The greater significance of ley lines, by Erik Oakenshield
There are very few instances where scientific idea evolves into something most would deem “supernatural theory,” but ley lines followed such a path. Usually it is the other way around, where the inexplicable becomes scientific subject matter, i.e. the heavenly bodies, but since the proposition of their existence in 1921 by Alfred Watkins, ley lines have become a hot topic in the Pagan community.
Watkins was an amateur archeologist from Great Britain, and is the author of Early British Trackways and The Old Straight Track, both published in the 1920s. It is said that one day, while Watkins was riding in the countryside near Bredwardine, he noticed that many of the ancient monoliths, monuments, henges, and mounds in the area seemed to connect to one another in a straight line. Looking at a map of the surrounding area, he connected other sites that were seemingly in alignment, and theorized that there was something more to it. These lines became, at least to Watkins, evidence of prehistoric trade routes, whereby these intersected sites acted as way points and markers from a distance. Unfortunately for Watkins, the theory lacked evidence and nobody took him seriously.
The idea of ley lines never died, like one would have expected, but instead has sparked a cornucopia of theories regarding the matter. In fact, the search for ley lines in places other than Great Britain has yielded interesting results all across Europe, as well as places like the North America, China, and Australia. A lot of New Age thinkers have expanded on the idea, claiming that these lines inherently exhibit high amounts of energy. Through a divining method called dowsing, psychics claim to be able to feel the power of the ley lines, explaining that ancient cultures knew to place their monuments and monoliths in these high-energy places because of their spiritual significance. There is a cornucopia of explanations from other theorists; some believe that they are road maps for UFOs, some believe that they are cultural “paths of the dead,” and still others chalk it up to statistical coincidence.
I’ve always found it interesting that things like dragons, vampires, and ghosts show up globally in the ancient world before any type of pan-cultural exchanges had been recorded. This is not a substantiated claim by any means, as I have not done enough extensive research into it, but the idea serves to highlight an interesting facet when discussing the idea of ley lines: cultures across the globe unrelated to Western Europe subscribe to the idea that the earth is saturated with lines of energy. Australian aborigines called them Songlines or Dreaming Tracks, Chinese cultures believed in Feng Shui, and the Chaco culture of New Mexico has been discovered to have gone to meticulous measures to keep roads straight, even though that meant constructing stairs on cliffs instead of going around them. So while ley lines as energy tracks are unproven, they are not culturally unprecedented.
Ley Lines and Earth Energy
An occultist named Dion Fortune first linked ley lines with earth energy in The Goat-Foot God, published in 1936. About 20 years later, dowsers began to claim that they were able to detect energy along the lines and at sites that intersected the lines, though the Ley Hunters Society, headed by Paul Devereux, begs to differ. The Ley Hunters began The Dragon Project in 1977 to either prove or disprove the existence of observable energy in ley lines. “In the end, it was concluded that most stories about ‘energies’ were likely to have no foundation in fact,” says Devereux on his website, “but hard evidence of magnetic and radiation anomalies was found at some sites, and some question evidence of infrared and ultrasonic effects also.”
Roads of the Dead
Devereux’s team has posited that perhaps ley lines have some relation to the belief that the dead travel in straight lines. He cites many instances of death roads and trance tracks all over the world including Laos, the Gilbert Islands, Siberia, Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. The general idea is that these cultures had set lines that they believed dead spirits to travel on, or that they traveled themselves with the dead in funeral processions. Since many of the ancient sites that ley lines intersect are considered to have been spiritual in significance or even actual burial mounds, this theory is more appealing to many.
Importance of Ley Lines
Sites such as Stonehenge and the Avebury site 20 miles to the north hold significance to me. I’ve performed rituals at each, paid respect to the earth and to my ancestors, and felt connected spiritually to the sites. I know that scientifically there is no definitive explanation as to how the stones got there, what the site was used for, or even who exactly used the site—but I know what the site means to me. The same philosophy can be applied to ley lines. Some dowsers will argue that there are definitely lines of energy coming from these sites, while skeptics will argue that statistically a geometric connection between sites is inevitable and random, and that nothing has proven earth energy to exist. I am not going to say where I stand on the topic. What I will say is that studying ley lines has reminded me of a fundamental importance: whether or not they are provable by science or must be regarded as myth, they remind us that here are things out there that are bigger than humankind. These things curb the ego, inspire wonder, and force us to look inward—and that is what truly matters.
Erik Oakenshield is a druidic practitioner, tarot reader, and horoscope writer for Oranum. He has practiced many forms of Paganism in conjunction with druidism, and considers himself a well-rounded Pagan with an interest in all things spiritual.