Ley lines are hypothetical alignments of ancient locations or holy places. The term ‘ley-line’ was coined in 1921 by British businessman and archaeologist, Alfred Watkins. As he was looking at a map, he noticed that many ancient and sacred sites could be linked together by a series of straight lines, which initially led him to believe this was an ancient trade route. He discovered that these mysterious lines could be identified, not only by marker points but that some were physically visible from the ground. The lines were anything from two to several miles long, with the reference points being ancient churches, standing stones, stone circles, and prehistoric burial grounds. Watkins published his initial thoughts in his first book, Early British Trackways in 1922. Decades later he would go on to publish his more influential book, The Old Straight Track, which fully revealed the phenomenon, in 1952.
Watkins believed the ley-lines were used as trading routes for Neolithic Man who utilized ancient surveying techniques to create long, straight lines. He theorized that many areas along these routes became sacred sites, and as time passed, the pathways fell into disuse, leaving only the special points noticeable. He also pointed out that many of the ancient, pagan sites were later taken over by Christians, leaving an interesting mixture of both prehistoric and relatively recent places of interest.
Overlooking the fact that these paths followed a straight line, which often meant cutting through forests, across hilltops, and climbing up valleys, Watkins maintained his belief that they were trading routes. Although, by 1929 he stopped referring to them as old leys, and simply called them ‘old straight tracks’. His idea instigated the founding of the Straight Track club, which were a collection of enthusiasts based across Britain who enjoyed investigating their own versions of ley lines.
Numerous amounts of people felt that the difficult routes taken by ley lines which ran through steep or testing countryside meant they were unlikely to be trading routes, so other theories about the nature of the lines was put forward. In the mid-1930s, a British writer named Dion Fortune initially suggested the notion that ancient sites could be interconnected by lines of mysterious forces from the cosmos. A known member of the Straight Line Club, Arthur Lawton, continued with this idea in 1938. Lawton was a dowser and been intrigued by theories of dowsing from Germany and France, so he devised the idea that leys were metaphysical lines of natural energy that could be proven by dowsing.
During World War II, the Straight Line Club and its activities diminished, but during the 1950s new ideas about ley lines erupted into the public psyche. Different books on UFOs from America and France connected the flying saucer phenomenon to the lines of cosmic energy. A British ley-line hunter, an ex-pilot, Tony Wedd, publicized his thesis that ley-lines were magnetic flight paths for alien visitors, and the sites found along them acted as landmarks. The true movement of the ley-line phenomenon really took hold in 1969, when another enthusiast, John Michell, wrote The View Over Atlantis, which was a book that combined UFOs, Earth energy, ley lines, and ancient mathematics. The years of the 1960s and 1970s saw all kinds of New Age theories, and ley-lines started to be automatically correlated with flying saucers, lines of energy, and strange psychic experiences.
The United States is found to have its own version of ley-lines, where Native American “Spirit-Lines” found across the country are believed to have been ancient sacred pathways. Similar attributes are found in Mexico, and it is believed the Nazca Lines may be a form of the same concept.
The real signification behind the ley lines phenomenon is still unknown. Although, theories over the past decades have proliferated with several people having discovered more facts about ley lines than Alfred Watkins. With the majority of theories based upon New Age propositions, Watkins’ vision is still more fact-based, and regardless of its imperfections, still the most plausible. The ley-line phenomenon has intriguing historical and geographical background which has not been understood completely as it has yet to be fully studied.