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Among the Wunderkreise there are some variations:

  • Some with two entries like the Zeiden Wunderkreis
  • Some with one access, but a bifurcation such as the Russian Babylons and the examples of Kaufbeuren or Eberswalde
  • Some with a nearly perfect double spiral like the Zeiden Wunderkreis
  • Some with a “pulled apart” double spiral such as the Russian Babylons, the example of Eberswalde and some Swedish and Finnish examples

The Babylonian Wunderkreis

Wunderkreise are compound labyrinths which are constructed from curves around different central points. Both lower turning points are proper for the “labyrinthine” circuits, the ones in the middle for the double spiral.
The double spiral in the Zeiden Wunderkreis is made from two centres lying side by side, and with it a total of only four centres the whole Wunderkreis can be constructed.

Here a Swedish example with a pulled apart double spiral from the book of Hermann Kern:

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island (Sweden)

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island, Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, fig. 584 (German edition); Photo: Bo Stiernström, 1976

A geometrically correct construction for a Wunderkreis with pulled apart double spiral requires more centres. Thus I receive for the Russian Babylons a total of six centres.

A sort of prototype with the dimension between axes of 1 m should serve as example. All values are thereby scaleable and differently big labyrinths can be constructed.

Construction elements

Construction elements

Best of all one begins by defining M1. After that one determines the direction of the perpendicular bisectors of the sides, and then constructs step by step the remaining mid points M2 to M6 through building the intersection of the triangle sides from two known points. All thereto necessary measurements are contained in the drawing.

The main dimensions

The main dimensions

The radii refer in each case to the middle axis of the boundary lines. The way runs between these boundary lines and, hence, is the empty space between these lines.

The different radii

The different radii

Here are the above shown components in one drawing as a PDF file to look at, to print or to copy.

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The Babylons are surely related to the widespread Troy Towns of the European North. However, they look a little bit different.
Directly after the entrance there is a bifurcation and therefore it is possible to go on in two directions. And then often there is no real middle, but rather you are headed back in a double spiral.

The Troy Town of Visby (Gotland Island, Sweden)

The Troy Town of Visby (Gotland Island, Sweden), Source: Ernst Krause, Die Trojaburgen Nordeuropas, 1893, fig. 1, p. 4

However, how could they have developed?
Numerous stone labyrinths have survived down to the present day in Fennoscandia. The Babylons are to be found particularly in the eastern area, from Finland up to the Russian Kola Peninsula. Often they are situated near the coast and on islands. The natives of Northern Europe, the Sami, settled here. It is possible that the Babylons deal with the traditional Sami religion.
They have presumably originated from the 13th century on until our times. And they were built in the same way: With stones fist-sized to head-sized laid down on the ground.

However, why do the Babylons look different and do not follow the well-known seed pattern with cross, angles and four dots? Much Scandinavian Troy Towns have eleven circuits and have been laid after the enlarged seed pattern.

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth with the seed pattern of the cross, the four double angles and the four dots

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth with the seed pattern of the cross, the four double angles and the four dots, on the right in a round shape

Thereby divergences and variations appeared. This can happen quite easily through this construction method.
Thus there are Swedish Troy Towns with the open cross which enables to take two directions to reach the middle, and to organise a race, e.g. This is why these also often are called “Jungfrudans” or “Jungfruringen”.

9-circuit stone labyrinth (Jungfruringen) at Köpmanholm (Sweden)

9-circuit stone labyrinth (Jungfruringen) at Köpmanholm (Sweden), Source: © John Kraft, Die Göttin im Labyrinth (1997), fig. 7, p. 26 (German edition)

In the seed pattern for this labyrinth double angles only were used in the lower area. So we have 9 circuits.

Here the layout for a 11-circuit labyrinth:

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth, on the right with open cross

The 11-circuit Cretan (Classical) labyrinth, on the right with open cross

In the report of Budovskiy I found a graphics (from 1973?) by Prof. Kuratov who has carried out a division of labyrinths and wanted probably show how the Babylon developed (see the sketched line in the graphics).

