In this episode, Rena interviews Emma Eastwind ,Temple Mother and Priestess of the Labyrinth Temple in Oklahoma City. The interview took place on September 4, 2021.The episode closes with a meditation from James Branum on “holy ground” — with help from Woody Guthrie.
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
See below for full transcript (when available).
Notes and links
- Labyrinth Temple website
- Labyrinth Locator
- Emmah’s recommended books:
- Keeper of the Circles: Answering the Call to Wholeness
- Mazes and Labyrinths
- Labyrinths: Ancient Myths and Modern Uses
- Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth as a Spiritual Tool
- Sacred Geometry
- The Genesis and Geometry of the Labyrinth
- Woody Guthrie’s Holy Ground lyrics
Transcript (computer generated)
Fri, 9/17 12:19PM • 39:19
labyrinth, people, ritual, pagan, walk, paganism, path, community, group, find, space, explore, church, spiritual, objector, interview, christian, journey, meditation, holy
Rena, James, Emma Eastwind
Welcome to Beyond coexistence, the podcasts in the religious humanist community known as the objector church. This this is the episode for September 2021. And I’m James Branum.
And I’m Rena. Thanks for joining us for another dive into spiritual humanism, peace activism and community building.
I will tell you for all of you listening that we are experimenting with the format for this for this for this episode in for a future episode. So, let me tell you what these what we’re anticipating these episodes to look like. The bulk of each program will be an interview that Rena conducts with various people, which will include activists to include spiritual leaders, but he may include all kinds of other people who can add something to this religious humanist peace activist community building conversation. And then what my job is, I’m going to be providing some spiritual context, especially at the end of the episodes and maybe at some other crisis as well. But of course, all of this is a work in progress. So we really appreciate your feedback as we experiment with it. So Rena, tell us about this month’s interview.
Sure. Earlier this month, I spoke with Emma Eastwood, who founded the Labyrinth Temple in Oklahoma City. I got some insights into paganism. And I, in fact, learn that it’s a topic that could cover several episodes. But I really wanted to explore the idea and practice of labyrinths from which this local group got its name. Labyrinths, of course, are an ancient, pagan ritual. But today, they are used by Christian groups, hospitals and wellness centers and many others. Now, how and why did that happen? Listen to this interview and find out.
Wow, that is interesting. It is so fascinating when a practice is picked up in so many different places. I have to say that for myself, I and I’m very much looking for this interview, in part because I want to grapple with the concept of ritual. And I’d say I grew up being very resistant to the concept because I grew up in a very extremely iconic plastic Churches of Christ. But as an adult, and particularly adult in middle age, I found a lot more meaning in ritual practice than I did when I was young. And in my case, it’s especially through the rituals of Judaism that I find find so much meaning, but admittedly, even even in this I see these rituals, not as magic. I don’t think necessarily there’s anything that’s happens in one sense, but rather, the happening is inside of us. These are human practices that help us to be more grounded and connected to our highest values.
Well, I was raised Catholic, so I’m going to call you on your resistance and raise you a high mass! When I learned about the process of walking a labyrinth years ago, and even today, I’m reminded of praying the rosary because it’s a pretty formulaic journey. But yet it’s so rich and for many cores, praying the rosary, like walking a labyrinth provides a great deal of false hope and self awareness.
Yeah, I’ve had a lot of positive experiences myself with labyrinths, and there’s several that I really enjoy and have enjoyed visiting.Here in Oklahoma City, there’s several really good ones. But one of my favorite of all is in Elkhart, Indiana on the campus of Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary — AMBS. And it’s a school that I attended for a while, it’s affiliated with the Mennonite Church. And on their campus, they have a labyrinth that is made out in the middle of a field. And it’s mostly just mowed grass in this field. But it’s they’ve landscape this which way there’s a really pretty space, in the winter time is actually my favorite time of all to be there. Because in the winter, it’s just the path in the snow. And even now just thinking about my times there on campus and walking the labyrinth and feeling happier and calmer. It really was something special. It was really a sense of that place. And it’s special in its inherent specialists. Are they placed to me is a big part of all of this. And I think what I like best about labyrinths is that they are a spiritual practice that is tied to a specific physical location. But it’s a physical location that’s often open. It’s not it’s outdoors, not indoors in most cases. And often these are even spaces where the public is invited to come and all hours a day and night to walk the labyrinth and I find that deeply meaningful but I also like that labyrinths are the kind of spiritual practice you bring whatever meaning we want to, to the practice. There are some people that approach it with variety different understandings in ways paganism, Christianity, you name it. It all works.
