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Kindred Spirits

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Creator's Prayer Song
(Northern Cheyenne)
322Kb MP3 (monophonic)
2 minutes 44 seconds
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Labyrinth Concepts and Random Thoughts:

A Brief Primer of Sacred Objects Found at the Labyrinth

We could drone on and on about the physical characteristics of the Labyrinth, but, as the saying goes “a picture explains a thousand words,” the same, but more so, applies to the heartfelt objects visitors surrender to the cairn. In the previous webspace pages you have seen a sampling of just a few of these simple treasures. Yet these objects speak volumes about the visitors, as well as their uses of the Labyrinth. Some objects are left there for others to take, while others are obviously left there in ritual.
 
We will attempt here to identify just some of these objects and delve into those that have a history, or tradition, in the spirit world. The objects and tools used in ritual space are more symbolic than magical in their own right. But the function they perform is undeniably important.
 
Ancient Egyptians believed in the power of amulets and other charms to protect themselves from evil and to bring them good fortune. Evil forces were believed to be everywhere and special amulets and ceremonies were required to change one's fortune. Although there are many varieties of spiritual observances performed today, the basic ritual tools remain the same.
 
Ritual tools are not absolutely necessary at the Labyrinth, though many people find them helpful as tangible symbols of the process. A ritual tool should be recognized only as a symbol of power used to evoke an appropriate setting and should not be treated with fear. Always remember that rituals at the Labyrinth are more symbolic than magical.

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Akaba Talisman:   (also known as Akuaba or Akapa) Akaba Talismans are a powerful form of folklore used by the Ashanti people who live in what is generally Ghana. Akaba dolls are played with by little girls to teach them how to take care of children, but the talisman, whose proportions are considered beautiful, is primarily seen as a tool to increase fertility in the childless and to ensure a beautiful healthy baby by the pregnant.

 
 
Artificial Intelligence:   Hands down, artificial intelligence will prove to be man’s greatest achievement. Forget man’s inevitable mastery of the atom, and colonizing the distant planets. And our arts (a human manifestation) are not likely to be understood by alien civilizations. It’s artificial intelligence that will sweep across the universe.
 
There will be no intellectual clash between the two, since, after a certain level, communication between man and artificial intelligence will be pointless. It will probably begin to manifest itself as man begins to send intelligent space probes to the nearby stars, where communications, even at the speed of light, will necessitate autonomous decisions and actions on the part of the probe.  Of course, man will have to co-exist and learn to deal with the presence of a superior being, but so will outmoded forms of artificial intelligence.
 
In the past, man has actually embraced the presence of superior beings: gods. The downside is that, at the time, man felt that his own accomplishments were unimportant, and that worship and the afterlife was where it was truly at. The flop (or uneventful passing) of the Christian First Millennium radically changed western man’s outlook on the world, that dramatically switched emphasis to a “can do” attitude and set the stage for the Renaissance (which we’re still in, by the way). Our descendants will somehow have to define and develop a culture that will give meaning and purpose to their lives.
 
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Astrology:   Ancient astronomy. (Greek astron “star”; legein “speak”) Astrology is thought to foretell the future by studying the influence of the relative positions of the moon, sun, and stars on human affairs. The astrologer casts a horoscope based on the time and place of the subjects birth. Western astrology is based in the 12 signs of the zodiac; Chinese astrology is based on a 60-year cycle and lunar calendar.
 
An archaic science, a strongly held belief in ancient Babylon, astrology spread to the Mediterranean world and was widely used by the Greeks and the Romans. In Europe during the Middle Ages it had a powerful influence, since kings and other public figures had their own astrologers.
 
The once-held assumption that Earth was the center of the universe was crucial in serious interpretations of astrological readings. This belief was supposed shattered by the Copernican revolution in the 16th century, yet astrology later experienced a deathbed renaissance and is now widely enjoyed as a popular, though admittedly superstitious pastime. Whether professing belief in astrology or not, almost everyone in the western world knows his or her astrological sign.
 
“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny, but in ourselves.” –William Shakespeare
 
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Ceremonial Burning of Tobacco:   Before smoking a ceremonial pipe, the American Indian would toss a token amount into the fire, so that the fragrant smoke would rise up into the heavens and appease to spirits of deceased friends and family.

 

 

Ceremonial Smoking of Tobacco:   After tossing a token amount of tobacco into the fire, the American Indian would light his calumet (ceremonial pipe), take a puff, then, still holding it with both hands, pass it to the person on his left. The pipe would continue around the circle until the last person had smoked. The pipe would then be respectfully passed back, to the right, completely around the circle, for the host to tamp, re-light, and repeat the process, again to the left. Any tobacco ashes cleaned from the pipe would be carefully deposited onto a flat stone beside the fire pit.

