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Build a Backyard Labyrinth

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My mom has wanted to build a labyrinth in our backyard for a long time.  She first walked in a labyrinth many years ago in a park and really enjoyed the experience.  From that moment on, the special process of walking a labyrinth was something that she had always wanted to recreate in her own home.  My mom turned 60 this past November and as part of birthday celebration my family and I finally built a labyrinth in the backyard.

We came up with a rope and steel stake system which was relatively low cost, easy to install and semi-permanent that looks and works great.

Here's why and how we did it...
 
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Step 1: Theory

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What is a labyrinth and why would anyone walk in one?

Simply put, a labyrinth is similar to a maze, however unlike a maze which has branches, a labyrinth is one single path, and as such, there are no wrong turns.  A labyrinth's path is supposed to be easy to follow and is not constructed with the intention of making the participant feel confused or lost.  Instead, one of the intended outcomes is quite the opposite, as labyrinths are used as meditation tools, to calm and focus the participant.  

Generally speaking, the labyrinth has a single opening, you walk in a back and forth pattern on the path until you reach the end.  At the end, you turn around and walk out along the same path you came in on.  It's pretty straight forward when you see this in person.  Most labyrinths don't come with signs, or directions, they are "just there" for people to walk on and enjoy.

Why someone would want to walk on a labyrinth is a simple question with many different answers.  Labyrinths are found all over.  Sometimes they have religious affiliations, others are simply just installed in a natural and beautiful setting like a park.  Some walk them to feel a sense of calm, meditation and clarity, others probably just think of it as a fun path to stroll on.  No matter why you may find yourself walking a labyrinth, it's generally agreed that labyrinths are beautiful and interesting creations.  In short, labyrinths are built to be enjoyed, and that's certainly why we built ours.

Wikipedia's labyrinth page has lots of interesting information on the history of labyrinths and their uses.  While labyrinths warrant a more detailed explanation then what's offered here, this Instructable is more concerned with how to make one and assumes that if you are reading this, you've already got some interest in making one yourself, or at least learning how one is made, and can research more about the derivations and properties of labyrinths from other resources.


tbaker172 months ago
Fantastic!!! I can't wait to make one!!! And by that I mean have my hubby make me one!!
yoyology1 year ago
Wonderful! I've done a larger-scale version of this for a library Renaissance Faire. You did a great job.

When your folks move and you're ready to put it up in a new location, you might reconsider the layong-out process. Most of the labyrinth is made of successive arcs around a few pivot points. You can use twine anchored at those points to serve as a compass, and pre-place your stakes at regular intervals along the path. Once all the stakes are placed, you can then lay the rope out in two passes.

This image might help illustrate what I mean:
http://www.geomancy.org/images/labyseedgrow.jpg
LOL, I was going to suggest that too . I've made two stone labyrinths and the string method is much easier than this , it did turn out great though .
maka yoyology1 year ago
Wow, thanks for that, yoyology! I've helped lay out a few labyrinths and while we ended up with the right design, it was never quite as simple as that diagram!

Someday, when I don't live in an apartment, I will have a backyard labyrinth.
yoyology maka1 year ago
You can actually create any size classical labyrinth starting from that basic seed pattern. The one I linked to is a 5-unit square seed, which makes a 7-circuit labyrinth. Go up to a 7-unit square, and you get 11 circuits.

Also, if you make curves instead of right angles inside the seed square, you get an open diamond in the middle (see image). If you delete the upper right curve of that diamond, the center of your labyrinth becomes a larger open space, good for meditating and for more room to turn around before heading out. 
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Eileen3201 year ago
You folks are awesome. Thank you so much for sharing this.
shahabg1 year ago
I like this instructable a lot! I am currently a landscape architecture student and one of my professors, Kent Schute, is a specialist in labyrinths. he has recreated the one in chart cathedral and went into great detail about them for us and showed us several different forms of them, this being one of them. I guess what I wanted to say is well done!!
evacooper1 year ago
i like this a lot, but i was wondering, if a labyrinth had one path, why didn't the minotaur just walk out? and why did theseus need a string?
sorry i am always nit-pivking little things, also when i read books. what you made is really cool!
I have been planning constructing a labyrinth in my backyard for TWO years now. I have found the idea sooo complicated. You have actually showed me it can be done fairly simply and inexpensively.The diagram and staking it out is what makes it "handle-able" And so very cool looking! Congratulations and blessings to all!
kongqueen1 year ago
Your family did a marvelous job on this labyrinth. I have friends who laid one in their back yard in brick. It was very nice and peaceful, but it lacked the professionalism that yours shows. Congratulations!
Lost Moai1 year ago
Fantastic! I love labyrinths! Your use of the rope is an excellent idea. I've been thinking about how to put one in my backyard and I hadn't thought of rope. I have some old bricks lying around and I thought I'd half bury them to make the borders, but rope looks to be a lot easier.

Instead of a grid, did you consider using a compass method? I've read about people doing temporary masking tape labyrinths that way. Stake the middle and have a rope going from it to your outside radius. The rope is marked where every circuit's line would be. One person walks on the outside holding the rope, and people on the inside mark the circles. The curves and straightaways are created after. Here's a link that explains it more thoroughly: http://www.labyrinth-enterprises.com/tapemachine.html I'm not sure which method is less labor intensive.

The ropes are so low profile, I bet you could go over them with a lawn mower without any damage at all.
tbrugada1 year ago
This is really kool, also enjoyed reading about "Labyriths"
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