Well, I really like what you have to say about place because I think the the holiest quote unquote, labyrinth that I ever experienced was in Crawford, Texas. During the month I spent there with Cindy Sheehan, that Labyrinth, was at the Peace House there in Crawford. And it I mean, of course, I was there with, you know, a few 1000 of our closest friends. And it was it was really, it was really special. It was very lovingly made by the peace house founders. And of course, I’m sure it doesn’t exist there anymore. But during that month, you know, I think it was a really meaningful process and, and ritual for all for a lot of those people. And, and it was because of the place.
So after the interview, I’ll come back with some links and other resources pertaining to labyrinth. As I said earlier, there is a site where you can find one near you or wherever you’re going. If you’re listening to this, I suggest you visit the episode page on our website at objector.church, check out the photos of the temple and the labyrinth in its backyard. Because if I say so myself, I took some really good ones.
Oh, fantastic. And I’ll close up with some final thoughts and a short meditation prayer about the power place. And thank you so much for listening in. You’re invited to send feedback to us at podcast at objector dot church and we want to hear it all good, bad. Whatever you think, we’d love to hear it. It’s the only way to get better.
And ideas for other people that I can interview.
Yes, absolutely. And by the way, we are hoping to have listeners all low points. It does not have to just be Oklahoma. We will be having a lot of Oklahoma folks because that’s where we’re at. But we are a community that is the objector churches is is a national even at this point International. We have at least one member now overseas. So we are we are wanting to find we’re just we’re trying to say is there people I know they’re awesome people that you all know that would be great to be interviewed in your local community. So please be in touch podcast at objectarx dot church.
Well, now here’s my talk with Emma Eastwind. Enjoy. Welcome to Beyond coexistence Emma, I’m particularly interested in the labyrinth as a spiritual practice. A lot of people use the labyrinth in various ways, right? Tell me what it means to you. How does it focus your spiritual
Emma Eastwind 07:37
Well, being an Aquarian, I have to have options. So my Labyrinth, this labyrinth is a modified Seventh Circuit labyrinth. And the reason I and the modifications are several but the main one is there’s two entrances and exits out of it out of the labyrinth. Normally there’s only one so you can get lost, you can just go back and forth. But what I found as I’m doing more ritual, I do ritual in there, a lot of times things don’t need to go back, they just need to go forward. So the in the second entrance, it goes straight to the center from the outside. So when you’re in the center, whatever ceremony we’re doing for you and naming a baby blessing handfasting or whatever that happens in the middle after a journey right through the I call it the scenic route. And then once the hat once once that shift is happened, then they can just walk out and begin a new. So that’s why I designed it like that, because of ceremony in general. And to me, the labyrinth is always represented this path, everybody walks that. It takes you close to what you need or want and then you walk back from that. And it’s just got so many layers of opportunity for reflection for prayer and walking meditation and health benefits and the kids love it. You know, they’ll dance it, roll it, skip it, sing it, jump across this way and then come across that way and they’re just fun to watch. And so for me it’s it’s a symbol of the journey that we’re all on to find the heart space that holds spirit and doesn’t matter what you define it as labyrinths are typically non denominational there have literally had been around from for 1000s and 1000s Yours. So everybody who comes does it different, I recommend going in on a releasing, right thing, let this go, I like to start, let’s just go. So when you arrive at the center, you were empty, and you can be filled. Now, once you’re filled, you go back out the scenic route, to integrate, and absorb and express gratitude, until you’re out back on your own again. So it’s, it’s a time out of, of yourself, because you’re walking. And it’s really important that the, that you take that walk, because none of the, so much of the work that we do inner work we do is mental, you know, it’s not physical. So the physical act of walking through the labyrinth slows you down, so you don’t lose your way, step onto the wrong thing or get turned around out there doesn’t happen real often, but it will happen from time to time, if you’re not paying attention. And just that physical experience brings its own messages and things. I mean, you can we’ve used it for healing, you know, the journey, you know, to the illness, and then the journey back from the illness done healing in the center, for our for that person. course we’ve used it for, again, hand fastings weddings, baby blessings, rites of passage, it can be used in so many different ways. And I just, I just love it. And we decorate it. There sometimes, like we had a pride thing one year that we put pride flags, all around the whole path. And so no matter where you went and stepped, you saw this affirmation of being accepted. And that makes a huge difference at at a subliminal level, as well as a conscious level, you know, just to know that you’re welcome in, you’re accepted. It’s huge. And, but for, and again, for me, the labyrinth is an opportunity to share just a sacred space, you know, especially now we’ve got the old portable Labyrinth, I could take that to other places and get other people to experience it, maybe, you know, who have issues around, you know, paganism in general, but you know, still want to experience that, you know, for themselves. Because no matter who, who uses a little too big, and it’s something always comes out of it, you know, you just can’t go in, without getting something back out. It may just be a small inside, it may be a huge message. Someone always gets something out of it. Right.