 

The American Indian also enjoyed casual smoking with his personal pipe and, the much later, pipe-tomahawk  (a European invention). Sitting in a circle, or in small groups, each person usually had his own pipe, and the setting was completely light-hearted and informal.

 

Ceremonial Tobacco Track:   A tobacco track laid out across the path at the Labyrinth imparts good will to all who cross it. Grown and traded by the American Indians of the east, southeast and northeast, tobacco was typically planted and cultivated using implements fashioned from the branches of a tree that had been struck by lightening. While divine, this just simply made it kosher.
 

After harvesting and curing, special spiritual properties were then bestowed upon the tobacco, by virtually anyone, with simple rituals that varied greatly, depending on locality. In one such ritual, one would stand on a hilltop, or by a river, at sunrise. Tightly twisting the tobacco leaf, clockwise, the proper chants were recited. The blessed skein of tobacco was then cut into small pieces and scattered across targeted paths of foot traffic.

 

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Corn Meal Track:   At the Labyrinth, its presence simply alerts visitors to observe common courtesy if others are in meditation or ritual at the central cairn. If no one is present at the center, feel free to pass through. It’s quite common to be waved in by those at the center.
Historically practiced by the Indians of the American southwest, in time of ritual. The village shaman would sprinkle a track of corn meal across any and all trails leading to the village on the mesa as a signal to outsiders that passage was forbidden for the duration of the ritual, sometimes running into days.

Crystals:   Many types of stones are thought to protect against misfortune, but special metaphysical properties are credited with those that interact with light. Crystals are intuitively the stone of choice in preparing ritual space and are compatible with a full spectrum of religious faiths and spiritual beliefs. It is believed that crystals have the ability to connect to spirits, spirit guides, spiritual energy and help with channeling spirits and increase cosmic awareness.
 
Some credit crystals for their spiritual awakening. Modern day psychologists agree that the subconscious controls every word, deed and action in our conscious lives. Crystals work psychologically on the subconscious as a constant reminder of what you desire to achieve and strengthens the power of positive thinking.
 
Crystals have a rich history in mythology, legends and folklore. Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Celtic, Native American, Australian Aborigines, ancient Chinese and ancient Japanese cultures all included crystals in at least some of their spiritual rituals.
 
Especially valued are clear quartz crystals. Quartz (silicon dioxide) is one of the most abundant minerals in the world. Sand is mostly comprised of quartz. Even the trace amounts of dust in the air we breathe is high in quartz content. And quartz crystals really do vibrate. Quartz is both piezoelectric and pyroelectric.
 
Clear quartz cleans the aura, contains great healing energy, and has very strong powers of protection. Clear quartz crystal is the universal stone, excellent for meditation and bringing harmony to the soul. It corresponds to all zodiac signs. Many are drawn to clear quartz crystals as the ultimate symbol of purity, a representative of perfection.

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Crystal Ball:   Crystal gazing or scrying the future within a crystal ball was a popular pastime in the Victorian era and has remained popular through to today. Scrying with crystal balls can involve elaborate rituals for cleaning the crystal ball or you can simply cleanse it with salt water bathed in the sun and moon, in a stream with running water or with incense. Crystal balls are excellent for conducting crystal-gazing sessions, which are said to work best when the Sun is at its northernmost declination. Immediately before the appearance of a vision (which may be realistic or a mere wispy swirl), the globe is said to mist up from within.

 
 
Death:   Our only true connection with the afterlife may be that of ritual space: the honoring and remembrance of the departed, those who were close to us when they were alive.
 
We are all familiar with stories of near-death experiences: the long dark tunnel into a surreal world of light, being warmly greeted by deceased loved ones, and a reluctance to return. Yet, those who have come back and described these events did not experience death, but simply an initial phase of the medical dying process. This recent phenomenon appears to be more of a testimony to the miracles of modern medicine and not a timeless spiritual experience that is suddenly being brought out into the open and embraced by the public. Yet it is very likely that near-death experiences, in ancient times, may have been the basis for our present beliefs in the soul and the afterlife. Today, a substantial number of those who have come back from a near-death experience have embraced a spiritual outlook on life and have taken on a new direction, a mission in their earthly realm.  
 
