Introduction: Portable Walking Labyrinth
Here's an easy way to make a cheap (~$70.00), portable 22-foot (6.7m) diameter, 7-circuit “classical” concentric circle style labyrinth (with a slightly expanded center) out of common black plastic irrigation hose (and related connecting hardware), scissors, and tape.
Step 1: Classical Labyrinths
In my continuing effort to make the technology of healing labyrinths more accessible to MANY more people around the world and with deep gratitude to all my mentors who have so generously shared their knowledge and years of experience, here is a cheap, quick and easy way to create a 22-foot (6.7m), 7-circuit "throw-down" classical labyrinth on any moderately flat surface for around $50.00-100.00! This should be easier (and cheaper!) than hauling around a huge piece of canvas, once you get the hang of laying it out. The goal here was to use inexpensive materials that were readily available anywhere so anyone can replicate this easily wherever they live. If you can’t get irrigation hose, you could still use these measurements to make one out of rope, or some other similar material, but that’s harder to keep looking neat.
This walkthrough is for creating a “concentric circle” style classical labyrinth with a curved diamond shaped “heart space” and a slightly expanded center. You could also use the classical seed pattern using 90* elbows for the inner turns and/or use this same pattern to scale up the size as needed. The advantage to the concentric circle style is that there are almost no straight lines and you don't have to try and force the rolled up tubing too straight. You certainly can straighten it out, but for a temporary labyrinth that you want to quickly throw down for an event, and that you'll be coiling up and stowing in between uses, this style takes advantage of the natural curve in the tubing, stays smooth, and looks nicer.
Step 2: Materials Needed
500' (152m) rolls of 1/2" (1.25cm) black plastic irrigation tubing (and the needed connectors) can be found in any commercial irrigation supply store, and most Home Improvement, or even local Hardware stores, often for less than $50.00 ($0.10/foot [$0.33/m]). Depending on the diameter of the labyrinth and the number of circuits you want, you would need between 300-1000 feet (100-300m). If you were doing an accurate ~43’ (13m) 11-circuit Chartres Labyrinth, you will likely need more than two 500’ (152m) rolls.
I bought 1000’ (305m) of 5/16” (8mm) halyard rope to make my first portable 48’ (14.63m) diameter, 9-circuit “Transition Labyrinth” pattern (a hybrid of the 7-circuit classical and the 11-circuit Chartres) with the center rosette and still had a few feet left over. Next, I plan to make a portable 48’ (14.63m) diameter 9-circuit “Transition Labyrinth” out of this same material. Feel free to get in contact if you’re interested in that pattern and I’ll send you the measurements when I get it completed.
330-350 feet (100+m) of ½” (1.25cm) irrigation hose or equivalent
Step 3: Materials Needed (cont.)
19qty. ½” (1.25cm) irrigation hose couplings (cheaper by the bulk/contractor pack)
4qty. ½” (1.25cm) irrigation hose compression end caps (for the line ends)
2qty. “Tee” connectors (for the end of center circle entry path)
Box(es) of landscape staples (or nails/other way of securing the labyrinth in place)
Roll of black tape (hockey stick tape is sticky and electrical tape looks best, IMHO)
Step 4: Optional Materials Needed for Portable Variation
Optional materials (for the portable option to be disassembled and reassembled):
Multi-colored tape or tags to color code pieces by location. Here is the stuff I used. I didn’t use the black for identification (obviously) and there was no violet (or purple/indigo), or orange, so I started on the third hose out from the center (since the smaller ones were easier to figure out) and went RYGBV, then used the white on the outermost circuit.