So let me let me make a statement, you tell me whether it’s true or not, okay, um, that people come from their different faith backgrounds and their current beliefs to the labyrinth. And so they’re bringing that with them as they go in, and it it causes them to interpret it in certain ways. But at the same time, by doing that Labyrinth, the process, you know, facilitates them being open, becoming more open, right? And one would hope that’s the that’s the theory, right? That’s right. And, um, and so, they may at the end, while they may not have had like some complete change in their, their spirituality, but they hopefully are and maybe even commonly, are somewhat altered by it and gives them a different a new perspective and a different have deeper thinking maybe about their own spirituality and about their whatever their particular denominational or philosophical faith. Is that being true?
Emma Eastwind 14:25
Absolutely, absolutely. It’s not, like I said, it’s, it’s dead, it doesn’t belong to any particular spiritual tradition, religion or, you know, people’s it, they they’ve been found in, you know, carved into mountain sides and, you know, plateaus on top of mountains, you know, right there, they’re there and they’re everywhere, all over the world. So, each group of people who created these structures, these these symbols, they they all had different reasons for doing it, you know, at the Chartres Cathedral In France, it represented a pilgrimage that people would take to the Holy Land. And when they couldn’t get there, and nowadays with it being such a mess, a lot of people can’t go. So it’s an opportunity for them to make that spiritual journey, but in a miniature space. So it any any spiritual tradition could use it for various purposes,
but it really, you mentioned, it’s 1000s and 1000s of years old. So it certainly predates Christianity. And many of you, you know, probably Judaism, you know, it really comes from back when people’s faith was very grounded in nature. And, and I, you know, maybe what I can do is ask you to talk about paganism in general, and how, you know, how, how that ancient ancient religion has really persevered, it’s really defied, you know, a lot of suppression along the way, it still has such a, you know, Pete, so many people find that to be a path that they really respond to,
Emma Eastwind 16:20
especially nowadays, when we’re in such a climate crisis. You know, any everybody who’s been working with the earth, and with and with protecting it can find some sense of peace on a labyrinth, okay? It’s, again, because it’s not domination, everybody uses it differently. Everybody approaches it differently, get out. The pagan folks that come here, you know, we we’ve, they’ve buried crystals of under there, they, they leave offerings out there. So their journeys are pretty much as individualized as they are. And there’s no, across the board experience that anybody comes out of with that. With that on that walk. So I was fascinated by it, which is why I wanted it to be there. Once this once we created the temple itself. And my intention is to pass this on to the community. It, it took on a lot more it was that it helped us all focus on what we were trying to build. Having the labyrinth out there. It helped us coalesce our community by being on it and doing ritual on it. It helped us be visionaries, to what would be supportive and helpful to our community. And we just kept keep building on that. So we have a number of people in the neighborhood, especially that just make a regular habit of going out there and taking a walk now, and it’s open 24 seven, you know, 365 as long as you can see the breaks and find your way.
Yeah, right. Yes. For any of our listeners that might not know much about contemporary paganism. Can you explain it a little bit and one thing I do know is like saying someone is I mean, a pagan it’s like saying someone’s a Protestant, you know, so it’s not a specific thing. It’s a broad term. Yeah. What What, what does it entail?