Yet, there is one intriguing feature in almost all of the differing accounts of heaven. It really makes no difference whether heaven promises to be a harem of beautiful maidens, or a bright, light-hearted, airy world of clouds, with singing angels and deceased loved ones, or simply an unbelievably prosperous extension of one’s present life. The attribute that is common throughout all of the written accounts of heaven is that heaven is, surprisingly, earthlike. Our forefathers, in easing our inevitable meeting with the grim reaper, may have felt that we would fear an afterlife that differed dramatically from the present.
 
Another thought, and an uncomfortable one, is that most concepts of heaven appear to have been shrewdly devised to de-value our earthly existence. One must remember that, in pre-literate society, a blessed few received a formal education and enjoyed a truly enlightened existence. Certainly, popular folklore celebrating the underdog abounds: that Christopher Columbus had a theory that our world was spherical in shape and was determined to put his theory to a bold and dangerous test.
 
But the fact of the matter is that all privileged, educated people at the time knew that the earth was round and they believed it to be a perfect sphere, with a circumference of 24,867 miles (very close!). And they did not correct Columbus when he declared that his own calculations determined the world was about 15,000 miles in circumference, putting the orient well within reach. You see, at the time, accurate and truthful information was for the privileged only. The afterlife was preached to the masses while the privileged class was preoccupied with the here and now. And Columbus was allowed to set out on his adventure, which was, at the time, believed to be far more hazardous than he could ever have imagined.
 
Just, maybe, the concept of heaven is a veiled word to the wise. Man did evolve on Earth. We function at our best on terra firma –more than anywhere else. And we are superbly equipped to breathe, experience joy, run, hunt, love, wage war, yet practice surprising acts of charity. Life, more so than the afterlife, freely offers us the paths of good or evil, a pure, idyllic existence where virtue is its own reward. And that is the true spirit and essence of us all. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Take away any part of that formula and the human spirit will truly cease to exist. Even in the afterlife. The veiled word to the wise is to treat every day on this brilliant blue jewel in the universe as a unique event. Our visit here is a very special gift, and one that is all too temporary.
 
"I can't help letting my mind wander to the implications of Alzheimer's disease for the theory of an immortal soul." -- Barbara Ehrenreich
 
 
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Gaia Hypothesis:  The theory that the Earth’s living and nonliving systems form an inseparable whole that is regulated and kept adapted for life by living organisms themselves. Named after Gaia, in Greek mythology, the goddess of the Earth, the Gaia Hypothesis holds that since life and environment are so closely linked, there is a need for humans to understand and maintain the physical environment and living things around them.
 
One might convincingly argue that Man is Gaia’s most recent trump card in the game for survival. We are now witnessing Earth’s sixth mass extinction and it's the human race causing the extinctions of 50,000 species of both animal and plant life a year. Yet, in spite our man’s wide-spread ravaging and damage to the Earth and its ecosystem, the Earth’s salvation may be our unique ability to prevent mass extinctions by diverting asteroids that are on a collision course with Earth. Even the far-fetched vision of regulating the brightness and intensity of the Sun, are daunting challenges that are well within the domain of man’s intellect.
 
But, as David Attenborough, writer and presenter on BBC's Ascent of Man reminds us: Don’t kid yourself. Our great works, our incredible engineering feats, our highways, our skyscrapers, our cities are, in the scheme of things, just as natural as a mole hill or a beaver dam. And no matter what Man does to the Earth, no matter how much we ravage and plunder the Earth, the Earth’s ecosystem will quickly make the appropriate changes and bring the environment into perfect equilibrium and harmony. It can’t be any other way. You see, the Earth is a totally closed ecosystem. The real question is will Man find the new order acceptable.
 
“This world is a vast unbroken totality, a deep solidarity joins its contrary powers.”
 
–Sri Aurobindo
 

 

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The Great Flood:   An actual event that occurred at the end of the last ice age, when the both the Mediterranean and the Black Sea were vast valleys, below sea level. The worldwide melting of the continental glaciers caused a 400 to 450 foot rise of the world’s oceans, triggering a massive salt water cataract at what is now the Straight of Gibraltar.
 
The indigenous tribes inhabiting the low lying plains most likely simply gathered their belongings and fled on foot, along with the local fauna, in a casual, but unending retreat into the distant highlands. The flooding of the plains created a profound change in the local weather patterns, causing ample rainfall conditions where there was previously a developing semiarid environment, creating the illusion that the flood came from the heavens above.
 
The unfortunate few, those who retreated to local hill tops for refuge, were inevitably forced to build makeshift crafts to save their people and livestock, where hard choices were made as to who was evacuated and who was left behind.
 
