Magical ley lines – debunked

ley linesAre you familiar with the concept of a ley lines?

These are apparently special magical lines that run between ancient archaeological sites or monuments. If like me, you grew up devouring all the mystical books doing the rounds such as “Chariot of the Gods” by Erich Von Daniken, or “The Third Eye” by Lobsang T Rampa, then you will have no doubt come across the claim at some point. In fact, I’d be astonished if you had not heard of them, the idea has more or less embedded itself as a cultural meme these days.

Where did the Ley Lines idea originally come from?

It was started by a self-taught archaeologist, Alfred Watkins. In 1921 he made the observation that ancient monuments appear to all line up. As a result, he suggested that perhaps these had been setup like this in neolithic times as line-of-sight navigational markers. OK, that sounds a reasonable hypothesis, but of course the concept has been taken up and inflated into a far more potent new-age belief, so how did that happen? (More on that in a moment)

Where does the name “Ley” come from?

The name “Ley” line, was coined by Watkins when he observed that many of these lines passed through places that had names with “ley” in them. The word ley is a variant of lea, meaning grassland, clearing, or pasture. As you might guess, towns and villages with that as part of the name are rather common in the UK.

Reactions to the initial idea

The professionals dismissed his hypothesis at the time (and still do), for the following reasons

  • In the UK there is a very high number of ancient sites, so the chances of finding straight lines that occur by chance are quite high
  • Watkins used maps to identify his ancient markers. He did not go out and see if they could indeed have been utilised as navigational markers.

Just using a map for such analysis has many problems. It is inaccurate due to problems of scale, a 1/4 mm line on a 1-inch to 1-mile map represents a 50 foot wide path.

As for the diversity of markers, well a fun illustration of that problem was the use of phone boxes, by archaeologist Richard Atkinson, to create a map of  “telephone box leys”. In other words, the mere existence of such lines in a set of points is not evidence, given enough points you can create your own “meaningful” magical lines from almost anything.

Why did it become a popular New Age belief?

It is not Wakins who introduced all the modern hocus-pocus, that came later. Wakins simply made an observation and formed a natural hypothesis to try and explain it. Others then looked at the evidence and did not find it compelling. That should have been the end of the story, so why is the idea still around, and where did all the mystical additions that we appear to have with us today come from?

The resurrection and repurposing of the idea came via author, John Michell. He not only revived Watkins Ley lines, but also blended the idea in with some feng shui within his 1969 book called “The View Over Atlantis

(Skeptical Side Note-1: The word “Atlantis” in the title here is a big bold skeptical red flag).

It was a popular book, and so it succeeded in creating the ley line concept as we now know it. Throughout the 70’s other similar writers quickly embraced this basic idea, refined and tweaked it with enhancements that mixed in dowsing, new age beliefs, and so promoted the idea that these ley lines were conductors for “spiritual” power.

(Skeptical Side note 2: Can anybody define what “Spiritual” power is? Should there be a Spiritual Power company that needs to take responsibility for regulating the flow, and can we also have spiritual power meters in our homes. If so, who will bill us? – My point is that the word “spiritual” is a meaningless term. It does not describe anything that can be actually measured. It gets used because it sounds impressive, and so helps to sell books)

Conclusion – It was not really Watkins in 1921, but Michell in the 1970s who kick-started all these “Earth Mysteries”.

Do you live at an intersection of magical ley lines?

Now for a bit of fun.

The Mathematician, Matt Parker, wrote a nice take down of all this in the Guardian that is entitled … “Did aliens establish a primitive postcode system in ancient Britain?

What is his article all about?

There are enough ancient sites in the UK to enable you to place every single postal delivery point at the convergence of three or more ley lines between ancient monuments – everybody is equally special, no exceptions.

You can test this yourself.

A website, inspired by Matt’s article, was created by Tom Scott. No matter where you are in the UK,  you can key in your postcode  and it will quickly tell you about the 3 or more ley lines the converge at that point, thus proving you are currently at a hub of “spiritual” power (no need to trek to Stonehenge)

Link: You can find Tom’s website here.

Since the property I live in is at the convergence of three ley lines between ancient monuments, and that includes one coming directly from Stonehenge, then I have to ask if I am truly special?

The obvious answer is nope. Every single inch of the UK is a special magical place where ley lines just happen to converge.

If you are you still a believer, then pause and remember, this was all the fallout from a desire to craft a popular book in the early 1970s. It was not in any way related to an ancient belief, nor is it measuring anything real. Pluck out enough points from a map, and you quickly find that the easiest person to fool is perhaps yourself. The true wonder is that sitting between your ears is an amazingly powerful pattern recognition engine that will often throw up false positives, and yield meaning and patterns where none exist.

