RMPS - Labyrinth paves the way

28th August 2009 at 01:00

One of Scotland's most northerly schools has won a prize for religious observance by invoking the traditions of Swedish fishermen, Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals.

Uyeasound Primary, on the island of Unst, finished top in the primary section of the Church of Scotland's Stevenson Prize after its pupils cast their eyes beyond formal religion.

Unst once had a large Swedish community, when herring fishing was at its height. That link led the school to the tradition of the "labyrinth", which Swedish fishermen would walk through to ask for a blessing before their season.

The school created its own, painted in the playground as a place of spiritual reflection where everyday concerns can be forgotten. Since then, two portable labyrinths have been made on canvas, for use indoors or away from the school; they are for residents and tourists as well as staff and pupils. In the centre, the words "Thank you" have been written and the symbol of yin and yang has been marked. The labyrinth, an idea also central to the Hopi Native American tradition, is a "wonderful stress- buster", according to headteacher Kate Coutts.

The school has also adopted the Aboriginal tradition of walking a "song line", which is used to reflect on identity through language, music, environment and culture.

A recent addition has been a "peace garden" influenced by Zen Buddhism, using crushed recycled glass instead of gravel.

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