A visit and creation of a labyrinth by the Oxford Forest Church
Gradually, by ones and twos, Oxford Forest Church gathered at the Rollright Stones. We congregated outside the circle at first, introducing ourselves to each other and noticing the feelings we had each brought with us.
Then we entered the circle through the gateway formed by the double stones, walking directly towards the tallest stone, and then separated, each going to stand silently by a different stone for a few minutes, watching and listening with eyes, ears and hearts, connecting with the place.
People spoke of the peace and depth of the place, and feelings of curiosity, connection with the past.
We read a poem by Malcolm Guite, entitled Prayer/Walk. Themes of prayer and walking echo through it – paths and companions and faith and vision are all mentioned, and these themes, along with change and constancy and the turning of the year at the Spring Equinox, were the themes of our gathering.
Hazel and willow branches were available, and together we constructed a simple labyrinth in the centre of the circle. Labyrinths have been used as a guide for prayerful walking for centuries in the Christian tradition.
Taking sticks and stones, branches of dry leaves, and a red ribbon, we walked into the labyrinth. It is a slow, meditative walk, and the circular paths bring you again and again to the same views – except they are never quite the same. The path seems to take you directly to the centre, but then winds slowly outwards. Just as you seem to be at the furthest point, it swings you unexpectedly into the central space.
There we laid down our symbols of autumn and winter, and took up a sprig of white dead nettle or cow parsley. Carrying this talisman of spring, we began the slow walk back to the outer world.
Previously, I have experienced a feeling of loss on leaving the labyrinth – and even a premonition of loss when I reach the centre and turn my steps outwards. But today, the journey out felt like a journey towards freedom, and my final step out of the path and into the open space within the stone circle brought me a quick rush of joy.
Others also spoke of a sense of liberation on leaving the labyrinth. Some felt deeply moved by the continuity with the generations of unknown people who have connected with something of the Divine in this place. Many were strongly drawn to the sculpture of the dancing fairies, which currently stands just outside the circle.
We closed our gathering in song and prayer, allowing the reflections and experiences of this time to take root. Then everyday life rose around us again: we shared cake and coffee, and listened as children gleefully spotted the labyrinth and started chasing each other through it.