The table of Prof. Kuratov

The table of Prof. Kuratov

In the first column a sort of principle is to be seen. As first the whole Cretan labyrinth. In the second the left-handed spiral, in the third the right-handed spiral, then the double spiral and below circles.
In row Ia we see the Cretan type in different variations.
In row Ib the open cross and a decreasing middle.
In row II a right-handed spiral and the faulty stone setting discovered by Karl Ernst von Baer (1792 – 1876) in 1838 on the island of Wiehr.
In row III the Babylon with the double spiral.
In row IV some multiple-arm labyrinths which remind of the medieval labyrinths.

The open cross occurs several times under the Scandinavian labyrinths. Besides, the empty middle sometimes becomes smaller and then even slides under the two upper turning points. Finally, it is only indicated and then left out completely.

The drawing of John Kraft shows this:

The Troy Town of Nisseviken (Sweden)

The Troy Town of Nisseviken (Sweden), Source: graphic by © John Kraft in Gotländskt Arkiv 1983 on Gotlands trojeborgar, p. 87

I have found in a report about the Babylons on WeirdRussia, beside numerous photos, also this graphic :

Stone setting on the Bolshoi Zayatsky Island

Stone setting on the Bolshoi Zayatsky Island

The middle exists next to nothing. It is rather a niche or a widening of the way. In this area small stone heaps are sometimes stacked up. Should they show the gate to the underworld or the belly of the snake? The ends of the boundary lines are thickened. This is quite easy to make with some more stones.
The labyrinth has changed its meaning, with this its appearance and became the walk-through labyrinth.

Here the layout in geometrically correct form:

 

Babylon Solovki

Babylon Solovki

Presumably most of the Babylons correspond to this shape.

On this photo one can recognise very well the alignment.

There is a graphic with a little “rounder” double spiral in the table of Prof. Kuratov and in Vinogradov’s report which I have still shown in my last post (see below).

There are  obviously some among the Finnish stone settings which look rather so.

Graphics of a Babylon according to Vinogradov

Graphics of a Babylon according to Vinogradov

According to most of the photos the Babylons doesn’t look exactly like this. The entrance is narrower and has a short straight piece.

Actually, one must consider them as a Wunderkreis. Even if they don’t have such a perfect double spiral like the Zeiden Wunderkreis. The Wunderkreise of Kaufbeuren or Eberswalde matches more likely the Babylons.

How could one call this type? In the last post I had suggested: Babylonian Wunderkreis. However, now I tend rather to Sami Wunderkreis because it developed in the cultural area of the Sami and probably was used in the cult of the dead.

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According to Wikipedia there are in all about 35 labyrinths in the Solovetsky Islands in the Onega Bay of the White Sea in the  Arkhangelsk Oblast (Russia), about 500 km to the north of St. Petersburg and 150 km to the south of the polar circle.

The Labyrinth on the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island

The Labyrinth on the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island, Source: Wikipedia, Photo © Vitold Muratov 2013

How old are they, who has built them, what was the purpose? There are many speculations about that (see the Further Links below). I do not want to take part in it.
I only want to find out how they look like, which type of labyrinth they are. I have found enough indications. There are several photos which reveal a part of the labyrinths quite well, unfortunately, not completely.

On the Internet I have found the following graphics from a book published in 1927 by Nikolai Vinogradov (historian, ethnologist and folklorist, 1876 – 1938).

Graphics of a stone setting

Graphics of a stone setting

In Hermann Kern’s book “Labyrinths” I have found the photo of a petroglyph on the island Skarv in the Stockholm archipelago (Sweden), presumably from the 18th/19th century.

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island

Petroglyph on the Skarv Island, Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, fig. 583 (German edition); Photo: Bo Stiernström, 1976

Compared to the graphics above the labyrinth is mirrored and the double spiral has a circuit less.

The labyrinths, called Babylons in the local dialect, have been made in the same way as the Scandinavian Troy Towns, probably at the same time and presumably served similar purposes.
Nevertheless, the layout is completely different. There are none of the well-known 11- or 15-circuit Cretan labyrinths which can be made from the enlarged seed pattern.

They belong to the walk-through labyrinths. These have a double spiral in the middle and labyrinthine circuits round two turning points. They can have two accesses or only one, however, with a bifurcation.

The hints, the Babylons could be seen as part of a cult of the dead and would show two snakes winding into each other, well explain the figure. They could also have been put on as a sort of piece of art.