14”-16” (35.5-40.5cm) reusable/releasable cable/zip ties to hold all the rolls together for ease of stowing and transport (I had a hard time finding them locally, so I went to Amazon):
Scissors, knife, or pruning shears
Optional tools (for ease of disassembly for the portable option)
5/8” (1.6cm) domed cylinder rotary rasp or a half round file if you’ve got time ;-)
Step 5: Material Preparation
Cut the hose into the following lengths. You could let each one run a bit long initially just in case and do the final cuts and connections when the whole labyrinth is down on the ground for the first time, but these numbers will likely get you close enough as the hose can be shifted around a bit later to make it look nice. (remember: ROY G. B[I]V makes White light):
1pc. @ 10’10” (or 130” [3.30m] for the center circle)
1pc. @ 16’5” (or 197” [5.00m] color code: “Red”)
1pc. @ 26’6” (or 318” [8.07m] color code: “Orange”)
1pc. @ 29’9” (or 357” [9.07m] color code: “Yellow”)
1pc. @ 38’2” (or 458” [11.63m] color code: “Green”)
1pc. @ 49’2” (or 590” [15.00m] color code: “Blue”)
1pc. @ 56’3” (or 675” [17.15m] color code: “Violet” [or purple, or indigo])
1pc. @ 67’6” (or 810” [20.58m] color code: “White”)
3pcs. @ 4’6” (or 54” [1.37m] for the one path-width radius turns)
2pcs. @ 3’10” (or 46” [1.67m] for part of the heart space)
1pc. @ 3’1” (or 37” [0.94m] for part of the heart space)
1pc. @ 2’10” (or 34” [.87m] for part of the heart space)
16pcs. @ 6” ([15cm] to make the “Wye” connectors)
Optional step (for ease of disassembly for the portable option):
Use the rotary rasp or file to ream out ONE end of 17 of the ½” (1.25cm) connectors and one end on each of the two “T” connectors (not the 90* stub end). The compression couplings are meant to bite down hard when inserted and not back out or leak water once pressed together. To make the connectors reusable, file down the thin ridge inside one end of the connector that bites down on the tubing making it still a snug fit, but without the bite, so you can pull them apart again. For reassembly I found it was easiest to leave the connectors attached to the “wye” connectors, so I wouldn’t file off the ridges on both ends. Use the unaltered end of the connector to hold it securely to the “wye” connector and then the other end will always slip more easily. Two of the ½” (1.25cm) connectors will remain unaltered. One “wye” connector will be attached end-to-end to another “wye” connector just to the left of the entry to the center circle. This ½” (1.25cm) connector can be left unaltered so that they stay together (or not, for more compactness of storage) and one 6” (15cm) piece will be inserted into the opposite end of one of those “wye” connectors (so it just touches the center circle to the left of the center entry path) and can also stay assembled so that one ½” (1.25cm) connector can also be left unaltered. Right next to the same end of this “wye” will form the left wall of the end of the center entry path and will be inserted into the center “tee”, so it does not need a connector.
Step 6: Wye Connectors Assembly
You will need to make five “wye” connectors using 15 of the 6” (15cm) pieces of hose. The one remaining piece is used to complete the curve connecting to the center circle. Cut two pieces on a sharp bevel on the outer aspect of the natural curve of the hose. Put the two beveled ends together to form a “vee” whose legs curve away from the centerline. Wrap a piece of tape 2 inches (5cm) down the outside of one leg, around the pointed end of the “vee”, and up the other side of the second leg about 2 inches (5cm). Then stuff this taped, pointed end into the squared off cut end of a third 6” (15cm) piece. Wrap a piece of tape through the "crotch" of the "wye" and down both sides of the third piece about an inch or two on both sides locking it in, but don’t splay the angle too much doing so. Then, wrapping around the hose, perpendicular to the tape on the third piece near the joint, go tightly around a few turns and then work your way up through the joint, then over/around the two “legs”, and back down over the joint finishing with a few more turns. The angle of the top of the wye wants to be about 45*-60* so as not to pull sideways on the piece of hose connected to it and distort the smooth curving line.
Step 7: Other Connectors Assembly
Take the three 4’6” (1.37m) pieces of hose for the one path-width radius turns and six ½” (1.25cm) connectors and attach an unaltered end of a ½” (1.25cm) connector to both ends of each piece. Like the “wye” connectors, I found it easier to keep the ½” (1.25cm) connectors attached to these pieces for ease of reassembly, so leave the reamed out end free for connecting to the longer pieces of hose. This also keeps them from getting mixed up with the other smaller pieces that will form the heart space, which will not have any connectors pre-attached.
Attach one of the four ½” (1.25cm) irrigation hose compression end caps to one end of each hose coded “Red”, “Orange”, “Blue”, and “Violet”. These will also stay in place once installed so they do not need to be reamed out.
Attach the 90* stub ends of the two “tee” connectors to each end of the 10’10” (3.30m) piece for the center circle. Pivot them to make sure that the one altered end of the “tee” connector is facing away from the center of the curve.
Step 8: Laying Out the Labyrinth
Laying out the labyrinth:
Determine where your center will be and the preferred orientation by whatever method you are most comfortable. Start by laying out the 10’10” (3.30m) piece for the center circle in the center of your space and pin it down leaving a gap of about 15” (38cm) between the two “tee” connectors. This forms the entry to the center circle.
