Master Labyrinth maker Alex Champion takes us on a journey as he describes the backstory of creating a labyrinth, as well as the experiential effects of working with labyrinths. In this story, Alex looks at the Chartres design labyrinth created in Danville, California in 2015.
Labyrinths were my passion from 1987 to the turn of the century and a little beyond. I was one of the founding members of the Labyrinth Society, so I was fortunate to meet some of the stars in the field. One of those stars was Marty Kermeen and his wife Debi. Very fortunate for me, we can became friends. So when I received an email from Debi saying they were in Danville making a Chartres design at the Hap Magee Ranch Park, I jumped at the opportunity to go down and see them and of course see his work. Making art with pavers is their business (http://labyrinthsinstone.com/) Marty researches and makes the product and Debi does all the other essentials of the business that don’t receive much attention. Marty told me that he wouldn’t be able to do his work without her.
I’ve always thought his work very special. When one sees his work and walks his design, then one realizes that his work is brilliant. First there is the physical presence of his design. It feels like you’re are walking on concrete, something that’g going to last a very long time. I asked him how long does he think his work will last. what’s the life expectancy? He answered until someone tore it up or an earthquake hit. He builds them to last forever. That’s very satisfying in a Universe where change is a constant in perpetuity.
His specialty is the labyrinth in the floor of Chartres Cathedral. His aim is to make an exact replica.
When I first arrived and starting looking at his design I saw that he added smaller brick = paver to the pathway. The smaller brick is 2.33 by 4.65 half the size of the standard brick. He said he wanted to create a cobblestone effect. I liked what he did. All the same size brick gives a flow to the path that I feel should not be heavily interfered with. An odd size brick every now and then helps the sameness that can become boring.
Since diversity is a universal feature of Nature, I would add a third brick in golden mean relationship with the 4.65 square or 2.87″ by 4.65″. I would have the ratio of the standard brick to odd size brick be 4/1 or perhaps more.. I made that suggestion to him, thinking that he could cut down the standard brick. For several reasons that was not possible, so he would have to order the odd shape brick made and that would add to the cost.
There is no question that I have a fascination with patterns, and not just labyrinths. In my Albany California home, 30 years ago I built a passive solar energy room which had a large numbers of windows on the south and west walls. A two inch layer of concrete was attached to the north wall, and on top of that I design a tile picture that was 6 feet by 6 feet. The design used southwest red tile, tiles that were 6″ by 6″ and 4” by 8″. They were the picture and tiles 2″ by 4” and 2″ by 6″ became the background. I spent the majority of time working on the background.
Here’s a photo of my tile pattern. There’s a mistake from my design on paper to the pattern created by the tile setter. It was created by the way the paper with the design was folded.
I show this to make it easy to understand why I so looking forward to seeing Marty’s creation.
He is making a very complex design using as his basic budding block a square concrete paver 4.65 inches by 4.65 inches and 2.36 inches deep, tan pavers were used for the path and black pavers for the barrier.
As shown above the Chartres cathedral design is mostly made of circular arcs.
So a large number of the square bricks have to be cut, in order to make the bricks fit so snuggly together that in some cases, one can not put a fine sand between them.
There are twnety-eight 180 degree turns and all 23 bricks need to be cut to make each turn.
The pavers need to be cut to make the 113 lunations. The bricks need to be cut to make the floral design in the center. All the black barrier bricks between the paths are cut. They are cut to size and then the cut edge is beveled to match the standard brick in which all four edges at the top are beveled. One problem with beveling is that the cut surface is a different color and it showed clearly when Marty put 20 gallons of sealer on the bricks.
One can see that in the black bricks in the photos.
I asked them how many bricks in his design? Neither knew. Well, one can do a simple calculation given the size of the brick and the area of the design.
• The diameter of the design is 43 feet which means its area is 1,452 square feet.
• Since the area of the brick is 0.15 square feet, 9,671 bricks would take up 1.452 square feet.
This has to be a minimum since close to 50% are cut which means the average brick is smaller. All the black bricks between the paths are smaller.
My guess is that there is at least 10,000 bricks of many sizes in the design. I can do a rough tally for how many bricks were cut:
• The raw material for each lunation is 10 bricks, all of which are cut, that means there are 1,130 bricks just in the lunations at the outside perimeter of the design.
• The tan bricks outside the lunations, probably close to 400, are all cut.
• The 23 stones making up each turn are cut; 28 turns adds another 644 bricks to the total.
• The the barrier surrounding two barriers contain 32 bricks and is seen 10 times or 320 cut bricks.
So far I have tabulated 2,494 cut bricks and there is the floral pattern to count as well as the many black bricks between the paths. Someone else can count the rest, but one can see that there will be close to 5,000 bricks that are cut.
How long does it take Marty with Debi’s help to make the design? A thousand hours, they have been working on this design since Thanksgiving.
How much does one cost? $100,000. 10,000 bricks in a design that takes a 1,000 hours to make and costs $100,000, a nice set of numbers.
When I first arrived Marty was still putting sealer on the design. Afterwards we went to dinner and then back to the design. The sealer had dried so we could walk it. I had my Cannon one shot camera, so I started taking photos focusing on the features I found interesting.
What I fell in love with first were the turns. There are 28 of them and I found them mesmerizing. Some photos:
There are a slew of interesting features around the entrance path;
The semi circle at the entrance pulls one in to the design. The full entrance path is seen next. Then you can see in the photo the central barrier which separates the two straight paths in the design, one that lead to the center and the other the entrance path.
After walking for a while I had the feeling that there were two layers to the design.
