|A natural spring popped up near the labyrinth entrance.|
What a blessing! A natural spring popped up the day we arrived at the site for the labyrinth in the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park. We couldn’t have been given a warmer welcome by Mother Nature as we began our first day creating the Chartres-inspired labyrinth, which will be the central feature of the Judith Groleau Healing Garden. With a little digging, Marty turned the spring into a well, and we consecrated it as a sacred well with reverence for the holy waters. We have added a couple of Marty’s hand-carved statuettes, crystals, and some flowers from the surrounding gardens. We keep adding more elements each day, as do the many visitors who stop by to watch us work.
It’s not the first time a spring has popped up at or near the entrance of one of our labyrinths. When we put in the spiral-pattern labyrinth in the driveway at our house, a spring bubbled up in the empty lot across the street and started running over the curb into the storm drain. When we were finishing up an installation in Gallipolis, Ohio, a spring emerged at the entrance of the labyrinth with a flow so strong that we had to put a couple of four-inch PVC pipes 18 inches underground to channel the water. All of these natural springs seem to have some kind of healing properties, yet the spring that appeared here in the Healing Garden seems to be extra special, especially since we consecrated it as a sacred well.
|The natural spring bubbles up from deep underground, |
blessing the site with holy water.
We have had a fascination with sacred wells for many years, probably because we work so closely with Nature and marvel at little miracles like natural springs. Since ancient times, people have made pilgrimages to natural springs and holy wells for healing, where they would drink or sometimes bathe in the water to seek relief for a variety of ailments from rheumatism to scurvy, broken bones to leprosy, impotence to infertility. Scientists have since discovered that the water of some holy wells contains curative properties, mostly because of the presence of certain minerals. However, the healing properties of springs and wells go far beyond their medicinal qualities.
Sacred wells were also places of divination, and shrines were built around them dedicated to the miraculous emergence of the numinous water, which was believed by pagans and Christians alike as possessing a spiritual force and the presence of divinity. The holy wells of the British Isles were such popular places of worship in pagan times that the early Roman Catholic Church went to great lengths to wipe them out. Then as Christianity gained power, these pagan temples were transformed into Christian churches. In fact, many of the magnificent Gothic cathedrals were built on the sites of sacred wells, including Chartres Cathedral, home of the Chartres-pattern labyrinth, which is the inspiration for the Chartres-style labyrinth that we are creating here in the Healing Garden at the Botanic Garden at Historic Barns Park.
Traditionally, pilgrims would bring an offering to the well so that the healing power of the well could act upon it by proxy. This ancient practice continues to this day. Every morning before we begin the workday, we leave a token, such as a stone or a flower blossom, with our prayers and expressions of gratitude. During the day, many tour groups stop by to watch us work. From day one, we have invited visitors to float flowers and place stones or other sacred objects in and around the edge of the sacred well. Like the pilgrims from centuries ago, they offer these sacred objects with their silent prayers to wash away whatever might be ailing them and express gratitude for all of the good in their lives.
|Visitors add sacred objects, such as stones and flowers, |
to the gratitude well.
One day, we noticed a boy among the crowd who looked pretty heavy-hearted. Turns out that he lost his grandma recently and he was sad as could be and really downtrodden. Debi led the boy over to the spring, where he sat quietly and gazed into the rippling water. After awhile, he came over and thanked us. He looked like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders. We couldn’t believe the transformation in him! Obviously, the sacred well and the energy of the labyrinth were already having a very healing influence. In fact, we have heard that visitors love the sacred well so much that the Botanic Garden administrators are now talking about making it a permanent part of the Healing Garden!
Dr. Munson, the founder of Traverse City State Hospital, believed in Beauty and Nature as powerful medicine for healing. Munson was a firm believer in the "beauty is therapy" philosophy, treating patients through kindness, comfort, pleasure, and the satisfaction of meaningful work. Flowers provided a source of year-round beauty, tended by patients in the asylum's own greenhouses and expansive gardens on the grounds. A hundred years later, his vision is still here, being rebirthed and coming to life in ways that he probably could never have imagined. We are honored and so very grateful to be on this journey!
|Debi introduces the gratitude well to one of the many |
visitors who stop by on garden tours.