TLS Annual Gathering

2010 Retrospective by Cordelia Rose, Gathering Co-chair

New Harmonies in the Labyrinth

12th Annual International Labyrinth Society Gathering
November 12-14th, 2010, New Harmony, Indiana

With its rich history of labyrinths reaching back 185 years, New Harmony was a perfect setting for the 2010 TLS Gathering New Harmonies in the Labyrinth.   With its great architecture and natural landscapes, New Harmony lent itself to a contemplative stay – miles away from the hurly-burly of urban life.    It was the ideal place to rest and be inspired by a long tradition of spiritual practice.

Co-chairs of the TLS Gathering were the brother-sister team of Ben Nicholson and myself, Cordelia Rose.    The theme New Harmonies in the Labyrinth was chosen to focus on new ways to think about labyrinths and to extend the boundaries of their use and throw the field wide open.  A new generation of presenters added to the theme of the New. The wise sages of TLS rose to the challenge and reimagined their practice with provocative workshops and presentations.

A Pre-Gathering Workshop introduced participants to the world of Equine Labyrinths in which horses, humans and labyrinths combine.  A stunning demonstration was given by Posey County Saddle Club riders of eight horses performing The Trojan Ride.  With reference to Virgil’s description in the Aeneid, Jeff Saward designed a new equine labyrinth and narrated his version of the Aeneid as the ride took place.   In a panel discussion Jeff Saward spoke of the historical uses of equine labyrinths, Cordelia Rose reported on a worldwide survey of equine labyrinth users  from which best practices were drawn, Louise Cash spoke of the therapeutic and training uses of labyrinths for horses and humans.

Another Pre-Gathering Workshop was led by Ole Jensen who came from Denmark to lead a workshop on Maypole Dancing in the Labyrinth which included Danish, Swedish and American dances and a performance of the Crane Dance.    The Maypole labyrinth was made of 600 pumpkins! Revelers in the Saturday evening Maypole Dance formed a fire-bucket chain to remove the pumpkins from the second floor of the historic Granary building to waiting trailers accompanied by a band playing Irish jigs to keep them moving.

The Opening and Closing Ceremonies of Sounding and Grounding were led by Toby Evans in John Ridder’s Labyrinth on the Grounds installation made of recycled CDs.  The Energy Keepers must also have contributed to the harmony of this very moving annual ritual.  Thinking of harmony and annual events, what would we do without Joan Guilfoyle’s  Morning Movement to give us a good start to each day?

Lilan Laishley gave a most interesting keynote presentation entitled   A Walk into History: The Harmony Society Labyrinths.    This was followed by an evening pilgrimage from Tillich Park via the Cathedral Labyrinth to The Harmonist Labyrinth and an Indian Mound accompanied by New Harmony musicians.   The way was lit by tiny flashlights found by pilgrims in their registration bag along with another tool to find one’s way – a map in the TLS Gathering Program book.   At the top of the Indian Mound pilgrims lay on their backs under the stars and buried crystals in the sacred ground.   Pilgrims were guided to home and hot soup by the distant sound of bagpipes.

Ben Nicholson gave a keynote presentation with wonderful illustrations entitled What makes Geometry Sacred?    After a comprehensive study of meanders from circa 750 BCE Greek pottery resulting in a new geometric system for classifying labyrinths, his lecture asked how geometric principles could be woven into a meditative practice.

Concurrent workshops followed the theme of New Harmonies in the Labyrinth with artistic, spiritual or technical content which included beginner, intermediate and advanced levels thus providing workshops of interest for newcomers and sages.  Lauren Artress shared personal experiences to shape The Labyrinth as an Organizing Principle;  Stephanie Blackton explained what is involved in starting a prison labyrinth program in Labyrinths Behind Bars: Bringing the labyrinth to the incarcerated;  Canadian composer John Burke discussed and demonstrated his New Classical Harmonies in the Labyrinth ;  Willem Kuipers journeyed from the Netherlands to help us on our way to excellent personal expression through the labyrinth in a revealing workshop entitled Walking around the ups and downs of expression: from stagnation to flow;  Jodi Lorimer shared her extensive knowledge of early labyrinths and Egypt’s rebirth in The Egyptian Labyrinth;   Mark Milligan revealed how labyrinths and the Christian Church are coming together again and gave tips on how to join the two in Labyrinths belong in Churches, Too!  In the workshop Many voices, one path: Reflections of labyrinth walkers Diane Rudebeck reported the findings of a study analyzing 465 labyrinth walkers reported experiences when walking the Labyrinth;  Kimberly Saward and Lisa Moriarty shared their experiences in From Paris to Chartres: A Journey of Soul/Sole, a pilgrimage they made together to mark major life milestones;   Mary Teetor taught a new method of designing labyrinths in The Modular method of labyrinth design: A simple mathematical discovery;  To counter the difficulties of mathematics [for some of us!]  Lynda Tourloukis provided the beneficial effects of Laughter on the Labyrinth; Judith Tripp led a Dream Quest to experience the harmonies of song, guided meditation and labyrinth.  

Three post-Gathering tours were offered:  Nina Peacock led a Wonders of Nature tour to the John James Audubon Museum and State Park to see birds and then to Marengo Caves to see speleothems; Rev Warren Lynn led the Nearby Labyrinth tour in Southern Indiana & North –Western Kentucky in which 
three labyrinths were visited;  Robert Ferre hosted, and Judy Hopen led, the Annual Labyrinth Tour which was a full day of no less than six labyrinths in the St. Louis area.

The citizens of New Harmony enhanced the Gathering experience by leading Historic Walking Tours, lighting The Cathedral Labyrinth with luminarias, providing music at the TLS Mixer and the Maypole Dance, outfitting an Art Room, allowing ephemeral labyrinths to be built all over town, lending bicycles, and patiently dealing with every kind of request such as “Please can I project a light labyrinth onto your driveway from the attic of your house?”  The American Legion even provided a full Indiana breakfast with pancakes branded with a classic labyrinth!

No Gathering happens without volunteers and of the many hidden hours given to projects, one especially comes to mind:  The quilters who made the intricate and beautiful New Harmony Labyrinth Quilt.  It was raffled on behalf of the TLS Scholarship Fund which enables future labyrinthians to attend Gatherings.