Labyrinth – A Spiral Dance

Labyrinth – A Spiral Dance

Photo by Jade Stubbs 


A lot of folks ask me what the difference is between a labyrinth and a maze, and I usually say that mazes are meant to trick you – you get lost and have to find your way in and out. A labyrinth has only one path. You follow it and you will be taken to the centre and back out – you can’t get lost, you just have to trust. But recently I found the best quote (source anonymous unfortunately), which sums it up perfectly: “The point of a maze is to find its centre…the point of a labyrinth is to find your centre”.

So where does the iconic labyrinth symbol come from? The source of this symbol is lost to antiquity but they have been found across the world, from Mexico to Cornwall, and the oldest are carved into rock and dated to approx. 10,000 BCE.  

The most famous “labyrinth” is the one from Crete, where King Minos ordered Daedalus to build a labyrinth to keep the famous Minotaur monster from escaping – it ate 7 young men and 7 maidens every year, specially delivered from Athens. Prince Theseus (an Athenian himself) with the aid of King Minos’ daughter, Ariadne, was eventually able to kill the monster. Although it’s known as the Cretan labyrinth, it was actually a maze.

I was called to work with labyrinths after a late night call with a friend, Willow Moon, who herself had followed Cerridwen for many years. I had never come across this ancient and wonderful Goddess before. During the call, we decided to arrange a retreat to Bala with some of our friends. After our call finished around 1am, I went to bed and as soon as my head touched the pillow, I heard – loud and clear – the word “Labyrinth!”.

I couldn’t sleep. I got up, switched on my laptop and searched to see if there was a link between Cerridwen, who we’d been discussing, and labyrinths. A search brought up a beautiful artwork from an artist called Kate Monkman – and I read that she was based in Bala!  The next morning I contacted Kate by email and she agreed to meet us in Bala, and introduced us to a beautiful stone circle high in the mountains above the lake.

Labyrinth BookI became intrigued by labyrinths. I bought a wonderful book, “Exploring the Labyrinth” by Melissa Gayle West; it taught me how labyrinths are often used for healing, sometimes in hospices. I felt drawn to create a labyrinth myself – but my garden is tiny! There was no local land I could use, but still I yearned to create one.

Then it came to me. It was obvious – the book I had been reading for days had a picture of a labyrinth on the cover, and it was on a beach. I had miles of beaches very close to home!  

So it began. My first labyrinth was in New Brighton. Just me, my daughter and her chihuahua. It took quite a few attempts with a branch, rubbing out mistakes with my foot, but I was entranced. I had created my first labyrinth!

Walking the labyrinth

A while later, I decided to join the Priestess of Cerridwen training, studying with Bee Helygen.

I started to research this beautiful symbol more. I created a labyrinth on a large cloth, so it was portable. I learned how to draw the classic labyrinth symbol and have taught many others how to draw finger labyrinths they can use anywhere. I have presented workshops on the history of labyrinths (did you know the Romans used them to train horsemanship?) and was blessed to be invited to create a labyrinth at a ceremony in Bala for Cerridwen with Bee Helygen.

The centre of the labyrinth is time outside of time, a place outside of place… it is the place where we meet our God/Goddess/divine love, or whatever you happen to believe.

Sometimes you walk a labyrinth and will get a profound message, a life revelation. Other times you will get some healing, or calming – and at others times it will just be a nice walk, nothing more. 

Labyrinth sunset

Each labyrinth has a magic all of its own; no two are ever the same. Most of mine are now beach labyrinths, which I open up for anyone to join with an open heart and mind. At the end I draw an arrow to the entrance, saying “try me”, and we leave the labyrinth there for anyone on the beach to find and explore. Children and dogs especially enjoy them!

Recently I held a walk to celebrate the Winter solstice on a local beach with some friends, and a family was watching. As always, I invited them to join in the walk, describing it as a “walking meditation”. I explained to them how the labyrinth is a symbol used by lots of religions, and can be used by anyone whether religious or not. The grandfather and teenage granddaughter asked to walk the labyrinth, and the rest of the family moved away and waited for them.  

When the man finished walking, he had tears in his eyes and told me “…The healing, it’s for her…” and looked over towards his wife who, he told me, had cancer. I believe that the healing was for him too; how stressful it is when you are caring for a loved one who has a terminal illness.

Labyrinths want to be “birthed” and if you start creating them, you will find you naturally know what to do; where to place them and what to put in the centre, if anything. Please remember to ask permission from the spirits of the place before you set up your labyrinth and ask that any negative energies be absorbed by the labyrinth and given to the Earth to transmute into positive energies. Beach labyrinths are perfect, as the tide washes all traces away.

Each labyrinth becomes a unique event. I have added prayer flags on World Labyrinth Day, and often start with a ritual opening before people walk the labyrinth; we hold a closing ceremony with thanks afterwards. I tend to bring refreshments to share, to make sure folk are properly grounded before they walk (and sometimes drive) away.

I could go on for ages about labyrinths, but I will end here and simply encourage you to learn more about them if you are called to do so. This could be the beginning of a beautiful spiral dance for you, as it was for me. I feel very blessed that Cerridwen started me on this path.

Blessings of the labyrinth and of Cerridwen to you and yours. May you find your way safely to your centre.

Labyrinth and drum


Karen Grainger – North West, UK

Karen Grainger

“Karen Grainger lives in the North West of the UK and is a Priestess of Nemetona, ‘Daughter of Brigid’ and Priestess of Cerridwen in training, currently training with course leader, Bee Helygen.

Karen’s work is creating sacred space for others, whether that be hosting a women’s circle, death cafe, being celebrant for a handfasting or other special occasion.  She is also co-founder (with Willow Moon) of Wirral Pathways Festival, which runs bi-annual online and in-person events with national and international speakers from the world of Paganism.  For details see the Facebook page WirralPathwaysFestival

Karen is owned by a white chihuahua and black cat – very yin and yang!

To contact her and details on celebrant work, see her Facebook page Cariad Seren

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