Reflections on the Wunderkreis, 1

The Wunderkreis has often been the subject of this blog. Today I would like to bring some basic remarks to it.

As is known, the Wunderkreis consists of labyrinthine windings and a double spiral in the center. Thus, there is no center to reach as usually in the labyrinth and, in addition, an extra exit, but it can also be formed together with the entrance in a branching.

This makes it more difficult to represent all this in a pattern. Also the usual path sequence (or circuit sequence) with the alternating odd and even numbers does not work properly anymore.

Therefore, I suggest to designate the spiral-shaped circuits with letters. This also gives the possibility to better describe the different types.

Here is the smallest Wunderkreis in my opinion:

Wunderkreis Type 3 a
Wunderkreis Type 3 a

A 3 circuit (normal) labyrinth with a double spiral. The path sequence, starting to the left, would be: 0-1-2-a1-a2-3-0. If I move to the right first, the result is: 0-3-a2-a1-2-1-0.

General note on “0”. This always means the area outside the labyrinth. Even if “0” does not appear on the drawings.

Now I can either increase the outer circuits or only the double spiral or both.

Type 3 a-b
Type 3 a-b

This is one more course for the double spiral. The path sequence to the left: 0-1-2-a1-b2-b1-a2-3-0. To the right: 0-3-a2-b1-b2-a1-2-1-0.

And now:

Type 5 a
Type 5 a

The double spiral as in the first example, the outer circuits increased by two. This creates a path sequence with (to the left): 0-3-2-1-4-a1-a2-5-0. Or to the right: 0-5-a2-a1-4-1-2-3-0.

Now follows:

Type 5 a-b
Type 5 a-b

In addition to the previous example, the double spiral is also enlarged. This results in: 0-3-2-1-4-a1-b2-b1-a2-5-0. And: 0-5-a2-b1-b2-a1-4-1-2-3-0.

In the circuit sequences I recognize the regularities as they occur also in the already known classical corresponding labyrinths. And if I omit the double spiral, I also end up with these labyrinths.

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How to Make an Aligned Wunderkreis

I have already explained the principle some years ago. In the meantime I have gained some knowledge about it, so that I can once again present a proposal for a construction method. This applies to both the drawing and a stakeout on site using simple surveying tools.

I present a prototype based on an axial dimension of one meter. This allows the Wunderkreis to be scaled to any desired scale.

We start with a basic framework with the definition of an axis, on which the input axis is to be placed here. That would be the line E-C. It runs centrally between the midpoints M3 and M4.
After defining the points A, E and B, the center point M3 can be defined by arcs. And from there, the other centers M2, M1 and M4 can be determined.

Note for experienced surveyors:
Right-angled (Cartesian) coordinates can be determined from the horizontal and vertical dimension chains. With appropriate measuring instruments, the most important main points can then also be polar staked out.

However, the radii themselves are best marked out with a line, wire or tape measure and marked with spray paint, sawdust or bark mulch.

Wunderkreis: construction elements
Wunderkreis: construction elements

It makes sense to mark out the upper semicircles (shown here in gray) around the center point M4. Then the four semicircles around the center point M3, as well as the left (5) and right (7) arc pieces (shown in green). The semicircles (drawn in gray) around the centers M1 and M2 form the final part.

Wunderkreis: radii
Wunderkreis: radii

Depending on the design of the boundary lines (according to the width) the Wunderkreis looks like. Shortly after entering the entrance below there is a branch. If one goes to the left, one walks first through the outer circuits. After passing through the inner double spiral, one gets back to the beginning.

We have a so-called walk-through or procession labyrinth before us. There is no strictly defined center.

Ariadne's Thread inside the Wunderkreis
Ariadne’s Thread inside the Wunderkreis

The following drawing once again shows all the necessary construction elements and the corresponding lines for the walls and the path (in red, Ariadne’s thread).

Layout drawing of the Wunderkreis
Layout drawing of the Wunderkreis

Here is the drawing as a PDF file for printing, saving or viewing.

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How to repair the Mistakes in Historical Scandinavian Labyrinths, Part 4

Originally, I didn’t want to suggest any changes to this particular Icelandic labyrinth. But since I have learned more about the Dritvík Labyrinth through the article by Daniel C. Browing, Jr. (Ancient Dan) on his website, I dare to approach it.

I studied the labyrinth and its appearance intensively. In order to better understand how it could have come about, I tried to reconstruct it with my means, especially geometrically precise.

The oldest representation known to us is from 1900. It is particularly noticeable that the beginning and the end of the line are in the middle of the stone setting. The stones themselves then form an uninterrupted line, they are Ariadne’s thread. And not the way in between, as it should be in a “real” labyrinth. The twists and turns form dead ends and inaccessible sections. Whether this was intentional has already been discussed sufficiently in this blog. Mainly by Richard Myers Shelton in his guest post. But also through Ancient Dan.
The center is formed by a small pile of stones that looks like a molehill made of stones. But it could also be seen as the entrance to the underworld for the guardian spirit. And the stone settings as hints for his way on our upper world. Or do we see the whole thing as a monument to the protective spirit and its activity?