There appear two spirals interlocking into each other. In a geometrical figure with semicircles around different centres they can be constructed as follows:

Blue and red spirals

Blue and red spirals

Both lines can be drawn well in one go and freehand: You will begin in the middle, turn to the right, circling once around, then in a larger turn outwardly from the right side to the left, from there inwards back to the right side. The red line ends her, the blue returns one more time to the left, circling inwards.
When you know how to draw each line, try to draw one in the other. Best begin with the blue line and leave enough space between the lines. Then put the red line in between.
That sounds complex, and it is. But best of all try several times with a pencil on a sheet of paper.

The result should look like thus:

The red spiral inside the blue one

The red spiral inside the blue one

For a labyrinth laid of stones these semicircular or elliptical curves can relatively simple be realised.

Best of all one starts in the middle. There one can arrange most easily the thickening of the ends and the interpieces. Then the remaining lines follow in steady distances.

Step 1 and 2

Step 1 and 2

One makes three semicircles downwards (step 1), and four semicircles upwards (step 2). Thus the double spiral in the middle is built.

Step 3 and 4

Step 3 and 4

Then I add five semicircles on top (step 3). There are five free ends on the left side, and seven on the right. These I elongate to the sloped line at right and at left (step 4).

Step 5 and 6

Step 5 and 6

In step 5 I connect both outermost free ends on the left and on the right side so with each other that in the middle a gap remains for the entrance. In step 6 the remaining free ends are connected parallel to the curves just made before. The innermost free end on each side will be the turning point.

It is noteworthy that the limitation lines do not overlap like they doe in the Cretan labyrinth. In spite of the bifurcation the way through the whole figure is unequivocal and follows the typical “labyrinthine” rhythm.

The construction elements

The construction elements

Even if the Babylons were not put on so geometrically precisely, nevertheless, these geometrical features show the essential internal structure and let them count to the Wunderkreise. I would like to call them Babylonian Wunderkreise to discern them from the Wunderkreise with two accesses side by side like we see that in the Zeidner Wunderkreis.

The Babylons are related to the Babylonian Labyrinths through the double spiral in the middle and the unequivocal way that leads to it, even if there are two opposite entrances.

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This is what a Baltic Wheel looks like:

The Baltic Wheel

The Baltic Wheel

It has circuits which run primarily about two turning points. The middle is empty, however, it has a second, short way to leave it directly. Thereby we also have two entries which are separated by a spoon-like formed part.
Historical examples are very rare. In Germany there is the Rad in der Eilenriede at the town park of Hannover. Otherwise we only know this type from literature.

In the previous articles I have dealt with the Wunderkreis. Besides, a certain resemblance between both these types has also struck me. Though both have two entries they are still different types. In what way are they different now?

The Wunderkreis

The Wunderkreis

The labyrinthine circuits are disposed around turning points which are arranged in a triangle. In the middle we have a double spiral (the circuits A, B, C) through which we leave the Wunderkreis. We have a walk-through labyrinth lying ahead of us.

The Baltic Wheel has a big, empty middle and consequently contains no double spiral. However, there is also the second access (or exit). If I leave out the circuits for the double spiral, I shall nearly get the  Baltic Wheel.

The intermediate stage

The intermediate stage

The remaining circuits are the same. Also the path sequence is the same. This shows the close relationship between the two labyrinth types.

Now I add a middle section formed from arcs between the two entrances and will thus receive a complete Baltic Wheel.

The Baltic Wheel

The Baltic Wheel

The Baltic Wheel can exist of a varied number of circuits. These can be added the same way as in the Wunderkreis (see related posts below).

Other design elements can also be added, such as an additional circuit around the whole Baltic Wheel.

Some years ago I had already published construction instructions for the Baltic Wheel. It looked a little bit different. The construction developed now seems easier to me and I like it better.

If I have fixed the number of the circuits for a Baltic Wheel, I can also begin with the base line of the triangle (between M3 and M4) and then determine the centre M1.

The construction has a dimension between axes of 1 m and therefore allows to scale it easier.

The drawing

The drawing

Here as a PDF file to look at, to print or to copy.

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The previous post was more concerned with the geometry and the mathematically correct construction of the Wunderkreis in general.

Here is an example of how you can make it less theoretically. Denny Dyke from Circles in the Sand often creates double spirals and the Wunderkreis in his Dream Fields on the beach of Oregon. Denny Dyke has kindly shown me his method.
In the following photos it is explained.