Folklore of the Great Flood was passed down in oral tradition through the generations, with the inevitable embellishments that we’re all familiar with. The seemingly unlikely similarities of the epic tale among dissimilar cultures in the region prompted scientists to investigate the possibility of such a flood, formulating the very preliminary scenario described above. The next logical step is the daunting task of underwater archeological research.
 
No doubt, some nations in the area will discover their roots in some of the yet undiscovered, submerged sites. Although it is assumed that the prehistoric tribes that inhabited the basins were pre-literate, it is a tantalizing thought that a hieroglyphic stone or terracotta equivalent of the Dead Sea Scrolls may be discovered, abandoned at a time when our ancestors had to travel light.
 
Stay posted.
 

 
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Magic Wand:   The wand is a wooden stick, carved from one of the traditionally considered "sacred" woods, such as holly, yew, maple, mahogany, and used to channel power. It usually is powerfully enchanted with a magical element embedded in its core, such as a dragon’s heartstring, a hair from the mane of a unicorn, a phoenix talon or feather, silver thistle, bog myrtle, wood rose, etc. The wand is often decorated and carved in accordance with the spell caster's beliefs. The wand is an extension of the wizard or sorcerer’s mind and arm, giving direction and control to their powers.
 
If you have coveted and taken a wand left at the Labyrinth, beware. The wand may appear to do nothing. But any incantation used in ritual with the wand will produce some results, in some form, somewhere. And only an inexperienced fool casts spells about, carelessly, everywhere. Some of the greatest woes on earth are the result of a thief’s inability to control their stolen wand.
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Music of the Spheres:   The mysterious phrase “the music of the spheres” has intrigued and haunted Western thinking for over two thousand years. All energies have a frequency of vibration. Humans hear, see, and feel only a very limited band width of these universal energies. Pythagoras, the ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher, called the band widths which a human being could not see or hear "the music of the spheres."
 
The ancient Greeks believed that “the Music of the Spheres” was a perfectly harmonious music, inaudible on the earth, thought by Pythagoras and later classical and medieval philosophers to be produced by the movement of celestial bodies. This celestial music is commonly thought to be the ‘music’ of the movements of the planets of our solar system.
 
The ancient Pythagoreans believed that our familiar earthly music was no more than a faint echo of the universal 'music of the spheres'. Not surprisingly, no one has actually heard the music of the spheres. In any case, some early astronomers accepted that the 'music of the spheres' was a spiritual ideal, rather than a reality. Some suspect that the fundamental meaning, the ancient vision, may have been obscured by this primary focus on the outer world, an outer cosmology.
 
We now know that planets passing through the vacuum of space are unlikely to generate the abstract forms of music so sought after by the ancients. But, just as a tuning fork has a natural frequency for sound, the Earth, does in fact, has a natural, vibrating frequency. The earth’s free oscillation, or “heartbeat,” pulses at a rate of between 2 to 7 millihertz. Alas, while our mortal ears are filled with this background sound, we are unable to hear it, since sound waves below 20 cycles (hertz) per second are inaudible to humans.
 
With all your senses, strive to listen to this music and, along your personal journey into the mysteries of the human psyche, discover the harmonies of your own inner world.
 
 
Ouija:   Pronounced as wee-ja or wee-gee, and is a form of seance in which a central object is guided towards letters at the edge of a board. Participants place a finger on the central object and ask questions of an entity.
 
 
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Spirit Oil of the Labyrinth:   Not an uncommon feature of the Labyrinth, Spirit Oil of the Labyrinth has, in keeping with the interfaith nature of the Labyrinth, been given no special blessings, no rituals, and no special preparation whatsoever. It is special in that it’s over 20 years old. A Friend of the Labyrinth simply forgot and then rediscovered the unopened, 6 fluid ounce bottle of the oil while cleaning up her cellar. And like a 20 year old bottle of wine, the most appropriate way to enjoy it, it seemed, was to pass it around, to give others a chance to experience it.
 
Actually a massage oil, made from a simple combination of olive oil, almond oil, and essential fragrance, 
 
it has been given the name (and a label) simply to inform visitors of what it is. The tiny size of the bottle reflects the fact that it’s in extremely short supply. As a lot of things at the Labyrinth, its use and application is entirely dependent upon the visitor’s interpretation and needs.  
 
A good start, however, would be to examine the historical use of Holy Oil. Defined, Holy Oil, or more precisely, Holy Anointing Oil, is olive oil and balsam, prepared with the utmost care and reverence in the Holy Land (in Bethlehem, Israel, or on Mount Carmel, Israel), and then blessed by a bishop. Holy Oil is used in prayer, in religious celebrations, on newborns to ward off evil, for sacraments during time of illness and hardship, or simply coveted as a spiritual keepsake. It is clearly forbidden to be used in a common fashion.
 
