About The Labyrinth Society
Walk, turn; walk, turn; walk, turn – the journey of the Labyrinth Society (TLS) is very similar to that of a labyrinth walk. The “labyrinth landscape” has changed significantly since the Labyrinth Society’s inception in 1998. At that time when someone mentioned “labyrinth,” a blank stare or a quizzical expression usually followed. Today the response is more likely to be, “Labyrinth – oh yes, I walked one at …,” or “I haven’t walked one yet, but I know there is one at …”
The Labyrinth Society is evolving to meet the changing needs of the growing worldwide labyrinth community. Although the TLS mission, “to support all those who create, maintain and use labyrinths, and to serve the global community by providing education, networking and opportunities to experience transformation,” has not changed, the ways in which we address that mission are changing.
Won’t you be a part of that change? TLS is staffed primarily by volunteers who give many hours of service because of their love of labyrinths. In addition to the tangible benefits of the various categories of membership listed elsewhere on this website, by joining us you will receive the larger benefit of knowing that you are part of a diverse and growing community of individuals around the world who probably have only one thing in common: their love of labyrinths. Your membership supports many TLS initiative, such as this website, the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator, the Labyrinth Market, various TLS resources and materials, and the annual Gathering.
Will I meet you on the path?
John W. Rhodes, Ph.D.
Origins of the Labyrinth Society
A Brief Sketch of How We Came to Be
by David P. Gallagher
The impetus that culminated in the formation of our Society ultimately traces to the immense contribution of Jean Lutz. Many consider her to be the true Founding Mother of our organization.
Jean published the Labyrinth Letter, a quarterly review of labyrinth information and news. She also sponsored the initial labyrinth conferences: the first at Gavilan Ranch in Lindrith, New Mexico (September 21-25, 1995) followed by a second at Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York the following year. Many of the individuals who participated in the Society’s Founding Circle met and became acquainted at those meetings. Following the 1996 conference, Jean stepped back from her initiator role and new leadership emerged. It was clear to Helen Curry that it would take an entire organization to do what Jean had attempted to do single-handedly. She placed a call to Robert Ferré suggesting that the group needed to continue to meet and asking for his assistance.
The next gathering was held the first weekend in November 1997, at the Caroline Conference and Retreat Center in St. Louis. Hosted by Robert Ferré and the St. Louis Labyrinth Project, it was from this meeting that The Labyrinth Society eventually evolved. The purpose of the occasion was to discuss the future of the network and ways to continue the work that Jean had started.
As reflected in the “minutes” of The Labyrinth Network Conference ‘97 (as it was called), the 24 individuals who attended agreed: “To look into creating a national nonprofit organization that could be called The Labyrinth Society with the intent to provide spiritual and other support to its members....” An ad hoc committee was appointed and empowered to investigate options and make recommendations at a follow-up meeting in November 1998. The committee was referred to as the Tribal Council (TC), and consisted of Helen Curry (chair), John Wayne Blassingame, Dr. Jan Bradley, Marty Cain, Sue Anne Foster, Gundala Thormaehlen Friedman, David Gallagher, Neal Harris, Judith Joyce, Taffy Lanser, and Annette Reynolds. Lawrence Reverby of Trumansburg, New York generously provided legal counsel on a pro bono basis.
The 1998 meeting was held at the same site as the previous year and was again hosted by Robert Ferré and the St. Louis Labyrinth Project. For that occasion the circle expanded to 43, straining the conference facility to such an extent that several people who wanted to attend had to be turned away. Word was getting around that something wonder-full was about to happen.
Conference ‘98 was, indeed, momentous! It was an exhausting three days of intense working sessions punctuated by periodic labyrinth-focused fellowship and fun. The bonding that occurred within that group was both noteworthy and profound, especially given that 21 of the 43 were totally new to the circle and attending their first labyrinth conference. Five individuals who had participated in 1997 were unable to return.
With the hope of allowing everyone reading this to get a sense of what transpired the first evening the following description of the occasion is shown as it appears in the Minutes (prepared by Annette Reynolds):
Opening Ceremony - Led by Joe Miguez, Annette Reynolds. The group met in the second floor conference room.... Two large rooms on the third floor had cloth labyrinths available for participants during the conference. The “Ivy Labyrinth” was brought by Marilyn Larson and the other one by Meryl Ann Butler. Mary K. Barge’s cloth labyrinth was also available.
The circle opened with the lighting of arched, rainbow-colored, votive candles that were placed in the center of the room on a blue silk cloth brought by Meryl Ann Butler. Introductions were made by participants through: 1.) Making eye contact with one another 2.) Being invited to write their individual intention and share these in dyads 3.) Placing a meaningful object on the cloth with a comment about its meaning as a “seed” to assist in birthing the new organization. Mentors, guides, and those participants present in Spirit, but unable to attend, were remembered and included in the circle. We sang “The Garden Song” . . . “Inch by inch, row by row, please bless these seeds I sow . . .”
Saturday morning was our initial business session. The principal issue at hand was the Tribal Council’s report and recommendations. What ensued is described in the “Minutes”:
Business Session - Creating A Labyrinth Organization - Led by Helen Curry.
