THE LEY LINE MYSTERY
|Ley lines - a description of the mysteries of ley lines and their meaning.|
No book on the subject of megalithic monuments would be complete without a mention of ley lines. Leys are straight tracks or paths which connect up ancient and sacred sites in straight lines which cover the countryside. They were created in the distant prehistoric past, by peaceful ancient tribes, possibly the survivors of a lost civilization, who needed straight paths through the forests and across the hills. The other function of ley lines was to concentrate and redirect potent earth energies to enable the people to live in fulfilment and plenty.
These lines had been totally forgotten, and were only rediscovered in the 20th century. After it had been accepted that megalithic sites could form short alignments, the idea was extended dramatically by a retired amateur antiquarian called Alfred Watkins, in the 1920s.
In two publications, 'Early British Trackways' and 'The Old Straight Track', he made the case for a pattern of interconnected straight lines which criss-crossed England. These were derived ultimately from the Stone age, when people travelled the country by following tracks straight from one landmark to the next visible one. The lines are also related to the seasonal positions of the sun, especially the solstices, and the moon. Prehistoric monuments such as standing stones, circles and chambered cairns and even settlements were constructed on these lines and at the junctions of lines. During following periods, the pattern was maintained, so that a ley line could include churches, sacred trees, wells, beacon hills, forts, crosses, fords and bridges, as well as Stone Age and Bronze Age sites.
Watkins' ideas made some impact, and clubs were formed to advance ley-line discovery. Though interest faded after Watkins' death, there was a revival in the 1960s, when many new ley lines were identified, and there is still some work going on even today, mainly by the sort of person who is also interested in crop-circles.
Anyone can discover new leys by utilising a map, a pencil and a long ruler, and joining up the sites marked. You may wish to try this yourself, if you have an OS map handy. Any kind of site from any period is acceptable. When a promising line is found in your area, then next step is to go out and check it on the ground. Often, when exploring and following such lines, it will be found that natural features of the countryside are utilized also. Such things as notches on the skyline, or copses of trees can be used to keep your path straight. Often, traces of the paths or tracks themselves will become visible, although you should be careful, as these may simply have been trampled flat by previous ley explorers.
A map of the main Scottish leys has been published. One of the most impressive leys is the one which leaves Stirling, becoming the `Old Straight Track' the monks took to Iona. Passing over the summit of Ben Lomond and directly across Loch Lomond, this line carries on over the Cobbler and so west across Loch Fyne, Loch Awe and the Firth of Lorne to arrive at its destination. Reluctantly, we conclude that only a crow or a holy man with a paraglider could travel that way.
It was always obvious to most people even in the 1920s that the creation of leys in the minds of its believers relied on two things - the existence of cheap detailed maps, and the density and length of human settlement over the last 4000 years. Each map contains dozens of old sites, some of which a believer can always connect with a pencil. Not even credible in their most innocent form as prehistoric trackways taking the shortest distance between two points over the smooth rolling downs of southern England, ley lines become ludicrous when run across the lumpier terrain of Scotland.
Following a ley line does not bring anyone close to their prehistoric ancestors, but carries them much further away. Leys, as a modern wish fulfilment, are one of the best examples of the truism that every generation gets the picture of the prehistoric past that it wants. In this case it is a peaceful golden age of lost knowledge.
There were no secret powers in past times which modern humanity has forgotten how to tap. There were only men and women who among other things, wanted to understand something of their universe, and to record what they knew in a permanent way. That achievement is so striking, for small numbers of people with only a stone age or very limited metal-used technology, that we can only admire and respect it. But ley lines belong in Middle Earth with the other great fictions of the 20th century.
The mystery is, why do so many people still believe in them?
This page has generated a lot of comment, including some from Danny Sullivan, one time editor of The Ley Hunter Magazine. He forwarded an article of his summarising some modern thinking about leys, which he has given permission to be reproduced here.