Saturday, July 7, 2007

Making a grass labyrinth



How to make a 58-foot diameter, Chartres style, painted labyrinth on grass
(Note: The labyrinth is 61 feet in diameter if you add “lunations”)
by Linda Theil, June 2007

Equipment & materials:
Braided polypropylene twine – 35 lb. Break strength
Indelible marker
12 large cans inverted marking-paint in choice of colors (orange, white and blue are good, red doesn’t show up very well)
NOTE: You will need more paint if you intend to paint the 114 1.5-foot-long “lunations” around the outermost circle of the labyrinth.
2-foot stake sharpened on one end
Mallet to pound in stake with
Optional: there is a device you can buy to apply marking paint. I never used one, so I don’t know if it would be helpful or not. There is a lot of back bending in painting this labyrinth, and an applicator that would extend your reach might be very useful if it doesn’t cut down on the precision of your application.

Background and information on how to create a Chartres-style labyrinth is available at The Labyrinth Society’s web page at www.labyrinthsociety.org.

I used inverted marking paint on grass to create my labyrinth. My labyrinth is 58-feet in diameter (not including lunations) and the paths are two-foot wide including the width of the painted line. I took a morning to lay out the circles and an afternoon to put in the entrance and turns. The next day, I touched up the circles and made the petals in the center.

To orient your labyrinth to the summer solstice line, get up at dawn on June 21 and lay a two-by-four or other similar marker pointing toward the spot on the horizon where the sun comes up. This line will mark the east/west axis of your labyrinth and site the entrance/exit lanes. The solid, straight line that extends from the innermost circle to the outermost circle will be one-half a path width -- in this case, 1 foot – to the left of this line. A partial straight line will lie parallel one-half a path width to the right of this line.

Preparation:
Whether you get up at dawn or not, temporarily mark your east-west orientation line and site your stake somewhere along an extension of that line near where you want the center of your labyrinth to be. The westernmost point on that line along the outermost circle will be the entrance site of your labyrinth (sometimes called the mouth).
To prepare your marking guide, make a loop in one end of the twine, large enough to move freely on the stake. Measuring from the center of the loop, mark twine with indelible marker at 7 feet (the labyrinth center is 14 feet across or approximately one-fourth of the 58-foot diameter of the labyrinth), 9 feet, 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27, and 29 feet. This will be referred to as your guide.
Loop the guide over the stake and walk the circle with the guide extended to see if your circle is placed where you want it. Move the stake until you get your circle where you want it. When you are happy with your placement, pound the stake securely into the ground.

Marking the concentric circles
Hook the guide over the stake and extend the guide to its full length, taut without stretching or pulling. Drop the guide on the ground and paint a small mark on the grass at the site of each indelible mark on the guide. (The guide will quickly become marked with paint; try to be precise and do not allow slop in your marking just because the paint obscures the original mark.)
Pick up the guide and swing it a few degrees from the original marks, paint the marks again. Move the guide, paint marks, and so on around the entire labyrinth. I tried to avoid marking the approximately 15-degree sections of the circle at the 90-degree (three o’clock), 180-degree (12 o’clock), 270-degree (9 o’clock), and 360 or zero-degree (six o’clock) sites where the entrance/exit lanes and the turns will be painted.
After all the circle marks are painted, go back and indicate the outermost circles a little more clearly by painting between the marks. Be sure to avoid the areas as indicated above. This applies to all the circles, except for the innermost circle which will be completely closed except for an approximately (at this point) three-foot-wide opening directly facing the entrance. What you now have is an innermost circle of 14-foot in diameter in the center of your labyrinth. There will be 11 concentric circles fanning out at two-foot intervals from this central circle.



Making the entrance/exit lanes
To make the entrance/exit lanes, you will make two straight lanes created by three parallel lines that will mark the entrance/exit to your labyrinth. The lane on the right is centered on the central axis of the labyrinth. Lay out a straight line (not an angled line like you used when making the concentric circles) one foot to the right of the central east/west axis, mark it with a straight line by staking your twine in a straight line between the inner and outermost circles, and paint. Mark only four lanes from the innermost circle, skip two lanes, mark four lanes and skip the last lane.
Measure two feet to the left of this line, lay out with twine, and paint a solid straight line from the innermost circle to the outer circle.
Measure two feet to the left of this second line, and lay out another straight line with twine. Paint this line beginning at the second circle from the center, mark four lanes, skip two lanes and paint four lanes to the outermost circle of the labyrinth.