Emma Eastwind 18:40
paganism, big giant umbrella term for anything that is not Christianity? Islam, or
Judaism, Judaism, thank you very much. or any of the major like big religions,
Emma Eastwind 19:00
those those big those are the big three. They’re all the Abrahamic traditions. And basically, anything that is not that is considered banking. Really? Oh, yeah. So it doesn’t matter to a lot of people who are in a traditional faith. They will look at someone like a Buddhist, as a pagan, you know, just don’t believe in God, my God, whatever, there’s something wrong with you. And so here, we don’t do that at all. You know, we honor all spiritual passes, having some truth to them, and validity for the person who’s walking it at that point in time. So it’s very, it’s very encouraging to me, that people so many people nowadays are opening their minds to other possibilities when it comes to spirit.
So, so someone being, you know, say, a Wiccan. A lot of people might think, well, that’s what paganism is. But that’s really just one of the many ways that can be expressed. Right?
Emma Eastwind 20:15
Right. Right. There’s, a lot of people follow a Celtic path, we’ve got a group here. And right now that’s meeting every other week, working with animism. And that is from the Scandinavian Norwegian region up there. So we, a lot of people are just scholars, they love to study the different traditions, some are into a particular realm of like fairies, we’ve got we’ve got people who are at work with the FE, and women’s, there’s the women’s people, you know, that they really would like to stick together with the goddess stuff and women’s issues. And we have some a group called sons of the goddess out there that try to come to it from the male perspective, and, or masculine perspective, we’ve got so much, there’s just so much it’s, it’s really hard to, to call quantify it, because it covers the gamut of belief systems in magic alchemy. Spirit is talking to spirit and getting message from spirit, healing methods, and, and
so it’s huge.
Emma Eastwind 21:42
It just covers so much territory, that it’s really hard to just be specific about what it is to any one person. Right.
So in terms of your organization, what do you find that people come here, and, and whatever, have those, you know, individual pagan paths that they’re on, that they are sick, you know, if they came from another, like, say, a Christian background? Do you find that they are trying to heal some of the psychic things that happen to them with that, kind of dogmatic? And it’s not just Christian, but many, many faiths are very dogmatic. And it’s all about following the rules. And not everybody is really amenable to that kind of structure. Right? So do you find people are coming to this, trying to release themselves from that?
Emma Eastwind 22:41
Absolutely. Religious trauma is huge in the pagan community, generally. Okay. There’ll be pockets that maybe escaped the indoctrination that the prevailing religious structures are pushing down. But, but there’s so much damage, so much damage from shame, blame, you know, and oppression and the acceptance of, of non responsibility. I would say, if there was anything that absolutely defined a pagan, it would be their sense of personal responsibility. Not saying, God, forgive me, not saying, you know, God bless me, God, you know, we don’t put God in that in that group. You know, basically, we take personal responsibility for anything we create, or say or think or whatever. And that I think, is huge, huge. There’s another thing that’s pretty common among all pagans, and that’s our primary purpose for being is to for connection, connection to what’s going on. And, you know, in the land and trees and the environment in general. I mean, it’s a huge, huge common denominator across most ageing paths. Some focus will focus on different things at different times. But that underlying groundwork that comes from respect for the land, and our planet, our home, here on Earth, not out there. And that’s a biggie, like so do
you just against speaking about your organization in general, do you find that locally, we’re here in in conservative Oklahoma that’s predominantly Christian and, you know, a very conservative expression of Christianity. Do you find that your your organization and what it stands for, is it is accepted or rejected by local, like interfaith groups or you want to be part of that? Do they want you to be part of that?
Emma Eastwind 25:08
Yes. Yes, I’m generally welcome. or any of our representatives are generally welcome in those settings and have been invited Vinnie, you know, a number of times over the years to speak or to join a panel, or to offer offer a class for a group. So I just had five chaplains, VA chaplains come in for to interview me and to see the space va va chaplains. And there was five of them for women one man, I was a nervous wreck, I think what I’m ready to talk to with all these chaplains, but they were just amazing. Lee, open minded, you know, and really wanted to bring solid information to possibly their clients who are on this path, because many percent of their training has been in the, and not in paganism, you know, that it’s just, it’s been, you know, with regular, traditional routes to get to that designation of pastor.
