A labyrinth, magic and a sleepover for women

The first time Margaret Underwood walked a labyrinth it was carved out of snow.

It was about three feet deep and it had been mapped out on a huge field in Upstate New York.

“Somebody had turned up from Brazil with some new gemstone that had been discovered, they had lots of bits of it so everybody had a bit taped to their third eye, and off we went,” she says, laughing.

“It was a lovely sunny day in the snow. It’s quite a magical thing to walk a labyrinth.”

The indoor labyrinth at Grace Cathedral. CREDIT: Grace Cathedral

Since then Margaret has walked labyrinths around the world – from the beaches of Taranaki to the home of the Modern Labyrinth Movement, which is in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.

The ancient practice is a mystical tradition found in various forms across a wide range of faiths. It involves walking the trail of a labyrinth and it is used for spiritual centering, contemplation and prayer. 

Margaret Underwood walking a labyrinth she created on a Taranaki beach. CREDIT: Supplied

Years after her first labyrinth experience Margaret was gifted a giant labyrinth of her own. Hers is made of silk and was lovingly handcrafted by a nun to be an exact replica of the one at Chartres Cathedral in France, which was built around 1200AD.

This coming weekend she will share her silk labyrinth with Taranaki at an event called Women Dreaming.

The overnight event sees women come together to simply be at one with the world. There will be a live harp player, areas for yoga, group meditation, spiritual healing, cups of tea, relaxing quiet spaces, and of course labyrinth walking.

Then, at the end of the night the women fall asleep together and dream of the kind of community they want to create for their ancestors.

Margaret Underwood, front, and Cecily Bull are gearing up for Women Dreaming.
CREDIT: Taryn Utiger

These overnight events originated in Grace Cathedral in San Francisco and this will be the second time Taranaki has had a Women Dreaming sleepover.

About five years ago the first event was organised by Margaret and held in the one of the region’s most sacred spaces – the Taranaki Cathedral.

“I attended one in Grace Cathedral, because my harp tea cher in the United States plays the harp for these events” Margaret says.

“She kept telling me I would really enjoy these events, so finally I managed to make it happen. About 70 women came that night and I remember waking up in the morning lying on the floor of the Catherdral looking up, and the sun was coming in through the stained glass windows.

“I remember just lying there and thinking, ‘This is such a magical moment, it would be so wonderful if women in New Zealand would do this too.’

“So I said to my friend Helene Young, who is an Anglican minister, ‘What do you reckon? Do you think they would let us do this in the Taranaki Cathedral? So we asked, and they did.”

Since then the Taranaki Cathedral has been closed for earthquake strengthening, and Margaret and Helene haven’t had a sacred space to run the event. Six months ago Margaret and her friend Cecily Bull started talking about making it happen in 2019.

With the Cathedral still closed they contacted the St Joseph Catholic Church and were delighted to be welcomed with open arms.

Cecily says the church is a sacred space, with sacred energy and sacred geometry, so it helps with the overall experience. However, the fact that Women Dreaming is held in a church does not preclude women of any faith, or no faith at all, from coming.

Cecily first heard about the Women Dreaming events about five years ago when she opened the Taranaki Midweek and saw a little advert.

“So I went along and afterwards I felt spacious, and connected to myself, and to others,” Cecily says.

“There’s a sense of community, which is really special… It’s an opportunity to recognise and give space to the divine feminine, which is that deep Earth Mother, the nurturing, the caring, the compassion.”

Women Dreaming is being held from 7pm Friday May 3, til 10.30am Saturday May 4. Tickets are $50 and include evening snacks and breakfast. All of the money raised will go to Taranaki Retreat.

By Taryn Utiger