Author's labyrinth in Fredericton, New Brunswick
Sign at the entrance to the Labyrinth.
A labyrinth is an ancient spiritual tool that has been used throughout the world for over four thousand years. A labyrinth is a circuitous path with one entrance point that leads through a series of switchbacks to its centre. A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze, by contrast, has dead-ends and blind alleyways. Its intention is confusion and mystery. The labyrinth, when followed, leads eventually and without making choices to the centre. It is designed for one to find his/her way. The labyrinth may be thought of as a map, but as such it should not be confused with the territory that it represents, that is the inner Being and its relationship with Spirit.
The classic eleven-circuit labyrinth was laid on the floor of Chartres Cathedral in about 1201. The oldest labyrinth associated with Christianity dates from the 4th Century and is found at Repartus, Orleansville in Algeria.
A labyrinth represents a spiral approach to the Divine, through the three-fold act of release (Purgation), awakening (Illumination), and return (Union). It intentionally evokes the character of a pilgrimage, in the Christian sense a pilgrimage to the Celestial City or Jerusalem. Everything that happens on the labyrinth is metaphor and so it serves as a metaphorical doorway to personal enlightenment.
The classic Chartres labyrinth is an eleven circuit labyrinth which means it is made up of eleven concentric circles connected by thirty-four turns, twenty-eight of which are 180° switch-backs. There are ten axe-like labyrs which occur on the labyrinth. When viewing the labyrinth from above you’ll notice that the labyrs emanate from the labyrinth’s centre to the right and left and out the top, thereby forming a Cross with the entry/exit path at the bottom.
The centre of the labyrinth is a rosette, the symbol of Mary. It is also evocative of the lotus from Eastern traditions. This rosette has six pedals. One medieval tradition associated the pedals with mineral, vegetable, animal, human, angel, and unknown. The pedals may, however, represent many things collectively or personally.
Around the outside of the classic Chartres labyrinth are one hundred and fourteen lunations - 113 cusps and 112 foils - (1 cusp and2 foils are absent at the labyrinth gate). These are thought to represent the28½-day lunar cycle and may have been used for as a calendar. The bones of the labyrinth are an invisible thirteen-point star.
Two basic principles: One, on the labyrinth, everything is metaphor. Two, there is no right or wrong way to walk the labyrinth.
The people of Western-Europe have been familiar with the form and presence of the Cretan Labyrinth for many centuries. In the 12thcentury, the Crusaders brought this ancient symbol back with them from the eastern part of the Mediterranean by the Crusaders in the 12th century. This symbol found it's way relatively quickly into the hearts and minds of the people in the West, where it was incorporated into several of the new Cathedrals that were build around that time in the Gothic style. Due the shape of the labyrinth, the Roman Catholic Church of that age found it appropriate to see in this ancient symbol a perfect representation of the long and troublesome road that all mortals have to follow on their way to salvation. In later times the Labyrinth became an equivalent for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, hence the name 'Chemin de Jerusalem' which is sometimes used for this symbol. In Greek mythology, however, the symbol is exclusively connected with the myth of King Minos, the hero Theseus and Ariadne who helped him to slay the terrible Minotaur at the heart of the Labyrinth in which it was locked up. Although the symbol of the Labyrinth has been found in abundance on the Island of Crete it is not at all certain that it is the place from which this ancient object originates. In view of the close trading ties that existed between the Minoan and the Egyptian world, it is quite likely thatthe symbol of the Labyrinth stems from ancient times and is probably at least5000 years old.
I have walked a few of these, and decided to build a seven-path labyrinth around the rocks in our back yard in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Mine is a copy of a rounded version of the ancient "Cretan" type of labyrinth, with constant-width paths made entirely from semicircular and 90-degree circular arcs and short straight line segments.
This is a drone photo taken above my labyrinth in May 2017, by my neighbour Stephane Gauvreau. The white quartz stones used to lay out the outline came from my parent's farm in Carleton County here in New Brunswick. The stones used to build the rock wall protecting it and the path through it came from the ground they stand on. The labyrinth is currently lined with Hosta. Another entrance and path, nicknamed the "Roman Road" leads into the labyrinth from the top right.
