A labyrinth is different to a maze. You enter a maze to loose yourself and a labyrinth to find yourself. The philosophy of a labyrinth is that there is no choice along the way. The only decision is whether you enter it and trust that the path will lead you to your goal. With their ageless forms and swirling pathways, labyrinths invite playful interaction as well as soulful contemplation. The earliest examples of labyrinths date to the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. They were found carved on rocks and painted/scratched on pottery. In Greek mythology, the labyrinth was an elaborate structure designed and built by the legendary artificer Daedalus for King Minos of Crete at Knossos.
You enter a maze to loose yourself and a labyrinth to find yourself.
The Tohono O’odham people of Native America created a labyrinth dated to the 17th century which features I’itoi. The Tonoho O’odham pattern has two distinct differences from the classical: it is radial in design, and the entrance is at the top, where traditional labyrinths have the entrance at the bottom. Curiously labyrinths also appear in Indian manuscripts and Tantric texts from the 17th century onward.
Cultural meanings for labyrinths range from people believing that they were traps for malevolent spirits, paths for ritual dances and a way to frighten and prevent demons from accessing the space. Nowdays labyrinths are a symbolic pilgrimage where people can walk the path, ascending toward salvation or enlightenment.
This particular labyrinth was created for Boom festival in 2010 with a group of dedicated volunteers. The idea being that people attending the festival would have a place to ‘ground’ when the crowds or music was too hectic. Many rocks were collected. This was probably the hardest part of the labyrinth as they were collected by hand and transported by wheelbarrow.
Before you start working on the ground, practise the pattern on some paper first. This helps for when you will draw in on the earth.
- Draw a cross. This is the beginning of your seed pattern. Mark corners and dots as shown.
- Connect top of cross with the right top hand corner. Then left top hand corner with the dot on the top right. Continue as drawing shows.
- Continue step 4 and 5 as in drawing.
Now its time to draw it on the earth, but before you start drawing decide on the size of the garden beds and the size of the pathways. Use lime or wood ash to make your markings. You may need to do this a few times before you get it right. Lime or wood ash is easy to rub back into the earth.
For the garden pictured below, the pathways were around 50 – 60 cm wide. The garden beds were around 30cm wide. Now with a tape measure in hand, start with your cross. Measure out the path distance along with the size of the garden. So for this garden we knew that every new marking needed to be at least 1m apart.
Plant the labyrinth with strong smelling herbs, flowers and medicinals. This makes your labyrinth not only beautiful but useful too. If you’re using rocks choose mediterranean herbs such as rosemary, laveder, sage, savoy and oregano. These plants handle the summer heat and the rocks keep them dry over winter. You can also create a border of agaves, lemongrass, comfrey.
Choose a beautiful centre piece. This can be either a fountain, dwarf fruit tree or small pond. Anything that attracts the eye to the centre.