17 thoughts on “Magical ley lines – debunked”

  1. I hardly feel that pointing out that an unproven theory has no credible proof is “debunking”. It may be “discredited” but scientific discoveries are made from experiments trying to prove or disprove a hypothesis. Since not many (if any) experiments are shared among the scientific community on this subject i believe it is still a valid hypothesis until proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that its false. Once the idea of the earth not being flat was discredited, if we all thought the way you did we’d never make any scientific progress. Anyways i hope this theory gets looked further into, id like to find out the truth wether or not the theory is disproven, proven, or even leads to a totally different discovery. We’ll just have to wait and see i guess, i wont be doing any of these experiments lol.

    Reply
    • Burden of proof rests with those asserting the claim. You don’t “believe” until debunked, instead you should suspend “belief” until there is sufficient evidence to accept it as not wrong.

      This idea has been floating about for rather a long time and so far the “evidence” to grant it any credibility at all is missing.

      Reply
  2. Interesting article, maybe it could be expanded to compare it to another silly similar belief: geobiology?

    Reply
    • You will have to explain that more than simply saying geobiology is a similar belief to leylines? Sorry, but what? geobiology = the study of life in the earth = biostratigraphy, which is definitely a proven method of determining ages, environments, etc.

      Reply
  3. Read “Earth Energy” (and other books) by Professor Fidler. He can dowse for Ley Lines and has spent the best part of his life investigating ley lines and “charged stones”

    Reply
  4. This would have been a better article if you had not trolled the new age idea. Because its clear you also have an agenda, the very thing you criticise in the new age ideaology. This psychology can be seen in militant atheism too. I don’t mean to dismiss any of these ideologies I just find the psychology fascinating, because all claim truth of some kind.

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  5. Since writing my two books on ley lines I have discovered that the strange “Electric Brae”, an apparent gravitational anomaly here in Scotland has no less than FOUR volcanic plugs in a line with the length of this curious road, where cars apparently freewheel “uphill”. The length of this part of the road is very similar to the width of two of the nearest plugs.Volcanic plugs spray out energy like the spokes of a bicycle wheel and between them our ancestors placed their sacred sites. It is still an optical illusion as the energy is very weak, but this discovery adds a new dimension to this. You can see this on my website leylines.webplus.net

    Reply
  6. After a lifetime of research, including walking well over 3,000 miles over nine years here in Scotland following the ley lines I can state that all of the ancient burial grounds – castles, standing stones, palaces, and circles have been carefully placed on geological faults – that is where they get their energies from. Iona Abbey between the volcanic Fingals Cave and an extinct volcano on the Canaries, Pennsylvannia Avenue, part of he Federal Triangle with the Capitol in the USA between THREE powerful volcanic anomalies, the whole of the USA capital cities lined up with another three. No-one, after reading my book “Ley Lines of the UK and the USA” can sensibly argue against this. It is time to stop the senseless criticism against ley lines to constructively discover more and find out how to use them constructively. Remember, Hitler and the S.S. were desperate to obtain this knowledge for their own use and it is obviously still being used by the Church and upper sections of some secret societies.

    Reply
    • I can see your hypothesis has merit. I’m starting to find lines crossing over radioactive geological sites, which harmonises with concentrations of heavy metals. It may still be coincidence. Another thing which may not related to ley lines is that many ‘healing’ wells (holy wells, hollywells) show high levels of ionising radiation from the radium decay chain(radon). The point historically these sites have been considered healing, yet no one had any idea about radiation back then. This is not to say that radon and its progeny are good for you. It is to say that the fast growing scientific hypothesis of ‘radiation hormesis’ may also have some merit.

      Reply
  7. If you read my latest book “Ley Lines of the Uk and the USA” you will find that the most important sites in the UK, and all of the capital cities in the USA are in lines of energies from VOLCANIC PLUGS AND EXTINCT VOLCANOES. For instance from fingals Cave on the island of Staffa off the Scottish coast you can draw a line from there to the extinct volcano of Las Palmas de gran Canaria through Iona abbey, the birthplace of Christianity in Europe. This is the ONLY sacred site on that line.

    Reply
  8. Its not so simple. Neither Matt Parker or Tom Scott are landscape experts. The landscape is not random. It is ordered by natural and human processes. Those processes do create patterns and allignments. While many rational thinkers may share the opinion that the New Age movement has gone too far with its mystical suparnatural interpretations of alligned landscape features your rather scornful and self-righteous analysis ignores even the most basic appreciation of what a landscape is, how it is formed and how mankind interacts with it.

    Reply
    • If you want a real exposition of the religiosity in skeptics you need go no further than Rupert Sheldrakes banned TED talk. The skeptics were exposed as a quasi religious pressure group. The fascinating thing about these mechanistic ideologies is they are not aware of it. If you remember in early Christian times these were the ‘high priests’ burning the Gnostic heretics in defense of a corrupted faith. It looks today that scientific religiosity is the new faith of old.

      Reply

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