Freehand he scratches the lines in the sand. Hence, the way runs between the lines. The double spiral has three arcs, the surrounding labyrinth has five circuits.

Step 1

Step 1

Denny begins with the lower part of the double spiral and draws three semicircles. On the left he adds two lines and the turning point, on the right there are three lines and the turning point (step 1).

Step 2

Step 2

Now he scratches three semicircles for the upper part of the double spiral. The first semicircle begins in the middle of the innermost lower semicircle (step 2).

Step 3

Step 3

All the other curves are drawn in parallel and equal distance to this arc by connecting all free ends of the existing lines and the turning points. Just the way we do it in the Classical labyrinth. We begin on top and draw four lines on the left side around the double spiral to the right side (step 3).

Step 4

Step 4

In the same way the two free lines below are connected together (step 4). Having done this the Wunderkreis has quite been completed.

The open lower middle section contains the two entries of the Wunderkreis. On the left side we enter the labyrinthine circuits. On the right side we have the exit out of the double spiral.

The completed Wunderkreis

The completed Wunderkreis

Denny has marked both accesses and has separated them through the “shoehorn” known from the Baltic wheel.

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A Wunderkreis is a double spiral, surrounded by a simple labyrinth with two turning points.

We begin in the centre with the double spiral. One  semicircle below and one semicircle above the horizontal line would suffice as a minimum. Many more semicircles could be added to enlarge the double spiral. Here we make three arcs which we name A, B and C. The lower ones are drawn around M1 as the centre, the upper ones are arranged around M2 as the centre and shifted to the right.

Step 1

Step 1

Then we add three arcs on the left side. They are drawn in a triangular sector around the midpoint M1. We number the circuits from the outside with 1, 2 and 3. Circuit 3 will finally form the entrance.
The turning and midpoint M3 for the lower semicircle lies concentric between the both external circuits 1 and 2.

Step 2

Step 2

Now we go to the right side. Here two arcs more than on the left side are necessary, that means a total of five. Again we number the circuits from the outside inwards from 1 to 5. The circuit 5 will later lead to the exit.
The turning point M4 lies concentric between the four circuits 1 to 4. In the lower middle section two semicircles are traced around that midpoint M4.

Step 3

Step 3

Now the upper semicircles are completed around the midpoint M2. There are four semicircles (and circuits) more on each side than at the beginning.

Step 4

Step 4

The Wunderkreis is usually entered through the labyrinthine circuits on circuit 3 and left through the double spiral on circuit 5. The path sequence then is as follows: 3-2-1-4-C-B-A-A-B-C-5.
The path sequence 3-2-1-4 forms the basis of the meander, as connoisseurs know, as in the Knossos labyrinth.


Now we choose more circuits and apply the abovementioned principles to the construction. Through that Wunderkreise with a varied number of circuits can be generated. We can add circuits to the double spiral one by one, to the labyrinth we have to do it in pairs.
On the right side two circuits more are necessary than on the left. The lower turning points (M3 and M4) must lie concentric between the even-numbered left or right circuits. In the following example we have 6 circuits on the left and 8 on the right side.

If we know how many circuits for a Wunderkreis we want, we can lay both lower turning points on a line and determine the middle for the double spiral (M1) in a triangle. Entrance and exit can also be arranged  side by side without any space.

Nevertheless we can begin, while marking out, with the definition of the middle M1 and also determine the adjustment of the main axis (vertical line). The remaining centres M3 and M4 can afterwards be fixed in that triangle.

The main dimensions

The main dimensions

Best of all we consider the measurements as units, so either “metre” or “yard” or “step width” or something similar. Then we can also scale all dimensions.
The smallest radius begins with 1 unit and then gradually grows by 1 from arc to arc. Then the biggest radius has 12 units. The boundary lines add themselves on 407 units, the whole way through the Wunderkreis reaches 362 units.

The completed Wunderkreis

The completed Wunderkreis

In this example the Wunderkreis has four circuits more than in the other at the top of the page and no space between entrance and exit. This area is formed quite differently in the historical Wunderkreise. Sometimes the paths are joined together, sometimes they run apart.

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It is only a labyrinth if we accept walk-through labyrinths as such, since it has two accesses and no middle in which one can remain. I also use the German term “Wunderkreis” and not the translated “wonder/miracle circle”.