 

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Spiritual Animal Effigies:   The American Indian would craft an effigy, or likeness of his intended game in a simple ritual in preparation for the hunt. Such visualizations and imagery were an essential part of early cultures in their struggle for survival. Pictured is a straw Inca style alpaca figurine (or effigy).
 
 
 
 
 

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Tibetan Prayer Flags:   Traditional Tibetan Buddhist prayer flags are used throughout the Himalayas, creating an atmosphere of peace, serenity, and hope. Tibetan Prayer Flags are traditionally hung atop mountain summits, over bridges, roof-tops, outside temples, at crossroads, holy sites, or anywhere open to catch the wind and carry the prayers off. This is thought to be beneficial for all. The prayer flags deteriorate from time and are typically renewed each Tibetan New Year by pilgrims visiting sacred sites. The old flags are not removed, and they eventually build into wonderful displays of prayers and colors.

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Viking Runes:   The ancient practice of casting runes, in the act of divination, is still an enjoyable pastime for many. Rune casting has a history going back 2,000 years. The, much later, Viking runes were an essential part of the Nordic way of life, with village shamans consulted regularly to cast and interpret runes on important issues.  
 
The Viking runes typically consisted of a collection of small, flat stones with a letter of the Viking alphabet (or rune) painted on one side, in human blood. Shaken in a pouch, the stones were then scattered on the ground. The oracle of the runes would then begin.  
 
Unfortunately, no one today truthfully knows the ancient interpretation of a random cast of the Viking runes. Although rune casting by Germanic tribes was written about by Tacitus, the Roman historian, he was not privy to their secrets. The last masters (both men and women) of Viking rune casting died out in seventeenth century Iceland and with them died the secret oracle of the runes. The avid belief in rune casting seems to be a feature of pre-literate society.
 
But don’t be quick to make light of those who practice Viking rune casting today. We could assume that the secret of the runes was so valuable a commodity in ancient times that it was almost never passed on, and usually had to be re-invented by the next generation. Those were the times before FDR’s “New Deal” and everyone had to struggle up until their death to make ends meet. This idea is not too far-fetched. Remember the Stradivarius?
 
Never underestimate the wily, astute soothsayer who can quickly assess the personality, character and background of their client, intently listen to their specific quest, and then de-code what they are told and succinctly distill it down to its essence: the very private, yet true desires of that person. Instead of a direct response, the soothsayer will always carefully craft an answer in the form of a cryptic, yet telling, oracle. Runes, tarot cards, crystal ball, all these props, these materials are really, in the end, immaterial.
 
Runes (also called runestones) are the most ancient of the Germanic peoples' magical written symbols. If not offering us deep insights into the hidden structures of the cosmos, then certainly exposing the secrets if the human psyche. The runes are a method of communicating with divinity—the god (or goddess) within each of us who embodies our pure consciousness and inward spirituality.
 

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Vision Quest:   The solitary quest for a revelation in one’s life, to seek out their guardian spirit and give direction, to make them whole.
 
In traditional American Indian culture, one would leave their village and make a solitary trek into the wilderness, to listen to the voices of the spirits and find their path in life. A person on such a vision quest would spend 3 or 4 days fasting and sitting in deep meditation, in a canyon, cave, on a mesa, on a mountain top, beside a river, or in the desert, patiently waiting, and inviting the spirits to send a revelation to them. Only in a depleted state could they be receptive to the spirits. When they were fortunate enough to have experienced a vision, they would return to their people, tired and hungry, but clearly elated. Others would often be consulted, to help them determine what they had experienced and offer suggestions as to how they were to act on their divine message. Direct contact with the spirit would be periodically maintained through later vision quests, throughout an entire lifetime.
 
The challenge for you is to discover how to evoke a similar experience in your own contemporary culture.
 
 
 
Wicca:  A wizard or witch; A religious cult based on love, worshipping a Goddess, and rituals of witchcraft. Most of the rituals involved in Wicca is based on Celtic, Norse or Druid Magical practices. Wicca utilizes certain "Astral" energies to magically transform ones life.
 
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Wind Chimes:   An adaptation of the communal wind bell of ancient Japan to ensure crop fertility, the first wind chimes were made in the Victorian era simply as a garden accessory. Wind chimes are now almost universally considered essential to the spiritual and mystical experience.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Friends of the Labyrinth
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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