Hold on to your hats! You could be living in a town brimming with ancient, magical power.
Most people know something about ley lines (or leys, as they are more properly known). These are the mysterious, invisible lines of energy that are said to criss-cross the British countryside.
Over seventy-five years ago, a Herefordshire business man, Alfred Watkins, first suggested the existence of leys. He claimed that he had experienced a vision of a network of strange lines linking landmarks in his home county.
After years of research, he came to the conclusion that the lines were used by Stone Age man as trade routes. Watkins said that these routes became so important that markers were placed along their lengths. These markers ranged from simple monoliths to entire stone circles and pagan temples.
Even after the arrival of Christianity, the leys were preserved (probably accidentally) when churches and cathedrals were constructed on the ancient temple sites.
When Watkins published his theory, "The Ley Hunter's Manual - A Guide To Early Tracks", in the 1920's, he stated that the word "ley" was a Saxon term that meant "a cleared stretch of ground". He in no way thought that they exuded mystical powers. Ironically, he did not like the term that he had invented and tried, without success, to get it changed. But the name stuck and leys entered the modern vocabulary.
For forty years, ley hunters ploughed through old maps and trudged across the countryside in efforts to locate aligned monuments. Orthodox historians and archaeologists said that the Stone Age route theory held no water, but fell short of openly ridiculing the ley hunters as they continued to pursue their harmless quest.
Then, in the sixties and seventies, the term "ley" became inextricably intertwined with the world of the occult. Author John Michell and dowser Tom Graves published a book stating that the leys were tracts of Earth energy. They claimed that Stone Age men built their monuments on these lines because they could sense the power emanating from them (a gift that we have apparently lost). Shortly afterwards, scores of dowsers came forward claiming that they could locate leys using simple dowsing rods.
Another controversial theory was postulated by former RAF pilot Tony Wedd. He deducted that leys are lines of magnetic energy which UFOs use to refuel. He reached his conclusions after a spate of sightings close to known leys.
Modern-day ley hunters started to distance themselves from these fringe groups and attempted to find more orthodox archeological explanations.
Findings in Britain, Germany and France illustrate that in ancient times there were "church paths" or "corpse ways". These were tracks along which the dead were taken for burial. Over time, these paths became sacred and monuments were built upon them.
To the Celts of ancient Gaul, the Earth was a huge, living organism. They believed that its life-force flowed just beneath the surface in a network of subterranean arteries. The energy flowed in what became known as "telluric currents". The Gauls believed that these currents were a form of spiritual energy. Where this energy flowed near to the surface, a marker was placed. This marker could be a menhir, tree, temple or a huge, stone circle and was called a ley. The ancients would often make long pilgrimages to these places as they believed that the energy had healing properties.
If the leys were church paths or corpse ways, this could explain why many churches appear to be arranged in straight lines. A check of a street atlas of my home town did indeed show that many (but not all, I must add) of the churches did appear to lie on connecting lines, centering on the Parish Church in the town centre.
As churches also acted as cemeteries, it is possible that, as the communities grew, more burial sites were required. These were naturally built upon existing paths that led to the original, central graveyard.
Entire towns and cities were built upon ley lines, such was their importance to ancient man. In the north of England, a multitude of communities exist that have the word "ley" as a part of their names.
The towns of Leyland, Burnley, Keighley, Otley and Filey can all be connected by a straight line. Leyland is over a hundred miles from Filey, near Bridlington. A similar line also joins Cleveleys, on the west coast, with Keighley, Bingley, Guiseley and Beverley, which sits near the east coast and also possesses one of the largest minsters in England.
So, as you can see, if you live in a town that starts or ends with the word "ley", then it is a place that the early Britons found extremely important. But if, like me, you don't, do not despair. A check of the local street atlas and the alignments of churches will show you that wherever people congregate into communities, leys become and inevitable feature of the landscape.
© Steven Johnson 1999 -2005
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Updated 16th August, 2012