And, of course, they deal with clergy, young people, that are service members or veterans, and they, those young people generally, you know, again, you know, talking in general out generalities, they are rejecting the, quote unquote, traditional religions, and churches and looking either making their own way or finding some alternative. So there, I would imagine those chaplains are probably hearing from the people they’re trying to serve, you know, that they have needs that are not met by the traditional path.
Emma Eastwind 27:01
And the same with prisoners. there’s a there’s a number of people who are working in prison activities and holding space with them. I’ve chosen not to do that. My, my health and mobility. Sometimes I feel I’m in unsafe territory, so I didn’t feel safe with that. Not that anything would have happened to me. Yeah. I get circles around myself all the time. especially nowadays with the COVID out there just lurking Yeah, every corner. But yeah. So
um, what? What like other besides the labyrinth, what other kinds of rituals or events Do you hear and pagan rituals do they perform?
Emma Eastwind 27:58
Well, this month coming up the foundation, metaphysics of animism, the second month, so they’ll have to meet a study group, this study group, I’ll be doing some may bond crafts, which is our fall crafts next Saturday. For the members, there are several groups that rent the space to hold their meetings, their comings and things like that. And we have jewels, who’s one of our members, she’s going to be doing Tarot talk and talking about, she’s taking us through one card at a time of the major arcana. And so you get to really dive deep into that because a lot of people do Tarot. A lot of people do Tarot and an Oracle cards and stuff like that. She’s doing deep dives. Same with Sarah. They’re doing deep dives into the goddess and into the Tarot to help us really explore I mean, if like in our divination, my way there may be five decks based on the rider Waite, which is very similar symbolism, but they’re just different pictures. So we’ll lay them all out the same card all for all across a lot of decks, and discuss, you know, and explore what each of those cards is trying to communicate to us. So that’s going to happen this month, we have a session there. We have a drum circle that meets monthly, so they’ll be your mic, so there’ll be sorry, so there’ll be German their little hearts out probably in back is that on the full moon or not. That’s just when the drummer can be a moon circle. We do. We always have a full moon circle and we are doing sabots. So this this month, we’ll be having may bond which is we’re going to celebrate it on the 25th in a group called the earth and women are going to be presenting it. So we invite other groups and individuals to lead our rituals. I’ve been out of ideas for two years. Okay,
I’ll cut that out. I’ve been doing that for a long time, it starts to sound seem very monotonous. Yeah, but but the new people are small.
Emma Eastwind 30:33
They don’t know, I could go through one of these binders over here, back when I was in Florida and do some of those rituals and lay them exactly
none the wiser, right?
Emma Eastwind 30:43
But I do, I like to keep exploring new topics,
you want to explore yourself more to write. That’s why I’m here, you got to get out of it coming out of it, too.
Emma Eastwind 30:53
So this month, I’m also going to start to a pagan preppers meetup. Because most of the prepper groups out there are Christian based. And it makes it it’s difficult to sometimes feel comfortable and communicate with the Christian groups. Same same happens with like homeschooling, you know, until COVID hit most home schoolers tended to be either homesteaders or Christian based. And but it’s actually something anybody and everybody could do. It’s just, it’s we’re trying to separate ourselves from that. So we can be more inclusive and people will feel safer. Coming out admitting that, yeah, we’re not too sure about the future. Look at both coasts, they’re a mess right now. You know, then the Gulf, of course, they’re a mess. Yeah. And we used to have tornadoes all the time, here in Oklahoma, I think it shifted to the east a little bit, because we’re not having so many. But there’s no reason not to prepare for a disaster, because the less the more self sufficient, any of us can be individually takes the load off of the community, to take care of us, right. And that kind of mindset is very pagan, you know, it’s very pagan, that we take care of each other, we take care of ourselves, our families, and, and trying to, you know, help our community by not causing, you know, a strain on community resources. So, so anyway, I thought it would be a good time more people are talking about it, and I thought it’d be a good time to have it.
I mean, obviously, you know, so you want to be adaptive to new trends or new problems that people are facing, right, just like any other organization, right.