Installing the back-to-back turns
Install the back-to-back turns. Loop your twine around the center stake and extend it to the outermost lane of the labyrinth in the 12-o’clock position. Using the twine as a guide, paint a line across the width of two lanes beginning at the outermost circle, then skip a lane and paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane and paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane and then paint across the last two lanes. These lines create back-to-back turns across two lanes of the labyrinth. Move your twine to the three o’clock position. Using the twine as a guide, skip across the first two outermost lanes of the labyrinth, then paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane, paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane and paint across the next two lanes and skip the innermost lane. Move your twine to the nine o’clock position. Using your twine as a guide, skip the outermost lane and paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane and paint across the next two lanes, skip a lane and paint across the next two lanes and skip the last two innermost lanes. This makes 10 back-to-back turns in your labyrinth. NOTE: Before painting, you may wish to mark your turns using lengths of wood or plastic to check the placement before marking with paint.
After your turns are marked, make “labryses” at the ten double turns by shaping the lines into back-to-back curves that, when completed, look like a double headed ax.

Completing the entrance/exit
At the entrance lanes, in the right-hand lane, extend the seventh circle across the path to meet the center line of the entrance/exit lanes. In the left-hand lane, extend the sixth circle across the path to meet the center line of the entrance/exit lanes.

Creating the single turns
Create single turns. To the right of the entrance/exit lanes, mark four single turns in groups of two separated by two lanes as follows. Skip the first lane and paint a single turn across lanes two and three (Note: these will already be marked with paint, simply round the edges to form a two-lane wide “C” shape on the right side of the entrance/exit lanes. On the left side of the entrance/exit lanes you will form a shape like a backwards “C”.) Mark another single turn in lanes four and five. Skip the next two lanes and paint a single turn in lanes eight and nine. The paint another single turn in lanes ten and 11. On the left of the entrance/exit lanes, paint a single turn in lanes one and two and another single turn in lanes three and four. Skip the next two lanes and paint a single turn in lanes seven and eight and another single turn in lanes nine and ten.

Touch up
Fill in the circles, leaving an unpainted section of the circle in front of each turn to indicate an open path through the turn. Touch up the circles and the turns where needed.

Making petals in the center
In the center circle of the labyrinth, you can form six petals by dividing the circle into six parts around the circumference of the inside circle, with the first mark directly opposite the entrance of the labyrinth (and the entrance to the innermost circle, also) on the east/west orientation line. Measure 3.5-feet out from each of the six marks and mark a dot. Then measure halfway between each of the six marks on the circle and mark that. Those marks will indicate where the curve of each petal touches the circle. Mark each petal with paint, being careful to create a rounded shape to each petal. If you want to pave or make a deck or gazebo in the center of your labyrinth, you will need 154-square-foot of material to cover the 14-square foot circle. (pi times radius squared equals 3.14 times 49 (7x7) equals 154). You can purchase a circle kit of Unilock Olde Greenwich Cobble (Beechwood color) for approximately $3 per square foot or $462.

Odds and ends
I plan to trim my labyrinth using an 18- or 20-inch push mower and see how that works out. I hope to enjoy it during the rest of the summer.
I would like to purchase 12- to 16-inch diameter paving stones to set around the circumference of my labyrinth to form the lunations, there will be space between them depending on the size I purchase. Alternately you can mark with paint a 1.5-foot long lunation every 1.5-foot around the circumference of the labyrinth.I added a crock with an herb planter on top to decorate the middle of my labyrinth. The planter is red glazed and has lavender, sage, purple basil and lemongrass in it. A small, 1-inch diameter, glass crystal ball wrapped in copper tubing decorates the planter.

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