The Dritvík Labyrinth about 1900
The Dritvík Labyrinth about 1900

Between 1900 and up to our time, some of the original labyrinth was rebuilt, probably before 1997, when Jeff Saward (Caerdroia 29 from 1998) visited it. Above all, the lower right part has been changed a lot. The two loops with the two dead ends became only one. And the middle took on roughly the shape of a double spiral. So there was only one entrance with a branch. But it was still not a “real” labyrinth.
I still can’t imagine that the labyrinth was so intentional. Because all other known labyrinths from this time, this culture and this region are walkable. Mostly there are walk-through labyrinths that belong to the so-called classical Baltic type. The entry and exit can run separately from one another, but they can also be formed by a single entry with a branch. They usually do not have a pronounced and empty center. It is formed by a more or less distinct double spiral. For me this is a Wunderkreis.


How do we get there now? What changes would have to be made?

The entire upper part can remain unchanged. The number of circuits and the total outer circumference can also remain.

The center part is also partially correct. Only the lower left and lower right parts need to be rebuilt. The stones must be moved so that there are no more dead ends. This can be done towards the center or away from the center. So the double spiral is reduced or enlarged.

The Dritvík Labyrinth nowadays
The Dritvík Labyrinth nowadays

In the first suggestion for the Wunderkreis 1, I go inward on both sides, the center part gets one less circuit. The left lower turning point is then on the 4th line counted from the outside. The right lower turning point is on the 5th line.

The Dritvík Wunderkreis 1
The Dritvík Wunderkreis 1

In the second suggestion, I go to the outside. The middle part gets one more turn, so the double spiral becomes bigger. The left turning point is on the 3rd line, the right on the 5th line.

The Dritvík Wunderkreis 2
The Dritvík Wunderkreis 2

The middle part with the double spiral is thus more emphasized and the outer circuits are arranged like in the Classical labyrinth.

The overall dimensions have remained, as well as the total number of circuits.

With both variants, it makes sense to first turn to the left and follow the outer circuits.

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The Dritvík Labyrinth on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland

Just a few months ago (in June 2021) Daniel C. Browning, Jr. (alias Ancient Dan) visited the Dritvík Labyrinth on the Snæfellsnes peninsula in Iceland (see the first Further Link below)
I warmly recommend reading this article and the associated first part.

That gave me some new insights into this very special labyrinth. Daniel kindly allow me to show some of his photos and graphics here, for which I am very grateful.

First I show Brynjúlf Jónsson’s 1900 plan of the Dritvík labyrinth, which (for me) is clearer than the one I had from Richard Myers Shelton in his guest post from January 2021.

Brynjúlf Jónsson’s 1900 plan of the Dritvík labyrinth
Brynjúlf Jónsson’s 1900 plan of the Dritvík labyrinth

Jónsson calls it Völundarhús (Wayland‘s house). Hermann Kern also states the Islandic labyrinths as Wayland’s houses. Icelandic parchment manuscripts depicting Wayland’s houses were already in existence in the 14th and 15th centuries. However, they are a hybrid of Troy towns and Medieval labyrinths that look very different from the Dritvík Wayland’s house. The other Nordic stone settings are often referred to as Troy towns, Babylons, Jatulintarha, Jericho, Jerusalem and similar. But these often say something about their meaning.

What does the labyrinth look like today? This is shown by an impressive aerial photo of Daniel from June 2021:

Dritvík labyrinth, restored
Dritvík labyrinth, restored, as it appeared in June 2021 (photo © Daniel C Browning Jr, 2021)

You can see the differences to Jónsson’s drawing very clearly. Especially in the lower right part there are considerable deviations, the two loops became one.

Restored Dritvík labyrinth plan
Restored Dritvík labyrinth plan, created from aerial image (© Daniel C Browning Jr, 2021)

Jeff Saward explored the Dritvík Labyrinth in 1997 (Caerdroia 29 from 1998) and shows a photo of it in his book “Labyrinths and Mazes of the World” and in the Worldwide Labyrinth Locator (see the third Further Link below). Already there it shows the same layout as in 2021. A larger pile of stones in the middle is also noticeable. It’s a bit reminiscent of the Russian Babylons.

He calls it Volunderhus stone labyrinth and classifies it as Classical Baltic type with spiral at the center.

In order to understand the meaning of the Dritvík Labyrinth, it is very helpful to shed light on the cultural and historical background. And Daniel did that in great detail in the first part of his post. Again, I warmly recommend reading it.

At one point it says: Bárðr disappeared under the glacier and became the guardian spirit of the Snaefellsnes peninsula. The labyrinth could also be seen as the gateway to the underworld and as a monument or memory of Bárðr. Definitely as a place with magical meaning. Maybe we could even call it Bárðr’s house instead of Wayland’s house?

The special layout created by the stone setting are ideally suited to this. Because they alone represent an uninterrupted line, as we would expect from a labyrinth. It is shown in a “normal” labyrinth through the actually invisible part of the labyrinth, the path (or Ariadne’s thread). But here through the stones. And as a special feature, there is also the fact that these lines start and end in the middle, not on the outside as usual. As a result, this labyrinth is not as accessible as we are used to. With its dead ends, it could only serve as a trap.

Even the unfortunately failed restoration of 2000, in my opinion, does not change this finding. There is now an entrance with a branch like it is in a Wunderkreis, also a double spiral in the center. But you can’t go back to the entrance. You end up either on the right or on the left in a dead end.
The stone setting alone again forms an uninterrupted line that begins and ends in the center.

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Further Links