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Reporting from the St. George area focused on local government, public lands and the environment, indigenous issues and faith and spirituality.

Shamans, Spirals And Sound Baths: Alternative Spirituality In Southwest Utah

A sign points the way towards a labyrinth in Kayenta against a backdrop of red mesas.
David Fuchs / KUER
The Desert Rose Labyrinth in Kayenta is one of five labyrinths and spirals in Washington County that KUER reporter David Fuchs visited while reporting this story.

It’s widely known that Southwest Utah has an abundance of red rocks, scenic vistas and retirees. But off the beaten path, the region is rich in another resource: labyrinths.

Catering to both residents and visitors alike, the contemplative walking paths are part of a burgeoning cottage industry offering wellness and alternative spirituality, which ranges from acupuncturists and energy healers to sound baths and shamans.

KUER’s David Fuchs went in search of what’s driving this interest in Southwest Utah and found himself navigating a labyrinth of his own.

Rocks are placed in spiral circle.
Credit David Fuchs / KUER

The path at Red Mountain Resort, shown above, is technically a spiral, not a labyrinth. The difference between the two is that a spiral winds in concentric circles whereas a labyrinth twists through a series of circuits. Both are different than a maze because there is only one way in and one way out with no dead-ends.

A short clay labyrinth is set on a flat mesa against the backdrop of Zion Canyon.
Credit David Fuchs / KUER

The labyrinth above Flannigan’s Inn in Springdale is open to the public. Its circuitous design is modeled after the famous Labyrinth of Chartres, which was built in a French cathedral during the 12th and 13th centuries.   

Rocks are laid out in a labyrinth formation against a backdrop of red rock cliffs.
Credit David Fuchs / KUER

Built by volunteers, it took over 800 stones to construct The Desert Rose labyrinth in Kayenta.  

A crystal-energy machine hangs over a massage table.
Credit David Fuchs / KUER

Beyond the winding paths, venues for other alternative spiritual practices are growing in number as well. One of the first people to bring shamanic practices to spas in Southwest Utah is Gwen Moon. “Before I was doing this, I don’t believe there were any Native people that were doing anything in a spa environment,” she said. “I am one of the grandmothers of this movement.”

A key tool in her light and energy work is a machine known as the “Vogel Photonic Triangulation Unit,” shown above. It sends pulses of strobing, colored light through pieces of natural Brazilian quartz crystals, which Moon says have been faceted to sacred geometry. Moon describes its effect as a “laser infusion of color and light into the chakra system and an energy transfusion.” A portrait of Moon hangs on the wall, which she says her daughter jokingly referred to as “the poca-lisa.”

An older man plays the didgeridoo in a basement filled with instruments.
Credit David Fuchs / KUER

Sound healing enthusiast Bob Rhees of La Verkin has a basement filled with instruments, including didgeridoos, hang drums, gongs and hundreds of Native American flutes.

When asked how he responds to people who are skeptical of his practices, Rhees told KUER that he doesn’t mind the critics. “If you think I’m weird, that’s okay,” he said. “It works for me.”

David Fuchs is a Report for America corps member who reports from KUER's Southwest Bureau in St. George.

David is a reporter and producer working on Sent Away, an investigative podcast series from KUER, The Salt Lake Tribune and APM Reports.
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