People are Mystified by my Labyrinth
When people hear about my new labyrinth, the first question isn’t “Why?”, which I’d expect, but rather “What?” So we’ll start there.
What is a Labyrinth?
At first glance, a labyrinth and a maze look the same. There’s an entrance, a center, and a path you walk. But, as this previous post explains, there are big differences between the two constructions. A maze is deliberately deceptive, full of twists and turns intended to get you lost. A labyrinth is unicursal, meaning that there is a single path and the entrance and exit are the same.
When Were the First Labyrinths Created?
Designs of labyrinths have been found on pottery, tiles, and tablets that date back 5000 years. Almost every region of the world has labyrinth symbols in its antiquity. Celts described the labyrinth as the Never Ending Circle. In Native American tradition, it is identical to the Medicine Wheel and Man in the Maze.
Where Will You Find Labyrinths?
The best known labyrinth was embedded in the stone floor of Chartres Cathedral near Paris in 1201. Other notable examples include ones in: the Old Summer Palace, Beijing; Dunure Castle, Scotland; Lands End, San Francisco; The Edge, South Africa, and Damme Priory, Germany.
Today, labyrinths can be found in parks, prisons, retreat centers, medical centers, and backyards like mine.
To find a labyrinth near you, check out the worldwide labyrinth locator.
The Path isn’t a straight line; it’s a spiral. You continually come back to things you thought you understood and see deeper and deeper truths.Journey on Earth
Why Walk a Labyrinth?
Prehistoric labyrinths are thought to have served as traps for harmful spirits. For example, more than 500 labyrinths, built in Scandinavia, were probably constructed by fishermen to trap trolls so that fishing expeditions would be safe.
The Middle Ages were a big time for pilgrimages. When long distance travel was dangerous or too expensive to allow for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, people would travel instead to places like Chartres. There, they’d walk the labyrinth, sometimes on their knees. Their belief was that if you walked the labyrinth with the dedication of a pilgrim, you would be transformed.
Today, labyrinths have religious or spiritual meaning for some, and meditative value for others. Trained facilitators guide people through labyrinth walks to help them relieve stress, gain creative insights, quiet their minds, and recover a sense of balance and perspective.
How Do You Build a Labyrinth?
There are great examples of labyrinths and detailed instructions for building one on my Pinterest board. Unfortunately, I’m spatially challenged and not at all comfortable trying to work out the spiral or circular pattern that is typical of most labyrinths.
Fortunately, there’s a company that prints labyrinth designs any size you want on weed blocking landscape cloth. I chose 11′ x 11′ (larger ones were too expensive for me) in the classic Chartres design.
A labyrinth can be constructed with paver stones, grass, hedges, just about anything. Mine is rocks from my property to form the design, with limestone screening to make the path. There’s also a one-inch layer of limestone screen underneath the landscape cloth to provide a solid base (the stuff hardens like concrete) and hopefully prevent weeds.
Context matters when the goal is a quiet, reflective journey inward, so I’ve tucked my labyrinth into a spot in the lower meadow that can be glimpsed from the house but can’t be seen from the road. Three Zimbabwean stone sculptures of angels encircle the space. When I have time, I’ll cut more branches from trees to complete a simple path down to a nearby stream. A wooden bench will be added next year.
Solvitur ambulando=It is solved by walking.Saint Augustine
How Do You Walk a Labyrinth?
There are no rules. As you can see from my photos, the paths are narrow so it’s impossible to stride through a labyrinth quickly. As in life, the idea of a labyrinth is acceptance that we are where we are meant to be, placing one foot in front of the other as we journey.
Have you ever walked a labyrinth?