by Marie Lee
The word Mandala means circle in English. This mandala is being made to honour the children who lived in the Industrial School and the Penitents and Magdalene sisters who lived in the Magdalene Asylum in the buildings on this site. The Penitents and Magdalene sisters would have worked in the laundry which is also on this site. The children in the Industrial School were as young as one year of age and the Penitents, some who later became Magdalene Sisters would have been as young as twelve years old. They were not allowed to mix with each other consequently the Industrial School children, the Penitents and the Magdalene Sisters were all housed in separate buildings with locked doors separating them. These were all female institutions run by the Sisters of the Good Shepherd.
Mandalas are made to send positive or healing energy to an environment or to anyone who views them. This mandala is being made in the church as it was the only place that the groups were permitted to be in the same place together although they would not have interacted and again would have been separated. This area where the mandala is being made is where the children would have sat and I feel it is a fitting place to create it.
When sand mandalas like this one are complete they are swept up, which signifies the impermanence of all things. The sand is then poured into flowing water which can be used to let go of hurt and pain and to send out the healing in the mandala to the rest of the world. This one also will be swept up and put in a nearby river.
Typically mandalas are made in colour but this mandala is being made in white to signify the innocence and purity of those who lived here.
The mandala design chosen is based on the Cosmological Circle which has been used as a symbol of universal harmony as it represents the complete order of the universe. It is used to attract happiness, blessings, justice and prosperity.
The central symbol used is the Celtic Spiral due to its’ proliferation at ancient Irish sites as this mandala is being made in Ireland and the Industrial School and Magdalene Home were Irish institutions and are part of our unresolved history. The Celtic Spiral can mean the path inward to nirvana or bliss, it is also associated with letting go and release.
People who meditate on mandalas rest their gaze on the outer rim first and slowly progress over time to the point of nirvana at the centre. The outer rim represents the outer world and each circle inward represents a step toward ones inner world and towards enlightenment which is represented in the centre.
Mandala designs have been used by all religions including Christianity, and this churches’ stained glass is replete with them.
In India people make Kolams which are mandala designs drawn on the ground with rice or chalk. The initial design in chalk for this sand mandala was left for a day or so to mirror this practice and to allow it to progress gently toward completion.