General questions about building a labyrinth.

Is there an easy way to determine the dimensions of the sides of an
octagon for our canvas?

To make an octagon you want to cut off the corners, but how much to cut? The answer is .2929 times the side of the square. So, in this case, if the material is 20 feet, that's 240 inches. Multiply that by .2929 and you get 70.296 or slightly more than 70 and 1/4 inches. Measure that amount in both directions from the corner, draw a line to the marks and cut it off. Should be very close. This assumes, of course, that your material is square. If not, first measure to make the square and then follow this advice. Then, before cutting, measure to see that the sides are indeed equal. If not, make any slight adjustment.

Is there a difference between a left-handed or a right-handed labyrinth?

The handedness of a labyrinth refers to the direction of the first turn. If you walk in and then turn left, it is a left-handed labyrinth. Most of the modern books on labyrinths, including my own, show left-handed labyrinths. This is clearly the norm. However, Sig Lonegren tells me that historically, most of the labyrinths were actually right-handed. I suppose if that's how we printed our instructions, then more people would make right-handed labyrinths. With regards to one's experience in walking, I have no information that one is any different from the other. There have been events at which we made two labyrinths, side by side, one right-handed and the other left-handed. I don't recollect anyone saying that they thought one was different than the other.

How big must my labyrinth be to accommodate wheelchairs?

If you made an 11-circuit labyrinth with paths large enough to hold a wheelchair, it would be so long (more than 3/4 mile in and back out) that the person in the wheelchair would need to be an athlete to have the stamina to complete the labyrinth. It's even borderline for a 7-circuit labyrinth. The generally accepted solution is to make the labyrinth flat, and of a hard surface, such as concrete. Then, the wheelchair can straddle the paths, with the wheels in the adjacent paths. In this way, the labyrinth can be of a more average size, say 40 to 50 feet in diameter. Otherwise, it would be 100 feet, which would be huge.

What kind of paint do I use for painting a labyrinth on asphalt or concrete?

For asphalt, use traffic paint. The key is to make sure the asphalt is clean and
dry, free of loose particles, etc. The paint is made to withstand the elements. For concrete, contact any large, professional paint store and they should be able to help you. Porch paint is one possibility, although there are others which last even longer. You should have a good choice of colors. We use a special acrylic resin that we have mixed especially for us. There are examples of painted labyrinths in our gallery section. (See: Our Work)

What direction should the entrance of the labyrinth face?

Gothic cathedrals are oriented east and west. Even if they aren't, the far wall, opposite the entrance, is called the "east wall," representing the direction of Jerusalem. Symbolically, one enters in the west, representing the setting sun, death and dying, this world, and proceeds towards the east, representing the rising sun, hope, light, and transformation. Hence, labyrinths in Gothic cathedrals, including Chartres, have the entrance facing towards the west, so that one enters walking towards the east.

There are other labyrinth traditions, however. One is to find the orientation of the labyrinth through dowsing or some other intuitive method. Literally ask the earth. In Scandinavia, hundreds of labyrinths were built around the Baltic Sea, with the entrances facing towards the sea. This was probably so the fishermen who built them could go from the labyrinth directly to their ships. Another way to orient a labyrinth is to line it up so the vertical axis points towards a feature in the terrain, such as the notch in a mountain or a large tree. Still another possibility is to orient the axis according to an astrological event, such as the sunrise on the summer solstice, or on a particular saint's day (or on your birthday). Finally, the site itself sometimes determines the orientation of the labyrinth, due to its unique circumstances.

What is the minimum size for the paths on a labyrinth?

I would say eight or nine inches. Even then, retaining one's balance while walking begins to be an issue. If you have asked this question because you have limited space for a labyrinth, it is better to use a design with fewer circuits than to make them too small. Usually, this question comes from someone who really wants a Chartres pattern, but only has, say, 25 feet of space. It just can't be crammed into that space. Better to choose a seven-circuit pattern, such as a classical labyrinth or a Santa Rosa.

Can we build a labyrinth at our camp for the donation of $3,000 that we have received?

You can make a very suitable labyrinth with that budget. Find an area that is flat and drains well. Clear it and cut the grass very short, as short as the mower can do it. Cover the area with landscaping cloth, which will keep weeds from growing up. You will be laying the cloth in rows which overlap by six inches or so. Tape the pieces together to hold them in place. Then, draw the labyrinth pattern in chalk on the cloth. We have instructions on our website. If you make a mistake, just wash off the chalk and correct it. Trim the landscape cloth to the edge of the pattern. Then, put bricks or stones on your chalk lines, which will make the pattern for you. Finally, put mulch or some other material for your paths. (You could also use decomposed granite or sand.) On our website you will see photos of a similar labyrinth. Go to Our Work and look under the bricks and mulch section for the labyrinth at Silver Bay.

The cost of the landscaping cloth will be significant, perhaps $800 or so. You will need several rolls, depending on the size of your labyrinth. If you use bricks, that will be as much as $2000, again depending on size and pattern. If there is a river where you can gather your own stones, it will be labor intensive, but will save money. Stones can also be purchased from a quarry and delivered at a cost less than bricks. Ask for six-inch size, to avoid getting gravel. There are a number of kinds of mulch. Landscaping companies give away their mulch, made from grinding up trees they have removed. But it decomposes rather quickly. Eventually, that turns to soil and things begin to grow in it. Better to use cedar mulch. It will take a truck load, which could cost several hundred dolalrs. Playground mulch is made so that there are no slivers or sharp ends. There is also rubber mulch, made from recycled tires, which never decomposes, but it would cost close to $2,000. If you get the rocks or brick donated, then perhaps you can splurge for the rubber mulch. You can find sources on the Internet, or through a local landscape or gardening center.

This gives you a general idea of what is involved. If you get all of the materials donated, you could spend $2,000 of your donation to have me come and direct your volunteers in the construction. That is what was done at Silver Bay. Or use the money for amenities such as benches and lighting. Send me photos whenit's done.