Helen gave background information from The Labyrinth Conference 1997. On behalf of the Tribal Council created at that Conference, Helen reported she had the mission of coming up with a proposal for forming a national labyrinth organization. After contact with a series of lawyers, a friend of David Gallagher, Larry Reverby was contacted who researched options. Helen presented three plans: Plan A: Creating a national organization as a division of the Labyrinth Project of Connecticut, Inc. Plan B: Incorporate in any state as an educational organization, which might take a year, including application for 501(c)(3) IRS non-profit status. Plan C: Do both plans simultaneously.
After discussion, Plan B was approved - to form a global labyrinth organization, independent of any other organization, with non-profit status under the tax code of the USA.
The official name of the labyrinth organization, “The Labyrinth Society,” was chosen.
Thus, on November 6, 1998, by unanimous agreement of the 43 members of the Founding Circle present, The Labyrinth Society was born. We celebrated with a birthday cake the following night: 11-7was an auspicious date for labyrinth festivities.
The term “Conference” seems misapplied in the instance of the 1998 gathering. It was actually an organizational meeting, a start-from-scratch effort to create what became the Labyrinth Society, Inc. The details requiring deliberation and decisions were numerous and broad ranging. Yet everyone pulled together, seated always in a circle, and the work got started.
Getting started at that time meant making it happen. As each of us turned homeward from St. Louis, the Society was still a nascent dream awaiting realization. We had, among numerous other decisions, elected executive officers, created a board of directors, and set up a committee structure. But The Labyrinth Society was yet to become a legal entity. For example, Robert Ferré had to sign the facilities contract for our 1999 Conference because, when the contractual commitment had to be made, TLS did not legally exist. Nor did we have sufficient funds to cover the down payment due at signing. Robert provided a bridge loan. Even opening a checking account presented some minor problems. There was also the matter of by-laws to be drafted, discussed, and approved by the board -- and on and on . . . details, details, details.
During the organizational phase, the executive committee consisted of: Helen Curry, president; Judith Joyce, vice-president; Annette Reynolds, recording secretary; David Gallagher, corresponding secretary, and Pamela Ramadei, treasurer. Those individuals met weekly in cyberspace (via an Internet chat room) for the initial six months and twice monthly thereafter. Many others also made huge contributions to the actual birthing of the Society.
In St. Louis it was agreed the Society would sponsor a major Labyrinth Conference in November 1999. The dates were selected, but we had absolutely no idea where it would be held. Nor was there any more than a vague sense of what the program might look like. Enter Robert Ferré and Annette Reynolds. Robert undertook to chair the conference. Annette provided leadership for the program committee. With finances a background concern, Robert investigated possibilities and came up with Teikyo Loretto Heights University; the least expensive of the suitable options. Voilà, we had a site!! Annette’s committee quickly came together and a “Call for Speaker/ Presenter Proposals” went out early in March 1999. The path to our inaugural gathering as the Labyrinth Society was beginning to emerge.
The first meeting of the board of directors was hosted by Neal and Mary Harris at the Relax-4-Life Center in Barrington, Illinois on April 9-11, 1999. By-laws having been finalized by the by-laws committee in consultation with the executive committee were further discussed, revisions agreed upon, and adopted. Many other policy issues were reviewed and finalized. The board also had its first look at our developing web site (Sig Lonegren and Barry Hoon chief architects), still some months from its public debut. Considerable time was also devoted to selecting an official TLS logo. Unfortunately that effort was put off until later.
With by-laws adopted, and through the continuing good offices of our attorney, Lawrence Reverby, President Curry proceeded with the incorporation process. In due course, we became the Labyrinth Society, Inc., incorporated under statutory provisions of the State of Connecticut. The “official” date on the certificate of incorporation is September 3, 1999. So one might say that’s the date on our “birth certificate.”
As the first annual conference approached, the Society still lacked a board of directors formally elected by the membership and executive officers elected by the board. The former condition was satisfied at the inaugural annual meeting of the membership of The Labyrinth Society, Inc. in Denver, Colorado, on Friday, November 5, 1999. This was done in accordance with the by-laws of the corporation and precisely 365 days after November 6, 1998, when the resolution to proceed with organizing was unanimously adopted by the Founding Circle in St. Louis. Several hours later the newly elected board met briefly and accepted the nominating committee’s slate of officers. Wow!! Mission accomplished!!
Virtually all who attended the Denver gathering will attest to it having been a smashing success; a fitting and memorable capstone to two years of dedicated effort by a group of spirits who were energized by a common vision. As we gathered and participated in the closing ceremony late Sunday morning the sun poured down his energy as we sang, all in a circle, taking slips of paper with people's labyrinths named on them to hold in our minds and intention. Everyone was (and is) working together.
A particular song was sung during the closing ceremony in Denver and St. Louis the year before: “Dear friends, dear friends. Let me tell you how I feel. You have given me your treasure. I love you so.” It seemed a lovely bridge to span the beginning and the end of a wondrous, eventful year.
Additional information: The closing ceremony in Denver occurred at the precise time of the new moon. So both sun and moon were together (astrologically conjunct) in the sky.
Much has happened since then and our “history” is still being written. You are welcome to send your historical information or pictures to TLS Executive Director.
Credits for Photos in this Article:
- Altar at the 1999 Gathering, Denver, Colorado. Photo by Chuck Hunner
- TLS Founders Walking a Leaf Labyrinth, St. Louis, 1998. Photo by John Ridder