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Walking the Labyrinth at Julian's Bower

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This is Julian’s Bower, a historic turf path in Alkborough, near Scunthorpe. I was in that area yesterday for a family occasion and took the opportunity to visit and walk it. Although it’s historically called a ‘maze’, nowadays people tend to call this type of pattern with a single winding path a labyrinth. However, the signs nearby all call it a maze. A chart one on side of Julian’s Bower reads:  

“This turf maze is one of the few remaining in Britain but its age and origins remain a mystery. The first written record was in 1697 when it was thought to be Roman. However due to its likeness to maze patterns in Medieval French churches it is thought that Julian’s Bower may be medieval. In later centuries the maze was used for ‘maze running’ games by local children. A Victorian replica can be seen in the porch floor at Alkborough Church.”

A plaque on a stone plinth on the other side, placed there by Alkborough Maze Committee, offers this information:

“Mazes are associated with Theseus threading the Cretan labyrinth to slay the Minotaur-a common theme in ancient life. Turf mazes often bore the name of ‘Julian’s Bower’ or ‘Walls of Troy’. It is thought that these names record the belief that Julius, son of Aeneas, legendary founder of Rome, brought maze games to Italy from Troy after its sacking by the Greeks. Maze games were adopted by the early Church as a symbol of the Christian path to salvation and may have been used for penitential purposes.”

Labyrinths seems to be cropping up in my life a lot at the moment, and I pay attention when magical symbols keep presenting themselves to me, just like this. I’ve walked many labyrinths in the past, including ones cut in turf, but this is the first I’ve walked that’s genuinely old.  As I traversed the twists and turns I felt shifted out of normal space and time, similar to the way I feel when I’m scrying. The message I got was that when you are pursuing a goal, sometimes you feel very close to it, but don’t quite get there, while at other times you feel you are getting further and further away and even feel lost. The important thing is to just keep going, if you do, you will get there in the end. 

Throughout November, I’ve been taking part in the challenge of National Novel Writing Month write 50,000 words of a novel in 30 days. That sense of not sometimes knowing where my plot was going was very much like walking a labyrinth. I haven’t quite finished the first draft of that novel yet, although I have already completed 50,000 words of it. I will get there though. Just a little bit further.

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