Bethune United Church, Baysville, Ontario, Canada

A Traditional Labyrinth Walk      

 There are many approaches to the labyrinth. One approach is based on the ancient, traditional threefold spiritual path of Purgation, Illumination and Union. These represent three stages in a labyrinth walk.

1. Releasing (Purgation). From the entrance to the centre is the path of "letting go" or shedding of thoughts and emotions. There is a release and an emptying of worries and concerns.

2.Receiving (Illumination). At the centre there is illumination, insight, clarity and focus. It is here that you are in a receptive, prayerful, meditative state. Receive what is there for you to receive.

3. Integrating (Union). Empowerment and taking ownership. The path out is that of becoming grounded and integrating the insight. It is being energized and making what was received manifest in the world.

There are three stages but one path, and it is different for everyone.

"Palms Up, Palms Down"

These three stages can be symbolized with a "palms down, palms up" approach to walking the labyrinth.

"Palms down" symbolizes release or letting go while "palms up" indicates receiving. Enter the labyrinth and walk to the center with palms down and center your thoughts on releasing conflictual issues and concerns in your life. When you reach the center turn your palms up to be receptive to insight. As you walk out of the labyrinth keep your palms up to receive strength and guidance to make your insight manifest. As you leave the labyrinth turn to face the center and bring you palms together for a prayerful end to your walk.

*The concept of the "threefold path" is credited to the Reverend Dr. Lauren Artress in her book: Walking A Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool. See also:



Nadya Tarasoff takes you on a guided interpretive tour of the Bethune Labyrinth located in Baysville Ontario Canada




Some good news:

Y o u  c a n ’ t  b e c o m e  a n y  m o r e  l o s t  i n  a l a b y r i n t h  t h a n  y o u  w e r e  b e f o r e    y o u  e n t e r e d  i t !

This is because a church labyrinth is a path, not a maze. It takes you there and back again. It is what the “there” is, and what the “back” is, that becomes complicated. We go “there” and “back” again

constantly in our lives without thinking - to school and back; to work and back; to town and back; to church and back. We even go there and back again from our hopes and dreams, our core beliefs

and principles, our friends and family. And all this there and back again can get pretty  complicated.


This was the centre of the Labyrinth before it became the circle pieces.


T h e r e  &  B a c k  A g a i n

As you approach the labyrinth think of it’s perimeter as the delicate rubber of a balloon stretched to the limit and ready to burst.


As you proceed into the labyrinth, consider yourself to be approaching the very source of the air that is keeping the balloon inflated.


As you reach the centre, breathe this air deeply and let it nourish you. Remind yourself of those things that nourish you, and maybe add some of your own air to balloon.


As you go back out towards the unstable perimeter of the labyrinth, notice whether you feel any different about things.


l a ´ b y r i n t h n . c o m p l i c a t e d ,  i r r e g u l a r  s t r u c t u r e  w i t h  m a n y  p a s s a g e s  h a r d  t o  f i n d  w a y  t h r o u g h  o r  a b o u t  w i t h o u t  g u i d a n c e , m a z e ;  

i n t r i c a t e  o r  t o r t u r o u s  a r r a n g e m e n t .

Great. Just what we all need. Another new, complicated, irregular, confusing and dangerous thing, without an instruction manual! Didn’t some Greek hero have to enter a labyrinth and kill a mythical half man, half bull creature called a Minotaur? No way;  count me out!

As the labyrinth project neared completion, and people started to actually walk it, the benefits of a labyrinth became much more apparent. People started to walk the labyrinth for a much needed

time out. Others strolled through it simply to enjoy its beauty. For many its thick shelter of ash and cherry became a calm oasis for reflection. Today children play in it, families stroll through it, visitors explore it, and couples kiss in it!

During any important anniversary year, congregations tend to look to their roots. As the Bethune anniversary year has played out, however, we have perhaps looked to our past more than most, due

to the loss of many well-loved members of our congregation. Many have taken consolation in walking the labyrinth, thinking of those who have gone before, of those who are with us now, and of those who will come after.

W h o  b u i l t  t h i s  t h i n g  a n y w a y ?

The labyrinth is the result of the very hard work of Grant and Jane Service, Dick Robinson, Bruce and Doug Thomas, Kim Lambert and Nadya Tarasoff. Gailand MacQueen, a labyrinth expert, lent us his considerable expertise regarding its design, and assisted at its dedication.

B e  s u r e  t o  t h a n k  t h e m !