Stones used in the garden as art can have special meanings. There are several trends happening all over the world, which include natural stone and gravel materials being used to make labyrinths and cairns, which can be found throughout the world, but are becoming more prevalent in the United States.
A labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness. It combines the imagery of the circle and the spiral into a meandering but purposeful path. The Labyrinth represents a journey to our own center and back again out into the world. Labyrinths have long been used as meditation and prayer tools, and can be seen in churches, communities and gardens.
The labyrinth can be made in a grassy area, but a more common application is to construct one in an excavated circular area, covered with compacted stone dust and then the labyrinth path being defined using larger boulders/rocks or using stone pavers in alternating colors to determine the path.
Labyrinths and mazes have often been confused. When most people hear of a labyrinth they think of a maze. A labyrinth is not a maze. A maze is like a puzzle to be solved. It has twists, turns, and blind alleys. It is a task that requires logical, sequential, analytical activity to find the correct path into the maze and out. A labyrinth has only one path. It is universal. The way in is the way out. There are no blind alleys. The path leads you on a circuitous path to the center and out again.
A cairn is a man-made pile or stack of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish gaelic plural càirn. Cairns are found all over the world, and commonly found around mountain paths, near waterways, and also in barren desert areas. They vary in size from small stone markers to entire artificial hills, and in complexity from loose, conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of complex weight distribution to provide a balancing act of art.
The art of stacking stones can be as simple as stacking several on top of one another, to provide a garden accent, to more elaborate “sculptures” such as the tower of stones to the right.
Many of the materials found around Maryland can be used in both of these projects, from the stone dust foundation in the labyrinth to the rounded beautiful riverjacks for a garden cairn.
For details on how to construct a labyrinth, please see directions from the Labyrinth Society website here.