Labyrinth at An Tobar, Co. Meath

Written by Bernadette Mac and Martin D over Christmas and New Year 2019-2020.

In 1994 Fr. Michael Kane at An Tobar Retreat Centre, Navan, said he had a gardening project he was interested in getting help with. He had already enlisted the help from a dowser and healer from Dublin called Mollie who was an endearing, loveable ball of enthusiasm and gentle energy. Her role was to dowse for the best position to install the new gardening project, the Labyrinth.

The labyrinth is a unicursal path that meanders from the entrance towards the centre in a slow and easy way, at times turning clockwise, at times anticlockwise. It has hedge walls about one foot high so it is possible to see the centre from the outset. From above the pattern looks like a giant finger print full of loops, lines and curves. I like to think of it as the finger print of God.

Labyrinths force us to slow down when we walk them and the walk becomes a meditation with the centre seeming illusive for most of the journey, yet requiring us to have faith that every step we take is leading us in, even though we often times turn away and seem to spiral out, anxious that people ahead are closer or even going in the opposite direction. The centre of the labyrinth contains a space for people to gather, contemplate, pray or perform an activity.

Molly dowsed over maps to find the spot and then when we got to the field she took out the pendulum to locate where the centre of the labyrinth should go. When her pendulum rotated at high speed and her body convulsed with a fit of sneezing, she gasped that this was the spot! She also added that there was a water vein seventy feet below the centre.

Michael hammered in the stake and over the next few days Michael, Dicky Meehan and Martin marked out on the grass the boundary lines of the labyrinth where a local Fás group would plant the box hedging.

I had aligned the axis of the labyrinth to the spot on the horizon where the sun would rise at Samhain and Imbolc. It would be synchronised with the Mound of the Hostages at the nearby sacred hill of Tara which is illuminated at dawn at Samhain and Imbolc to mark the beginning and ending of winter. Surprisingly this alignment also went through a statue of the sacred heart of Christ which stood near an apple tree in the nearby gardens.

Several months later whilst introducing the well to a visiting dowser he took out his rods and declared that there was a water vein seventy feet below the labyrinth. It was in the same location that Molly had previously indicated so I was well impressed. Then he said that there was a second vein flowing at an even deeper level under the centre of the labyrinth. More surprises!

Since then the labyrinth has provided a space apart for people to come and be. It has been host to meditations, fire ceremonies, Easter celebrations and even a wedding!

That was a fantastic piece on the labyrinth in An Tobar. I asked Martin a few weeks back if he would write this piece... thank you Martin.

I wanted to write a piece for the Magic of the Land for the New Year and I felt this beautiful place was another magical place to go. I am so lucky, it is just 5 minutes away.

The magic for me is when I was taken to An Tobar in the late 1990's by Martin. When I was introduced to the labyrinth and a meditation group there I loved the place and still do.

The magic for me did happen. Looking back now, I walked it quite often with my prayers and intentions. I went to the meditation group with my prayers and intentions each week. I felt my health improving and over time I made major changes in my life.

Noticing how much being out in nature can heal you on so many levels and make you feel connected to all there is. I felt for the first time in years, in fact since I was a child, connected to something I could not put my finger on until now. It was pure magic. It is not about clicking your fingers and have it there and then.

It is about keeping going out to the land and letting it do the magic. In the past our ancestors did it. They lived off the land, had food and shelter, and often gathered in groups and in solitude so they could clear the mind making future plans and celebrating different events.

Walking the labyrinth is one of many ways to connect to the inner self. In some cases people danced, sang, or just walked quietly alone or in a group. Whichever way suits at the time.

Also as you make the steps to go forward and discover your true self the journey can be a difficult one but keep going and never give up.

Places like this wonderful labyrinth and all that is connected to it have a deep magic about the ground.

Years went by, people came and went, including myself, and as time went by my life did change, I did achieve my wishes and prayers. Not in the way I thought but in a way that was meant to be.

I still visit the place often and now bring my grandson there on little trips. He also makes wishes and walks out any little worries in the labyrinth. What a wonderful way to pass on an old tradition. He loves it there and he lights up the moment he steps in. Now that's magic.

I went there on New Year's Eve to do a walk. My intention was to say goodbye to 2019 with love and gratitude and step into 2020 with a blank page. As I walked in, a black and white cat joined me and we had so much fun jumping over the hedge and then rested in the centre.

We stood together in silence where I lit a candle.

I knew there was a deep understanding between us.

When we walked out we both went our separate ways. Now that was magic.

Maybe there is a place you would like to go to start the New Year that is special one to you.

Maybe a place you used to go to in the past that brought you great healing and peace, or maybe you know of a labyrinth nearby you would like to walk... or simply make one in your garden with flour, which has been done, or draw one on the beach. Whatever you do, know there is deep magic in the land.

Many blessings and a Happy New Year. Bernadette Mac.


Martin has also described designing a lawn labyrinth... read more here... - Creating a Labyrinth


An Tobar, Ardbraccan, Co. Meath

Info updated October 2021

An Tobar Retreat Centre, near Navan, Co Meath, was founded in 1983 to provide a serene and secure place to meet and find sanctuary in a complex world.

Once called Bishopscourt House, it was the residence of the bishops of Meath until it was sold in 1958.

Bishopscourt was bought by a religious order, the Holy Ghost Fathers now called Spiritans, who renamed it An Tobar, linking it to St. Ultan's Well at Ardbraccan. There is also a well in the grounds.