Place the end cap on the end of the “Red” hose about one path width 15” (38cm) away from both the center circle and where the right hand line of the final center entry path will be, and then stretch it around counter-clockwise to the other side keeping it one path width away from the center circle. Don’t worry about getting these distances exact just yet, you can fine tune everything when all the ends are connected and space everything out more evenly to your liking before pinning or taping anything down more permanently. I do recommend tacking down the starting loose end to make stretching out the rest of the hose easier. Also, be careful not to kink the hose when rolling it up, laying it out, or cinching down the zip ties on the rolled up hose, as once it is kinked it will always want to kink in that same spot and the curve will look less smooth. (DAMHIK) ;-)
Place the end cap on the end of the “Orange” hose one path width away from the end of the “Red” hose you just placed and at least two path widths away from the left hand line of where the final center entry path will be. Pin it down and stretch it around clockwise to the other side keeping it one path width away from the previous hose. This free end should continue to curve around the end cap on the “Red” hose and form the right hand side of the center entry path connecting to the right hand “tee” connector.
Step 9: Laying Out the Labyrinth (cont.)
Do the same with first the “Yellow” and then the “Green” hoses keeping each one roughly one path width away from the inner hose (the “Orange” and “Yellow” hoses respectively).
Place the end cap on the end of the “Blue” hose to the right of the heart space one path width away from the “Green” hose and about two and a half path widths to the right of the centerline where the heart space will go. Pin it down and stretch it counter-clockwise around the “Green” hose.
Place the end cap on the end of the “Violet” hose (or purple, or indigo) one path width away from the “Blue” hose to the left of the heart space and about two and a half path widths to the left of the centerline where the heart space will go. Pin it down and stretch it clockwise around the “Blue” hose.
Lay the “White” hose around the “Violet” hose one path width away with the right hand end coming up and eventually connecting to the “wye” connector which will be at the bottom point of the heart space.
Use the three 4’6” (1.37m) pieces of hose for the one path-width radius turns (the ones with the pre-attached connectors) to connect the “White” hose to the “Blue” hose to the left of the entrance, the the “Violet” hose to the “Green” hose to the right of the entrance, and the “Red” hose to the “Yellow” hose to the left of the center entry path.
Place three of the regular “wye” connectors at the left hand, bottom, and right hand corners of the heart space and the one “double-wye” end-to-end connector at the top of the heart space with the extra 6” (15cm) piece to the top left and insert the opposite/right leg of the top of the “double-wye” (the one without the connector) into the left hand “tee” connector. The bottom of this “double-wye” connector forms the top point of the heart space.
Place the remaining four smaller pieces of hose in the heart space (the long ones to the left, the short ones to the right) and connect them to the “wye” connectors. The left hand “wye” connects to the “Green” hose, the right hand “wye” connects to the “Yellow” hose, and the bottom “wye” connects to the “White” hose.
Once all connections are made, you can go through and fine-tune any spacing issues before finally pinning or taping it down more securely.
Step 10: Installation Considerations and Acknowledgements
For permanent installs on a soft surface—especially on a grass lawn—you might consider digging a shallow trench with an edger and setting the hose flush with the surface so you can mow right over it.
I owe the inspiration for this design to Walt Stepahin, a fellow Mankind Project New Warrior Brother here in San Diego. He had asked me if I would install a chalk paint labyrinth in his back yard for him, but he didn’t have much space. We did a few trials for him to try out (one advantage of chalk paint) and when he found a size and shape (and path length) he liked he started looking for a way to make it more permanent.
Since the paths were narrow due to the just over 18’ (5.5m) width of space limitation, he was looking for some material to make the walls out of that wouldn’t intrude on the path width too much, wouldn’t be too expensive, or difficult to install himself. He was walking through a Home Depot and spotted this cheap, lightweight irrigation hose. He had a hand rotary grass edger (with the wheel and cutting blades on the end of a long handle) and just rolled it over the chalk lines digging out a shallow trench. He then bought three 100’ (30.5m) bundles of hose and laid it in the trench and secured it with landscape staples every few feet or so to hold it down when he mowed the grass. For style points, he crimped the end of the flat staples in a vice just a bit so that the ends were slightly rounded, the corners would not stick out, and also not distort the hose when pushed down far enough. He also dipped the ends of the staples in black paint so they are hardly visible at all. So, there you go! :-D
Step 11: HAVE LABYRINTH, WILL TRAVEL
HAVE LABYRINTH, WILL TRAVEL