I consider it as a real labyrinth and even state that it has older roots than the Cretan labyrinth from the Mediterranean area. The activity with the Babylonian labyrinths brought me to this view, as there is a double spiral in the centre of a typical Wunderkreis. But a spiral alone does not make a labyrinth, meandering patterns are also required.

Some examples:

Wunderkreis of stones

Wunderkreis of stones

This is a nice specimen laid with stones like the Scandinavian Troy Towns. The way runs between the stones. The entrance lies in the middle below and then branches out. I can go on to the left or to the right. However, I must wander through the whole figure to come out again. In the centre the determining change of course takes place. The two turning points around which the way is led pendulously, lie on the left and on the right side. I move towards the middle or sometimes away of it; sometimes I turn right and sometimes I turn left, as I do in a classical labyrinth.
Two parts constitute the figure: the double spiral with the meander in the middle and the circuits around the two turning points. Which part will be run through first, depends on which way you choose. However, the two parts are not mixed, each element must be run for itself.

The element with the two turning points, which form a triangle in combination with the centre in the double spiral, also appears as own labyrinth type, such as the type Knossos, the Baltic wheel and the Indian labyrinth.

The Baltic wheel also has the second access/exit to the middle which  is very short, however. The real middle is formed by a bigger, empty area. Nevertheless, it is not a Wunderkreis, because the second way alone does not constitute one, but the double spiral in the middle.

Old drawing of the Eberswalde Wunderkreis

Old drawing of the Eberswalde Wunderkreis

In this drawing the paths rather than the walls are shown in black lines. The Wunderkreis was put on first in 1609 and to the quartercentenary in 2009 even a coin was designed.

Coin for the quartercentenary

Coin for the quartercentenary

Here the design looks a little bit different, nevertheless, the course of the path is the same as in the drawing. In the meantime, a Wunderkreis from paving-stones was put on again in Eberswalde. Not on the Hausberg like in 1609, but on the Schützenplatz.

The new Eberswald Wunderkreis

The new Eberswald Wunderkreis

Another historical Wunderkreis is passed down from Kaufbeuren.

Zeichnung des Wunderkreises aus Kaufbeuren

A similar Wunderkreis has been put on in 2002 in the Jordanpark again.

The 2002 restaured Kaufbeuren Wunderkreis

The 2002 restaured Kaufbeuren Wunderkreis

The Transylvanian Saxons brought new insights to the use of the Wunderkreis with the celebration of the march through it. The original Zeiden Wunderkreis still exists in today’s Romania. The Zeiden community have carried on the traditions round the Wunderkreis here in Germany so that we have learned more about that labyrinth.

Drawing of the Zeiden Wunderkreis

Drawing of the Zeiden Wunderkreis

The lines here illustrate the way and first turn to the right. They also do not branch out, but run apart. Thus we can assume that the external circuits were traversed first and then the double spiral.

At quite a different place the following temporary Wunderkreis was built in July 2015 : At low tide on the beaches of Bandon in Oregon (USA).

Dream Field at Face Rock on the beaches of Bandon

Dream Field at Face Rock on the beaches of Bandon, Photo © Courtesy of Pamela Hansen

Since 2014 Denny Dyke and his team have put on new creations under “Circles in the Sand” in the Dream Field Labyrinths. Besides, he often uses the double spiral and the Wunderkreis which is particularly suitable for these as it is a walk-through labyrinth. It does not depend on the external shape, a Wunderkreis can also be angular.


Now we can look at the most important features of the Wunderkreis in a sort of a blueprint. Here we have the limitation lines (walls) in black. We see four termini. The two entries are arranged side by side.

The walls of the Wunderkreis

The walls of the Wunderkreis

If we color the paths in different colours we can recognize better the essential components of this type of labyrinth. There are two different areas. If we enter through the left entrance we first surround the two turning points in the lower area in a pendular movement changing direction on every side. The way on the right leads into the double spiral.

The paths of the Wunderkreis

The paths of the Wunderkreis

The initial movement in a processional labyrinth first leads around the outermost circuits. In the double spiral the most important change of course takes place and leads out from there again.
The Wunderkreis was often used for competitions and even served as a sort of racetrack. Maybe the name can be traced back to this use as well.

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