Ever since I first bought the land at Cae Non I have had the idea of planting a labyrinth which would facilitate journeys of self discovery as well as private little spaces in which to meditate, pray or work in some similar fashion. And I knew that I wanted it to be BIG. I provisionally set aside an area of ground and had to leave it at that until a later date.
In the summer, the vague ideas and impressions of what I was out to achieve suddenly began to swirl around in my mind and I began to play about with plans.
There will be a (heart shaped) centre and three large spirals.
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The spirals will each be 50′ across and lead to a small private space at their centre… roughly 10 feet in diameter.
Each spiral will represent an element, compass direction and one of the three aspects of the Triple Goddess. So the first spiral will lie to the west and represent West, Water and the Maiden. It will have a pool at it’s centre. The second spiral will lie roughly to the north and represent North, Earth and the Mother. It will have a sacred space at it’s centre which contains something which represents it’s element… a mound, a cairn, a standing stone, etc.. The third spiral will lie to the east and represent the East, Air and the Crone. The heart at the centre of the three spirals will represent Fire and contain a fire pit where both individuals and small groups can go.
Last Sunday we went down to the field. I went with the intention of beginning to mark out the labyrinth to measure – and so be able to roughly estimate – just how much willow I might require to plant it, for this whole project is to be formed from living willow, planted in four or five foot “fedging” with some trees being allowed to arch over the top of the circular pathways. (However, the centres will all be completely open to the sky.)
I have never done anything like this before… at least, not on such a grand scale! Where does one begin, exactly? And how? At school, maths was never my strong point to put it mildly!
Outline plan of the Labyrinth
So I began by measuring my allotted space; first from top to bottom and then from side to side. It didn’t help that the area of land at this point is not square or equal, but then neither is my design! I found and marked my centre point and then, using 3′ garden canes, I marked out my central heart area. How good are you at drawing hearts? It isn’t the easiest shape in the world to replicate, especially when one is working in thigh-length undergrowth and can’t view it over all from above! But I have done my best. When I am planting I will be able to tweak the shape of things – which also means that I will be able to unintentionally distort as well – but we will cross any of those difficult bridges as and when we come to them!
I then proceeded to mark out one of the spirals. This one is the one representing the Earth, North and the Mother. Originally I tried to keep all the measurements in multiples of the sacred number three but it just wouldn’t work out that way. Several times I was obliged to change my plans and it always brought the measurements round to multiples of five. Then I realised, of course, that this is a feminine focused labyrinth and five is a much more feminine number than the masculine three! (Things have a way of telling you what is right or wrong about them and what is going to resonate appropriately!)
I can now say that I have first hand experience of how civil engineering must have come about. Only instead of theodolite and measures etc. I had a dressmaker’s tape measure and a couple of garden canes cut to specific lengths for easy calculations. Oh, and also a pair of garden scissors and a ball of string.
I measured from the centre of the heart to the centre of the spiral and then began to mark the path out from the spiral centre. Originally the paths were going to be 3′ wide but it was gradually born in upon me that this was going to be too narrow to allow growth of willow as well as easy access, so I widened them to 5′. This meant that I had to up-sticks – literally, as I was also plotting the spiral pathways out with garden canes and remeasure from the centre of the heart. As I completed each ever-widening turn of the spiral I stopped to tie string to the tops of all the canes so that I could see what was potential “fedge” and what was going to be open pathway.
By the end of the afternoon I was beginning to understand what it must feel like to be a spider, sitting in the middle of her web spinning away! Ha! ha!
But now I have my basic measurements and ground plan. Each spiral will measure approximately 50′ across. Each centre will occupy a space of 10′. The heart in the centre is roughly 14′ across.
Each spiral will require 325′ of fedging – a total of 700 willow whips to be planted and plaited during the winter months. Then there are the 120 willows needed to edge the central heart and a further all-enclosing fedge to surround everything, with it’s single entrance in the east.
Now I know what I am going to be doing in January and February 2013! But it will be an utter labour of love, to plant and grow, to form and create a structure of such potential containing so many perfect hidden spaces… watch this space to see how I get on!