Consider a Labyrinth

By Lisa Bailey, Landscape Architect

What do you have in your backyard? What could you have that would make it a place that you would love to escape to? Depending on your interests and the space available, one option might be to create a labyrinth. Used for meditation walks, for spiritual searching, or just for fun, labyrinths have been around for centuries. Coins from 350 BC depict a labyrinth as a symbol of the Greek myth of the Minotaur. The last decade in the United States has seen an upsurge in spiritual awareness, and with it, new popularity for the labyrinth. Many churches and homeowners are building their own labyrinths, or hiring a contractor to do it for them.

Labyrinths are distinct from mazes in that they have only one path that leads to the center. A maze offers choices and dead ends. The path pattern is on the ground with no raised walls to hide your view, unlike mazes, which are designed to get you lost. A labyrinth, rather, is a place to go within your Self and find out what’s there. In our often hurried and stressful lives, we rarely take the time to be with ourselves and clear the clutter that gathers in our minds. A labyrinth gives you the opportunity to do that.

There are many styles and layouts of labyrinths to choose from. A popular layout is the circular one in the Chartres Cathedral near Paris, and many others can be found in books such as Labyrinths and Mazes, by Jurgen Hohmuth. A typical labyrinth path should be about 15” wide, plus the width of the ‘line’ which could be stones, pavers or edging. The total diameter of the labyrinth is usually between forty and fifty feet, which can vary depending on the pattern chosen.

In addition to making sure you have enough space for your labyrinth, you will want to have the area be as level as possible. This will allow the user to keep a clear mind without being distracted by trying to keep his/her balance. Materials such as pavers, stones or chalk can be used to create the design in gravel, stone dust, on pavement or in the lawn. By all means, lay out your labyrinth first in string or with chalk so you can test the layout to see if you like it.


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