Emma Eastwind 32:50
But paganism specifically appeals to me, at the level of right here right now. You know, it’s not, it’s every we can all do something, we can all do something little, your work with the peace house, you know, I mean, 20 letters a year, may fall on deaf ears, but you’re doing something, you’re getting the word out there. And that’s all I can do. I can just hold the space and encourage people to come explore, deepen, and hopefully find out a spiritual pause, right? More than anything. People come and go all the time. We have new people at every event, which is fun. And we try to you know, we have a couple of people I call my graces, they’re so good at getting out there and welcoming people and engaging them in conversation, introducing them to others. So that’s, that’s really nice. We’ll do that. And, but right now, our big events are going to be outside. Exactly. We can barely hold 10 people inside the temple.
Yeah. I mean, this is a former House. Yeah, the beautiful house by the way, you’ve written declaration. It’s very common with the colors and the things you’ve chosen to put out. It’s very common space.
Emma Eastwind 34:21
We’re very inclusive, we are very welcoming of a non any, just almost any tradition, spiritual tradition. We’re also very accepting and inclusive with the diversity having to do with gender, sexual orientation, gender orientation, any of those things that we welcome you and we’re and we’re happy to have you here. And you’re going to find a safe place to be in to explore fantastic. Yeah, very,
very important. Yeah, absolutely. And really, I mean, At the core of it, that’s almost why you exist. It’s like, Oh, you know, you, you have people coming from so many different backgrounds and everything. I mean, it’s the core of the safeness of the space is your real reason for being right where people can explore whatever is inside. Right,
Emma Eastwind 35:15
right. Yeah. And basically I’m a foot in the door. I just don’t want it to slam on us. Because it has in history slammed on it’s hard right? So basically, I just, I’m gonna keep my foot in the door and keep keep a space.
If you want more info about Labyrinth temple in Oklahoma City, their website is Labyrinth temple okc.org [correction: it’s labyrinthtempleokc.com]. If you want to delve into the history and practice of Labyrinth Am I recommended several books which are keeper of the circles answering the call to wholeness, mazes and labyrinths, Labyrinth, ancient myths and modern uses walking a sacred path rediscovering the labyrinth as a spiritual tool, sacred geometry and finally the Genesis and geometry of the labyrinth. Finally, if you want to find public Labyrinth in your area visit Labyrinth locator.com. That’s Labyrinth locator all one word.com. Now stay tuned for some closing thoughts from James.
But to close this program, we wanted to offer a bit of a humanistic prayer, meditation, whatever you want to call it. And the words that came to my mind in thinking about our theme for this episode, the issue of place and spirituality is a classic song by Woody Guthrie, called holy ground. He was written by him in 1954. But lady was set to music by Frankland in the cosmetics in 2003. And by the way, we’re gonna include a link in the show notes to a YouTube video that hasn’t been performed. It’s a beautiful, beautiful song. And if there weren’t all the copyright issues, we would play it right now. But what I thought I would do instead is I’m going to read just a few, the last couple of few stanzas of this, the original words from woody as a bit of a meditation as a bit of a of a hope, of an aspiration of what could be. Take off your shoes and pray. The ground you walk, it’s holy ground. Take off your shoes and pray the ground you walk. It’s holy ground. Every spot on earth I traipse around every spot I walk. It’s holy ground. Every spot on Earth. I traipse around every spot I walk. It’s holy ground. Every spot it’s holy ground, every little inch, it’s holy ground, every grain of dirt, it’s holy ground. Every spot I walk, it’s holy ground. May it be? May we all awaken to that awareness that all of the Earth is holy. All of the Earth is sacred. It’s not just places and far off places that religious people have gone to forever. And yes, those places are holding. But so we as the vacant lot. So we chose the roadside ditch. So he has all the places that we encounter in our daily lives. And if we had this awareness, imagine how the world could be different. So we’ll leave it there. Amen.
Well, again, thanks for listening to this episode of beyond coexistence. And thanks to Emmah Eastwind for taking time to talk to us. Beyond coexistence is a production of the objector church and you can find out more about our organization and work by visiting objector dot church. There are also links to our past episodes there. You can email us at podcast at objector dot church or follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Thanks again and until next time, be well be conscious and be kind.