Two students relax at the edges of Juniata’s new labyrinth, an ancient method for reflection or prayer. The pattern on Juniata’s labyrinth is taken from the labyrinth at the Cathedral at Chartres.
On every college campus there is a student center, but where can students go to become centered? On the Juniata campus, stressed-out scholars can head to Beeghly Library and “walk” the newly installed labyrinth, an ancient aid to meditation or prayer. A labyrinth is a maze-like structure laid out on a flat surface, but the labyrinth differs from mazes in that mazes are complex puzzles featuring choices of path and direction, while a labyrinth has just a single path that leads to the center. Juniata’s circular labyrinth is constructed in paver bricks and forms a contemplative study space near the north end of Beeghly Library. “To ‘walk’ the labyrinth you start and follow the meandering path until it leads you to the center,” explains David Witkovsky, chaplain at the College. “The metaphor is that as you walk toward the center, you clear your mind and find your own center.” Juniata’s labyrinth was installed this fall as the class gift from the College’s class of 2009. The project cost
$15,000 and the class raised $13,380 for the gift. Labyrinths date back more than 4,000 years and archeologists have found the patterned structures in sites in Crete, India, Egypt and Goa. “The labyrinth doesn’t have to have an overtly religious connotation. It really predates Christianity and many other religions,” Witkovsky says. “As you walk out of the labyrinth, the idea is that you leave behind any worries or stress and then you’re ready to re-enter the world.” Students already use the space as a study site and Witkovsky held an educational talk and demonstration on how to walk the labyrinth in spring semester. In addition to its use as a contemplative aid, Witkovsky wants to make it clear that the space can be used for anything from studying to sports to socializing. “It’s meant to be used,” Witkovsky says. “It’s not like a flag. You’re not going to desecrate it by walking over it.” 9
Photos (left): courtesy Jacob Gordon ’10; (right) J.D. Cavrich
Into The Labyrinth: Contemplative Space Created Near Beeghly Library