Architecture students chalk up labyrinths

Labyrinths have been in the news at Lincoln recently. Students from the University of Lincoln’s School of Architecture drew a chalk labyrinth in front of the Main Academic Building – photographs can be seen on the Lincoln School of Architecture blog here 

University of Lincoln School of Architecture students drawing a chalk labyrinth

Architecture students went on to draw a replica of the Chartres Labyrinth under the central tower of Lincoln Cathedral as can be seen here

Les Acklam talks about labyrinths

I was first initiated into the labyrinth when I attended  a week-end workshop facilitated for the first time in the UK by Lauren Atress herself. It took place at Winford Manor just outside Bristol in the summer of 2001.  Lauren Artress, from Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, is generally credited with being one of the first to rediscover this long-forgotten spiritual tool in the early 1990’s. It was the 11-circuit labyrinth at the medieval cathedral at Chartres in France which She became so committed to opening up the experience of walking a labyrinth for as many people as possible that she set out to ‘pepper the planet’ with them – and she has been very successful in dong so, through such workshops as the one I attended at Winsford, which couldn’t be succeed in enthusing the many participants who went out to ‘spread the word’.

I returned to Lincoln, and enthused about the experience to my colleague, senior student counsellor, Eunice Mather. Together we formed a pact to make  our own canvas following the instruction pack available from Grace Cathedral.

The rest of Les’s account of how the Ermine Labyrinth came into being can be found under the Labyrinth Projects link at the top of this page.

Labyrinth at Melton Mowbray as part of ‘Approaches to Prayer’ Lent course by Les Acklam

Some 40 or so members of local Melton Mowbray churches attended the third session of a Lent course which was exploring different approaches to prayer. In one sense these were ‘new’ ways, but really they were all revivals of age-old traditions, largely overlooked and unused since the Age of Rationalism cast doubt on anything that wasn’t cerebral.

This 3rd session re-introduced the labyrinth, a feature of many medieval churches, particularly the cathedrals of France and northern Italy, but which fell out of use, and was only recently re-discovered in the 1990’s.  By walking a labyrinth we are re-discovering a long-forgotten mystical tradition that many find surprisingly potent.

St Mary’s Church, Melton Mowbray had 20 x 20 foot space in a chapel on the south side which allowed for a 7-circuit Petit Chartres labyrinth. Using a labyrinthograph (!), the 7 circles on which this particular design is based, were traced on to the flag-stones in carpenter’s pencil which then enabled the final outline to be marked out with masking tape.

After a brief introduction, the ‘pilgrims’ were invited to walk. There was an enthusiastic but attentive response. Equally important is the reflection afterwards, in this case, shared reflection which deepened the experience and provided  food for on-going meditation in the days ahead.

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Although the outline on the floor had always intended to be short-lived –‘ for one night only’ , such was the collective experience that a decision was made to leave it in place for several more days to allow for, second walks, perhaps when fewer people were present, and for  others who had not participated in the evening to have an opportunity to share in the experience.

Health Campus Week and Walking the Labyrinth at Lincoln

poster for healthy campus week

Healthy Campus Week gave students and staff at Riseholme and Brayford the experience of walking the labyrinth. 

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This opportunity to take time out is welcome. University chaplain Les Acklam offered a chunk of quiet relaxing time to focus on the path beneath your feet as it meanders into the centre of the Ermine Labyrinth and back out again. Unlike a maze, you can’t get lost in a labyrinth, you can only reach the centre and then work your way back to the beginning. Many people say this is a metaphor for life – but the true value of walking the labyrinth is it can represent whatever you want it too.

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Evaluation samples

“Actually more effective than I thought it would be, I felt confused when finding myself drifting away from the centre, but accomplished when I got there.”

“Gets annoying that you feel like you don’t get anywhere. But it’s something different to try.”

“I enjoyed the experience very much the music did help my mind felt empty and it enabled me to release a lot of negative energy. The reach to the middle simbolized achieving my goal.”

“Dizzy but more concentrated.”

“I liked the music and the green lights and also the way it was all curved lines and no straight ones made it easier to walk through it.”

“Not at all what I expected, finally a chance for some peace amongst this busy life. It gave me chance to think about plans and problems. Give it a chance and you’ll get out of it what you put in.”

