Chartres

Chartres

I’d like to have a bumper sticker that says “I Brake for Cathedrals”. It doesn’t matter that there are no cathedrals within 500 miles of my home, I just want to be prepared. Seven weeks in Spain with a daily cathedral fix wasn’t enough to satiate me. I can’t get enough of stain glass, vaulted arches and high alters. So of course when I took Caroline to Paris when she was 17 I had to go Chartres Cathedral that rises majestically above a small town on the outskirts of Paris.

In 2007 Caroline and I spent 10 days in Paris going to every museum in the guide book, she a budding art student and me wanting to relive the month I spent in Paris as a college student. We did take a side trip to Bruges, Belgium and on the way back I struck up a conversation with some fellow Southerners. I mentioned I was going to Chartres on Friday. They said they would be there too and that was the only day the labyrinth was open.

A driver picked us up in a mini-bus along with another family for a morning in Chartres and afternoon at Versailles. I asked if there would be time to walk the labyrinth. He replied the unforgettable words “there is no time in Chartres”. Those prophetic words rang in my ears the entire day as I stepped out of human time into Divine time.

Caroline laid on a bench, a bit sick with a virus I had the day before, and I took the tour. We wandered around admiring the blue stained glass windows that are unique to Chartres. The blue is said to filter the light to make the space harmonious for initiation. No one knows how it was made but the formula was thought to have been brought from Jerusalem by the Templars. I marveled at the enormous pillars that had held the soaring ceiling for 800 years and toured the choir and alter. Chartres had been the home of a mystery school a thousand years ago and was built on holy underground streams.

The tour guide and other family wandered off to find some breakfast and I headed to the labyrinth. I had dreamed a long time of that special labyrinth. The circular walkway weaves in and out, back and forth, teasing you with the center so close just to take you back out to the edge and then magically you have arrived. I had never walked a labyrinth before, I wanted to save that first experience for the holy mother of all labyrinths at Chartres.

The labyrinth is in the nave and normally covered with chairs but on that Friday the chairs were moved to surround the magic space and several dozen people were seated watching the walkers. I’m normally a very self-conscious person and that would be unnerving to have people watching me, but I didn’t care, I had a task to do that I had waited a lifetime for. Just as I was about to step on to the path I saw my friends from earlier in the week just a bit ahead. We were the only ones walking, we smiled knowing that we had come back together for this sacred moment. In the center we met and hugged, never said a word, because to speak would have broken the spell of that infinite moment.

I slowly walked back out so happy to have that small break in my life to walk this internal pilgrimage to the heart, to come back out with the gift of a moment of eternity. There was only one thing I could do and that was to go sit in the chapel of Our Lady of the Pillar, a beautiful statue of Mary and baby Jesus dressed in golden robes and crowns. She is the black Madonna, the earth goddess, a reminder of the druid shine that was on that land two millenia before. I sat there and gave thanks for my morning of perfect sacred timelessness.

Our Lady of the Pillar

http://chartrescathedral.net/

http://www.labyrinthos.net/chartresfaq.html

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Sequoyah

sequoyah

Not far from my home, about a 30 minute drive, is the birthplace of a remarkable man, Sequoyah. I often go there and take friends to this peaceful little museum and park tucked away in the coves of a man-made lake. The tiny museum, with an entrance fee of $3, has displays and a movie chronicling the history of the Cherokee people and Sequoyah.

If you’ve never heard of Sequoyah let me tell you about this genius that changed the lives of the Cherokee. Born in Tennessee around 1776, Sequoyah was a silversmith. Although he was illiterate he was fascinated by what he called “talking leaves” the white settlers used to communicate. So he set out to create a syllabary made of 86 symbols representing the syllables of the Cherokee language. It took him about 12 years from 1809-1821. The museum says that he received great inspiration from listening to bird sounds. He taught his young daughter to read and used her to prove his system worked. He asked the local councilmen to tell him something to write and then had his daughter to read back their words. Despite having endured ridicule for his endeavors, his system of writing was quickly embraced by the Cherokee nation and the majority of the Cherokee people were literate within months, surpassing the literacy of the local settlers.

No person had ever before singlehandedly developed a syllabary and Sequoyah was able to do this without being literate in any other language. His system was so well developed that is was fool proof and easy to learn and his syllabary is still being used. Newspapers and books were published with this new syllabary and it was essential for helping preserve the history, culture and spiritual practices of the Cherokee. Sequoyah went on to be a diplomat and statesman and was awarded a silver medal of honor by the Cherokee National Counsel which he wore the rest of his life.

Sequoyah is a modern day Thoth, the Egyptian god of writing and language. Sequoyah saw that written language empowered people and wanted his own nation to have this same autonomy. Unfortunately the Cherokee were brutally removed from the eastern US to Oklahoma during this time and Sequoyah worked to reunite the tribe and helped create a syllabary that would work for all the Native American languages.

Like Thoth’s caduceus in the library and Quan Yin holding the energy in the garden, Sequoyah’s presence has been in my home for over 30 years. A lithograph of his famous portrait hangs in the front hall along with other notable Native Americans. My father-in-law collected these portraits because they were produced by someone with our same last name and he also loved history. I prefer to think that my land and home welcomes the learning and wisdom exemplified by this great man and I’m honored that he has a special place in my home.

Sequoyah birthplace

Replica of Sequoyah’s home in Tennessee