only one pathway into its center and the same pathway leads outward.
Stuart uses the labyrinth metaphor, with a journey to a central destination, while teaching Shakespeare classes in colleges and universities around the country. He encourages students to think about their characters on a labyrinth.
“It’s the way forward. In a labyrinth, you can’t get lost,” he said. “You will reach the center. The goal is always right there.”
When he first walked into Cerimon House, which originally was a 1920s Masonic Lodge and later was used by a church, Stuart envisioned a labyrinth in the large main room. It had to wait, however, for a period of fundraising and renovation at Cerimon House, which opened with an art exhibit and other events in 2015.
(The name comes from a character in an ancient Phoenician story borrowed by William Shakespeare for his play “Pericles, Prince of Tyre,” Stuart said. Cerimon, a wise citizen of Ephesus, saves the life of a lost traveler, Thaisa, the young African queen of Cyrene. The board of the nonprofit organization sees part of its mission as providing the community with comfort and restoration through arts and humanities.)
It wasn’t until 2016 that labyrinth planning began, but working with a professional designer on canvas or other material was outside his budget, Stuart said. Instead, he selected Tyvek, the material that wraps around new buildings to prevent air and water infiltration.
A friend who designs theater sets, Jeff Seats, figured out the math for the design and recommended Elecia Beebe, a set painter, to complete the 33×33-foot labyrinth for the 38×38-foot room. The Tyvek is sturdy enough for walkers in stocking feet, and the four foldable sections make the labyrinth easy to store, Stuart said.
Stephen Shibley, a landscape architect who has designed outdoor labyrinths, said the Tyvek made his walk feel a little different. “But it wasn’t distracting,” he said. “I liked the look of it and the way they painted on it.”
He also liked the prompts in the labyrinth’s corners or harbors, as Stuart calls them. Containers on small tables hold papers with sentences or words that may prompt thoughts to mull on the walk. Each month has a category. In May it will be “courage and persistence.” In June it will be “humor and joy.”
The prompts, Shibley said, were a positive element. “They spoke to me in terms of relevance and what I was carrying with me on that path,” he said.
When: 1:00 to 4:30 p.m. May 28
Where: Cerimon House, 5131 N.E. 23rd Ave.
Cost: $10 to support Cerimon programs; includes tea and restoration time in the quiet room. Sliding scale offered at the door.
Reservation: For ages ten and older www.cerimonhouse.org. Information: 503-307-9599