The lower layer was the black bricks which I saw as a fabric underlying the second layer, the path, and the path layer obscures the barrier layer. Eventually I could feel the connection between the barrier elements across pathways.
Marty pointed out that all the black elements were connected and one could see their connection by swinging a string, tied to the center of the design, from one barrier element to another across the pathways.
Eventually I could see that all barrier bricks, outside the center, were separated by circular arcs drawn from the center of the design.
Marty started showing me other features. All 113 lunations were made with the same 10 pieces. All 28 turns were made with the same 23 bricks. A barrier feature that encircles two turns is seen 10 times and everyone is identical.
To keep the lines between the bricks from lining up, the pattern presented was the only that would allow that and not have extremely small pieces. The lower half of the barrier element, as well as the upper one, has a mirror image quality.
On the photo below, if one draws a line between the bricks on the second row from the top, straight down; The left side is a mirror image of the right side.
Marty also pointed out to me that where the circular turns are initiated are also determined by a string attached to the center of the design. The 6 turns below are distinct path elements. Each is a semicircle that is meant to appear as one stone, as that is what is present in the Chartres design.
The final element that I have always loved is in the central element, which contains six circular elements. Each is a little more than a semi-circle, and each defines a space where walkers can stand or sit.
Other features that have always caught my attention are the cross at the tip of the circular ribs, and the entrance to the center that offers a place to stand.
The photo below shows the entire center and a good 25% of the design. We both took selflies and Debi’s was the best. I’ve included it below!
A little after 7PM I started to feel funny and it was time to head home. I arrived home at about 9 and went straight to bed. At about 1AM I awoke and my entire body was buzzing. That’s been happening a fair amount to me lately but usually when I wake around 4AM or later. So it wasn’t surprising but I took note of it.
In the morning I downloaded all 49 shots I had taken. I had plan to start writing about my adventures that morning, but I felt pretty wiped out. I did some dowsing and discovered that I was not to look at my photos until two days later. I work with an energy worker once a week and we had missed our usual Monday morning session. So I was planning to work with her later that week. I dowsed that I shouldn’t work with her until the following week.
That suggested to me that I had received a large amount of new energy while in Marty’s design, and it needed time to integrate. Being exposed to any more energy would be too much, and can lead to strange and unpleasant things happening. I know what it means to have exposure to too much energy, I learn that lesson more than once during my labyrinth career.
I was surprised at this development. I have walked the Chartres design dozens of times. I’ve walked every type of Charters labyrinths that Grace Cathedral in San Francisco. I made a replica of the Chartres in tape at a conference in Philadelphia. I’ve walked the Chartres that seemed to be always present at the annual labyrinth society gathering. I walked the beautiful granite Chartres in New Harmony, IN. I’ve been to Chartres cathedral. I didn’t walk the design, there were chairs covering it, and I didn’t care to do a feather anderson. But I did stand in the middle for quite a while and examined all parts of the design that I could.
I’ve made a 5 ring Chartres as an earthwork and a 3 ring Chartres as an earthwork, twice.
I’ve made over 40 different labyrinthine designs, and recorded all unexpected experiences for most of the designs. I developed a category of experiences as one that is often found with individuals walking a labyrinthine design.
What I discovered was that most unexpected experiences happen most often the first time or the first few times it was walked, and within a short while, one did not have any more unexpected experiences. My theory was that unexpected things happen the first time one walks a new design because one’s energy field is exposed to a unique energy field of the design.
Labyrinths are based on sacred geometric motifs. Each motif has its own energetic signature which can be described as a tuning fork. So one’s auric energy field is exposed to an orchestra of tuning forks. We, also, are based ultimately on sacred geometry, eg. all our atoms are spheres.
So possibly what happens is that part of our field wants to resonate with field of the sacred geometric design but may not be able to because all of the garbage energy we’ve pick up during our lives. The discordance between may result in individuals becoming dizzy or nauseous. Or one may feel energy on some part of their body. Or one may fall asleep; one time a lady walked up to one of my country earthworks and said that she wasn’t going to walk it. Then she lay down and fell asleep next to the design. One of the common reactions of seeing crop circles is to fall asleep after the visit.
Here is a warning, when one gets dizzy or spacey, one needs to leave the design and stay away until one feels back to normal. It may be an hour or a whole day or so. Eventually, one will be able to walk the design and have nothing unusual happen. I believe that at that time your field is in harmony with the field of the design. You have acclimatized to it.
I thought that I had acclimatized to the Chartres design, I’ve walked it many times and have had nothing special happened. I made it once. When I made an earthwork, it meant that I was in its energy all day, every day until it’s finished. My experience is that one usually becomes acclimatized while it is being made. So, either I have not acclimatized to the Chartres design or Marty’s design had an additional features that brought in their own energy. I dowse (dowsing is a possible truth) that it’s the latter.
Why? I had a visceral reaction to several design elements. The turns were my favorite. I had multiple wow experience when I came to a turn. The semi-circular motif is striking. The floral motif of the center is just gorgeous. I love the lunations and the central barrier and the barrier surrounding two opposed turns.
What I felt last Monday at 1AM I am guessing was the presence of new energy that I had been exposed to in Marty’s design. And it was affecting me.
I had a worn out feeling and took afternoon naps both day. Those are also symptoms of exposure to new energy.
I had a terrific time, meeting with old friends and seeing and experiencing their creation.
Although my metaphysical/spiritual interest is not centered on labyrinths any more, it’s nice to know that there are labyrinthine designs out there that have an energy that i haven’t been exposed to before.