Our labyrinth has two lawn chairs that make it a nice place to sit for a visit.
The Iris patch adds a nice splash of colour when things warm up in the labyrinth.
On your way in, it is kind of neat to stop and enjoy the spirea when it is in bloom alongside the inukshuk.
The path through the labyrinth along the "Roman Road", exits to the Experimental farm - very nice as the sun is going down in the evening.
We do have two apple trees, although the squirrels tend to harvest them before we can.
The labyrinth is lined with a lot of varieties of Hosta...
...and I do mean "a lot".
After a while the Hosta takes over - time to divide and replant some so we don't lose the path!
This is a view of the area before I began digging in 2005. Our dog Chloe loved this place!
As I levelled the earth, many large rocks began to turn up. They most likely had been cleared from the farm fields beyond, possibly as early as the 17th century when the Acadians occupied this part of New Brunswick. I used these to lay out the path of the "Roman Road" and to build a simple stacked standing rock wall to enclose the space, with two entrances, one of which I dubbed the "Roman Road", and the other the "Labyrinth".
As the idea for the Labyrinth took shape, it became necessary to build a second entrance to the site, so the wall was rearranged as needed – a few times, to be honest.
Once I had the seven-path pattern laid out, I began to line it with rocks.
With the outline in place, I began to lay flat stones to walk on in between the border stones.
I added stone steps and slate signs to identify the entrances to the Labryinth and the Roman Road.
Sign at the entrance to the Roman road through the labyrinth. One of my colleagues served in Syria, and gave me a stone he brought back from a real Roman road. It is placed near the entrance.
My brother Dale provided the iron dragon, which I initially named Gorm den Gammel (Old Gorm), the first King of Denmark. Our Chinese neighbours advised that their name for a dragon is “Long”, so I revised his name to “Long Gorm”. There are two entrances and three exits from the Labyrinth enclosure, and Long Gorm keeps watch on the centre exit.
We also have a garden gnome who keeps his shovel handy for whatever odd jobs he may be needed for.
...and what would a labyrinth be without fairies keeping an eye on the lightness of being in visitors - this one is Owen and Auli's particular favorite.
A little Dutch girl that once graced the front porch of George and Alma's home in Charlottetown, now adds some colour in the labyrinth.
The hydrangea almost completely covers the rock wall that encloses the labyrinth, when it blooms in the summer.
...and Faye adds the most colourful combination of flowers to enhance the view!
The rhododendrons add great splashes of colour to the rock wall!
Our grandchildren, Cole, Ashley, Owen, Auli and Bauer, like to collect stones at the seashore and bring them home for grandpa to place in his labyrinth - each chosen stone has a place of honour here.
...and of course there have to be sea shells to examine!
It took awhile to dig out and rearrange the stones, much like a giant section of Lego. This is how part of the path looked in June 2006.
I eventually made room for rows of plants and flowers, lining the route with white quartz, and added a silver ball. This how it appeared in June 2021.
My mother (Beatrice) found a huge chunk of quartz on our family farm near Lakeville, 135 km North of us, and brought it back to her house with my father (Aage)'s tractor mounted fork lift. It likely weighs more than 250 lbs. She thought it would brighten up the path to the Labyrinth and with my brother Dale's help, we got it into my car and moved it to a fine place in the garden in front of the Labyrinth entrance. These are some additional big chunks of quartz making up the inukshuk.
We do get a bit of snow in the winter, this is the entrance to the Roman road that converts to my cross-country ski trail - and this is April 2020.
Our Maple tree is pretty bare in the winter...
...but beautiful when the frost casts its cloak over it...
...but fantastic in the summer...
...and absolutely glorious in the fall.
The view when you are enjoying the lawn chairs in the labyrinth.
View of the rock wall from our back deck.
...and a view of our back deck from the labyrinth.
Faye refinished an old cast iron wood stove she collected at an auction of her Uncle Colin's estate. It now serves as a flower stand on the deck.
...its always pleasant to get up and check out the evening view of the Experimental Farm from the the back of the labyrinth...
...sometimes ferociously so - I took this photo after a heavy rainstorm!