"What's all this rubbish about leys"

My database advisor, Alastair McIvor kicked off the discussion with this understandable question following my report from the Ley Hunter Moot...

so old Mr Burl buys into this ley line thing then yes? or was the affair wider based than that, it was called the Leyhunter Moot though.I fail to see a divide between 'sensible' ley line theories, and the nutty ones, after all the whole notion stems from that silly 'track' book, and merely plays on the ability to dupe the public by finding 'mysterious' straight lines in a random set of dots that simple mathematics says are *bound* to be there.

Have you read the ley line page on Robert Pollock's site - very good reading, and well argued, including all the strong arguments for the theory before dismissing it.

Did the construction lecture address the "why?" or merely the "how?" of stone circles - as an engineer "how" does not excite me - anyone with enough persistence must have been able to raise big stones eventually - "why" is the real mind-expander.

I attempted to explain as follows:


This is a difficult one to answer/explain coherantly as I'm a newcomer to the subject but I'll have a go. Essentially, no, and yes, it is much wider based than that, but the whole subject is tarnished with its own past.

The current bylines in the title of the Ley Hunter magazine are "Ancient Wisdom, landscapes, and sacred sites - refocussing public attention on the themes and values of human prehistory". Personally I am tempted to think they should totally re-launch it with a different name, but think all the history of the magazine counts for something, as it has helped influence mainstream archaeology over the years, so Burl & others will attend.

As you know Ley theories progressed from simple trackways to energy lines and suchlike. This was not "another function of the lines" but a completely different re-interpretation. Just as the energy lines theory supplanted the "straight tracks" theory in the 70's, and in the 80's people tried and (mostly) failed to measure anomalies at ancient sites (The Dragon Project) - in the 90's both theories have now been discarded by the Ley Hunter and its editors, although as is obvious, everybody else still thinks they are all stuck in the old theories.

They no longer believe in "earth energies" or "straight tracks" (In my case I never did, but was interested) Long lines covering whole countries (as Robert mentions) were always controversial even in the heady days, and are well and truly discredited now, for the reasons he states.


The problem is that each of the theories has left its band of stragglers, who stick religously to that theory - rather like the extra-terrestrial hypothesis for UFOs. Just because a tiny proportion of UFOs are unexplainable doesn't make them alien craft, but still warrant serious study; On UFOs "Ley Hunters" think there is an underlying natural phonomonen (Earth Lights) going on that they don't pretend to have answers for. It's the same with crop circles. 99.9% are now hoaxes, but there has always been a small trickle of reports of -circular- circles. They suggest again there is an underlying natural phonomonen...

</DIGRESSION> Before we get bogged down in all that!

As Robert Pollock says "it had been accepted that megalithic sites could form short alignments".

I agree with his conclusions. I also agree with his/your statistical arguments. I think that subject is dead and buried.

What remains is the study of of such linear features in the landscape as death roads, (these are well evident in Holland and elsewhere) and more controversially shamanistic spirit paths, as well as the whole gamut of ideas I mentioned above. Basically anything that "refocusses attention on the themes and values of human prehistory".

Central to the study is the hypothesis that ancient man created sacred landscapes, (whether linear or not) at Avebury and elsewhere. This is accepted by many archaeologists (but not Burl!).

Recently there has been much discussion of the values of "primitive" tribes alive today, psychotropic drugs, shamanism, and what parallels they have with prehistoric man. These things are documented and accepted by anthropologists - the problem is getting the archaeologists to widen their terms of reference.

To quote the introduction to "Symbolic Landscapes" by Paul Devereux (1992) might help show some of the new directions:

{This book is about ancient worldviews, how they differ from our own, and why. It raises the question, how did our ancestors percieve the landscape. The author shows us how these lines on the landscape were, in fact "spirit lines" linked to ancient traditions worldwide. He proposes that the origins of landscape lines are related to the shamanistic trance experience.}

He then goes on about different states of consciousness - I'm not sure I agree and haven't read the book yet so we'll see.

I think you and Robert are taking the past theories and being totally negative with them. I agree with virtually everything you & he say, except don't bother to bash the old theories to death as think they are already dead. The Ley tag still remains as a millstone though.

Much of the subject involves just the sort of archaeoastronomy Robert is researching.

To answer the other question the construction talk was "how", and explored the "why" with the theories of soli-lunar calendars at Stonehenge and Avebury. Burl threw a new spanner in the works by saying recent geophysical data at Avebury suggests an inner horseshoe and circle rather than two circles of 27 and 29 stones, which Robin Heath based his "why" on (the horseshoe may still have 27 stones though).

As you say, the "why" is what the Ley Hunter people are still exploring...

Fascinating stuff, have I gone any way towards explaining some of the background?

Want to continue the discussion with us,. Feel free to mail Andy Burnham.

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