Creating Labyrinths

In a recent post, I mentioned the labyrinth I walked while I was on retreat. The topic of labyrinths deserves a post of its own, and here I will describe different ways to make your own, even if you don’t have any land or space.

Knowing how much I love labyrinths, my husband surprised me one day a few years ago by mowing a seven-circuit, Classical labyrinth design in our yard while I was at work. 

Maintaining it (with a lawnmower and a weed wacker) has been a labor of love ever since. Mowing only takes about 20 minutes, but weed wacking, which needs to be done every couple weeks, takes about three hours. I think of it as our “wildflower labyrinth” because flowers grow in the “walls” between the circuits throughout the summer. We placed a “gazing ball” orb mounted on a stone pedestal at the center of the labyrinth. 

Mowing a labyrinth seemed like the simplest way to go since we didn’t want to go through the trouble of buying and laying down rocks. It is also an easily reversible choice. 


The Classical labyrinth (scroll down to see my turquoise and purple mini replica) is a simple design that is perhaps most easily recreated by beginning with the cross toward the bottom near the entrance and working outward from there. If I were making one, I’d measure and mark it out beforehand. My husband, on the other hand, took a more “intuitive” approach; he attached the labyrinth design to his lawnmower and started mowing at the beginning of the path, moving very slowly and only a few steps at a time as he followed the path on his “map.” To each his own!

It’s a nice touch – though certainly not necessary –  to have a passage or threshold leading to the entrance. Ours is very simple:


A more permanent labyrinth may be created with rocks, as in the 11-circuit design based on the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth that I walked at Light on the Hill retreat center


or with slate, as in this seven-circuit, Neo-Medieval style labyrinth in a nearby park:


I love the entrance to the park labyrinth (photographed while exiting the labyrinth):


A portable alternative is to tape or paint the labyrinth design on tarp, vinyl, or cloth (such as a king-sized sheet) that can be laid on the ground or floor. I have considered doing this for my classroom but haven’t gotten around to it. I’m thinking it could be a useful tool for helping children to relax and center their energy. They would need to remove their shoes before walking it, to help it last longer.

If time and space are issues, a finger labyrinth could be the answer! A finger labyrinth is held in your lap, placed on a table, or mounted on a wall, and the path to the center and back out is traced with a finger (preferably the pointer finger of your non-dominant hand) or stylus. A finger labyrinth is a tool for calming and centering mind-body-spirit. In its simplest form, it can be an image you find online and print on a piece of paper. However, I prefer finger labyrinths with raised “walls” so I don’t have to pay so much attention to remaining on the path (and not inadvertently crossing over to an adjacent circuit).

Click HERE for instructions on using a finger labyrinth. 

Here are a few different designs I have replicated for finger labyrinths:

Classical
Santa Rosa
Chartres replica (sans lunations)

Applying the non-dominant hand theory, I created the above finger labyrinths with a left entrance for right-hand dominant usage with the left hand. (Does that make sense?) The pattern could be flipped for lefties.

To make the design, you could attempt to draw it freehand (for Classical style), trace it using an overhead projector, or affix a paper printout to a board (or stiff cardboard) of some sort. After much experimentation, here is my method for creating finger labyrinths:

Materials needed:

  • Artist canvas panel, acrylic-primed (11″x14″ is a nice size, but you will need 14″x18″ for the Chartres design)
  • Mod Podge
  • Dimensional fabric paint
  • Printout of labyrinth design (on plain paper, watercolor paper, or scrapbook paper)
  • Scissors
  • Acrylic paints
  • Colored pencils or crayons (optional)
  • Glitter (optional)
  • Round gemstone (optional)
  • Hot glue gun

Procedure:

  1. Print out the design, and make sure it is the right size for your canvas. You can reduce or enlarge it using a photocopier. You could bring it to a copy shop if it needs to be printed larger than you’re able to do on your own. (Variation: You could print the design on watercolor paper if you want to paint it with watercolors. Simple Variation: You could print the design on patterned scrapbook paper and skip steps 2 and 5.)
  2. Decide whether you will color the labyrinth using paint, crayons, or colored pencils. If you wish to use crayons or colored pencils, go ahead and color it at this point. (Watercolor paint is another choice but only if you printed the design on watercolor paper.)
  3. Trim around the boundary of the labyrinth using scissors so there is no excess paper around it. Or you might choose to keep a small border around the labyrinth, as I did with the Santa Rosa design, above.
  4. Attach the printout to the canvas using Mod Podge.
  5. If you are painting the labyrinth, do so now, making sure you can still see the lines. You can paint the rest of the canvas at this point if you wish, or wait until later.
  6. Very carefully, trace the “wall” lines with fabric paint. You might want to practice on a scrap paper first to get a feel for how the paint flows.
  7. Allow fabric paint to dry completely.
  8. If you haven’t yet painted the rest of the canvas, do so now.
  9. When paint has dried, cover the entire canvas with a coat of Mod Podge, and allow it to dry.
  10. If you’re using glitter, apply more Mod Podge to the center, and sprinkle on some glitter. You could even mix the glitter into the Mod Podge. Allow to dry.
  11. If you’d like, affix a gemstone at the center, using a hot glue gun.

There are many alternative methods you could experiment with, including using glue and string, sand, or tiny pebbles (instead of fabric paint) for the walls. The possibilities are endless!

Here is a simple finger labyrinth I printed on cardstock, colored with pencils, traced with black dimensional fabric paint, and put on the wall next to the Peace Table in my classroom. The children find it calming to trace the path to the center and back out.

I have a vision of creating a labyrinth in a grassy or paved area around a school. Children could walk the labyrinth as an activity during recess, or it could even be used as a tool for problem solving or conflict management – as a non-punitive “time-out” or reflective activity. I imagine it would be useful for helping children focus, as well. My husband gave one of my finger labyrinths to a blind woman who works in an alternative educational setting with teenagers when they are in highly agitated states and need to cool down. Although he gave it to her for her own use, apparently the students enjoyed it, too. 

I am now offering finger labyrinths (Classical and Santa Rosa styles) in my Etsy shop.

Here is a larger (24″x30″) labyrinth that I painted on canvas as meditative art:

To learn more about the uses and kinds of labyrinths, to find images for creating your own, or for more in-depth instructions for making them, here are two highly informative websites:

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