A Conference with a Difference: Labyrinth walks by Jan Sellers

walking the labyrinth

At the Staff and Educational Development Association (SEDA) Conference in Chester, November 2010, participants had the opportunity to walk the University of Kent’s canvas labyrinth. The conference these was ‘Developing ourselves’ and the labyrinth offered a different kind of conference space: a quiet opportunity for reflection. The walk was open to everyone towards the end of the day, and was much appreciated by visitors. The initial intention was just to open for an hour, but with some careful juggling of the timetable and the support of hotel staff, we were able to keep it open for longer, to enable more people to take part.

In November 2008, I led a labyrinth workshop at SEDA for the first time. The conference theme included questions of personal and professional values, and we explored these issues with the support of a labyrinth walk. (For more, see   Interest grew to such an extent that we kept the labyrinth accessible all morning except for the time of the workshop itself. The first walker arrived at 8am and the last left the labyrinth at 12 noon, and including the workshop, about half the conference participants visited the labyrinth.

Labyrinth Workshop & Facilitator Training with Veriditas Master Teacher Di Williams

Click onto the link  for details of a labyrinth workshop to be run by Di Williams next year. Flyer for Di Williams

You might be interested to hear Di Williams, the UK’s first Veriditas Master Teacher and trainer for these events, being interviewed about labyrinths for BBC’s Women’s Hour, sometime between 10-11am on Friday 31st December.

A student walk

As well the recent Walk to Remember  at St Mary’s Church in Alsager, Cheshire, Bernard Moss has sent the information below about the labyrinth at Staffordshire University.

Bernard has led several labyrinth walk events at Staffordshire University, including on for a cohort of part time social work  students  whom he happened to be teaching on his last official day of teaching before retirement. It had a theme of thankfulness for the journey so far, and of stepping out into an unknown future.

As each student reached the centre, carrying their small glass pebble to represent whatever they took with them on their walk, they found a card addressed to them personally in which Bernard had written an appreciation for their contribution to the course and their many gifts, strengths and attributes. On their return they all wrote lengthy contributions in the labyrinth diary which helped everyone to mark the specialness of the occasion.

Labyrinth at Staffordshire University

Additional walks have taken place to mark Mental Health and Well-being week at the university, with future events planned for reflective practice workshops for staff. There are strong hopes that Staffordshire University might soon have its own permanent labyrinth.

A walk to remember

Bernard Moss led a labyrinth walk in his home town of Alsager, Cheshire, around the theme of Remembrance in November. This focussed not only on helping people remember those who have died in military conflict but also anyone experiencing the painful loss of bereavement, which focuses around the Christian festivals of All Souls and All Saints.  Red rose petals were scattered along the labyrinth walk as memory moments for the walkers, together with an opportunity to take a small coloured glass pebble with them to focus their thoughts. Click here to download the handout prepared for participants (Word document)

St Mary's Church, Alsager, Cheshire

Making a Chicken-Feed Labyrinth

 canterbury chicken labyrinth Canterbury Chicken labyrinth completed

Jeff and Kimberly Saward visited the University of Kent earlier this year for a lively seminar and a practical introduction to labyrinth-making –on the cheap! We started with an introduction to the history of labyrinths, followed by an opportunity to draw many different seed patterns. Then it was out to the chosen site, to see what we could do.

We set out to create a seven-circuit classical labyrinth from chopped corn (chickenfeed). The instructions can be found on Jeff and Kimberly’s Labyrinthos website,   This includes more photos of the process – mostly showing the team doubled up in concentration. Thanks are due to the Grounds Maintenance Team who recommended the site and made sure the grass was newly mown, and to the Biosciences Office who found a room for the photographer, looking down on the event as it proceeded!

The most time-consuming part was choosing the exact starting point, and laying out the seed pattern. For example, we needed to ensure that the completed labyrinth would be well clear of a grassy ditch and a paved footpath. Then the team was divided into runners and walkers. The walkers spaced ourselves out along a rope with ribbons marking our designated places (see the instructions). Each of us had a scoop (plastic bottle, trimmed to shape) full of chickenfeed ready to pour on the ground – it was the job of the runners to keep our scoops topped up. The rope was taut, pegged down at one end – we followed the rope, each of us pouring a narrow line of corn as we went, following the line that our individual ribbon traversed over the ground. Within 20 minutes we had a beautifully constructed labyrinth – ready to walk, run, dance…

This highly enjoyable day was a Creative Campus event at the University of Kent and was funded through my National Teaching Fellowship.  It provided training for three different groups: volunteers from a primary school, labyrinth enthusiasts at the University, and staff and students from the University’s School of Arts who planned to use the labyrinth in a subsequent dance event. Photos include the expert clearing-up carried out by a campus resident.

Jan Sellers

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