What is a Ley Line?
The Tamar Dowsers discuss the most elusive of concepts
The great Ley debate is a microcosm of the entire dowsing worldview. Psychics are pitted against scientists, ‘earth pilgrims’ see them differently from ‘sacred mappers’ and physics vies for centre stage with the meta-physical. Almost a century has elapsed since (what we now call) Leys entered the modern human consciousness. During that period many people have invested countless hours of painstaking research into the subject, and the net result to date is that the collective interpretation of our personal experience of the Ley phenomenon has become rather less clear.
From Alfred Watkins, through Guy Underwood and John Michell, to Danny Sullivan, Billy Gawn, Laurence Main and Alan Neal, some of the greatest intellects of the questing community of their day have sought to tease out the logic from the legend, the pith from the myth.
In this workshop, the TDs were encouraged to express their own views, in their own words and, as ever with the core issues of dowsing, there was some measure of agreement – and a similar quantum of agreement to differ.
There seemed to be a general consensus that Ley alignments (and probably Ley lines) exist and can be dowsed. Additionally, Watkins’ original assertion that (what came to termed) a Ley is a straight alignment of 5 or more sites of ancient and/or sacred origin provides a base from which to work. Beyond that, we still seem to be in territory that defies definitive description – and for good reason.
Many dowsers find that all Leys are composed of earth energy; while others sense that a ‘real’ Ley is a line of intent – of directed consciousness. Both views are credibly supported by the personal experience of numerous practitioners.
If Leys are lines of earth energy, then that implies a natural, physical origin for the phenomenon. If they are lines of sight or thought, then a human source for their existence is more likely. In practice, the impact of planetary and geological forces seem to be capable of manipulation by humans under certain circumstances, and at a psychic level – while there are plenty of recorded instances of quite modern Leys being set up, by sincere groups or individuals, to link existing ancient sites. The more you scratch at the surface of the seemingly simple and the patently obvious, the more complex it appears to become.
To add intrigue and confusion to an already rather muddied pool, there are many types of long straight line in the landscape. From Watkins’ alignments to sight lines and thought lines; from gravitational attraction to geomagnetic currents; from earth grids and discs to cosmic interactions and meridians. When any of these also happen to link a number of significant sites, do we count them as Leys? Well, yes – and no. It all depends where you stand.
As with so many other earth mysteries, in trying to find a single understandable explanation, we may be missing the real revelation. Our ‘silver bullet’ society looks for THE answer, when the likelihood is that there are a range of potential explanations for any given set of circumstances. As was demonstrated recently at The Hurlers, one person’s fault in the substrata is another’s spirit path – and a traveller’s safe passage through the pre-mediaeval forest could be a shaman’s source of healing power and otherworldly wisdom. These positions can be complementary, rather than contradictory. Reality is quite complicated!
Even a journeyman improver like myself can crudely date the genesis of any given long straight line. Some seem to have originated in an aeon before human time, while others are appearing even as I write. The more recent the date, the greater the probability of human involvement – but even there the geology of the planet is constantly evolving, while the ability of mankind to manipulate the perception of physical currents is not to be dismissed too lightly.
In those distant decades between the World Wars, even psychology was yet to become a respectable science, and the psychic had already been cast into the dustbin of Victorian eccentricity. Watkins was chancing his arm to suggest that countrywide alignments from ancient civilisations still played out in full view on an Ordnance Survey map. To assert that these could have been something to do with people thinking them into place would have seemed preposterous – a virtual bridge too far. Yet, his proposal that his Leys might once have been Old Straight Tracks might not have been too wide of the mark after all. Almost any dowser can put down a line of intent – and another person can follow it, probably most demonstrably by frequently crossing it at right angles. It could have been an invisible handrail through the forests, over the hilltops and around the mires in the days before motorised vehicles and GPS. The observation that Watkins’ leys often run through milestones and crossroads adds weight to his hypothesis.
The interpretation we place on how we describe our innermost experiences contributes yet another layer of potential misunderstanding – more fallout from the mythical tower of Babel. What exactly do we mean by Ley, sacred, energy, old and straight? Billy Gawn makes a valuable visual contribution in showing that the lines may not be perfectly straight – and, as founder of the Earth Energies Group, also contributes a heartfelt recantation about using the word ‘energy’ in the first place, when ‘force akin to gravity’ might have been a better definition. We could run an interesting, if incendiary, weekend just trying to unpick what different people mean by the word ‘energy’ – and still fall quiet by late Sunday afternoon through lack of appropriate language and the fatigue of debate.
The Ley phenomenon epitomises modern dowsing. Despite all of our best efforts, the subject remains hugely subjective and deeply mysterious. If there is a rationalist explanation of Leys, then the scientific worldview would need to change out of all recognition. If the sensitives are correct, then the psychics and the mystics will have to come back from the margins and into the spotlight. In practice, Leys may open the door to both – which will be an interesting challenge!
Many thanks, as ever, to all those who helped to stage this thought-provoking discussion.
Nigel Twinn, Tamar Dowsers
Alan Neal’s booklet ‘Ley Lines of the South West’ is available from me – price £2.99