The Mary and Michael Ley Lines
During the 1920’s, Alfred Watkins, a business man from Herefordshire, had a realisation while in the hills of Blackwardine that many ancient features, such as standing stones, wayside crosses, hill forts, ditches and churches were arranged in a straight line.
Watkins began looking at maps and, with a pencil and ruler, joined many sites together. He concluded that these were ancient tracks or prehistoric trade routes that would have carried items such as salt, flint and pottery.
Since they had no settlements or roads to guide them, Neolithic people navigated the more forested lands by climbing to their highest local viewpoint and looking for a natural distant feature on their intended route. These would then be marked with large stones or piles of smaller stones, known as cairns, reflective water features such as ditches, or earth mounds.
Watkins believed that they may have used two tall sticks as surveying tools, to help with these alignments, which he suggested was depicted by the 240 ft chalk carving of The Long Man at Wilmington. He referred to the carving as The ‘Dod’ Man, after the Welsh word ‘Dodi’ meaning to lay, place or set.
The straight lines that Watkins found appeared to pass through a number of villages, farms and hamlets that had ‘ley’ in their name, a Saxon word meaning ‘forest clearing’, and so named his new found tracks after them. He published ‘The Ley Hunters Manual’ in 1927 with instructions about how to find Ley lines. He said that at least four good mark points needed to align to prove a Ley.
In the 1950s and 60s, many accounts were recorded about strange visitations which tapped into different line theories. A French ufologist, Aime Michel, claimed that UFO sightings, when plotted on a map, fell into straight lines called ‘orthotenies’, and Buck Nelson, an early alien abductee, believed that UFO pilots tapped into lines of magnetic force in the earth to power and navigate their ships. In the late 1960’s, ex RAF pilot Tony Wedd put these two ideas together, in conjunction with Watkins’ theory, and stated that Ley lines were established by prehistoric communities to guide alien spacecraft.
In 1969, John Mitchell published a book called ‘The View Over Atlantis’ which suggested that Ley lines were not wayfinding tracks at all. Instead, Mitchell believed that they marked the course of a force of energy used in prehistoric times to connect divinity to humanity. These magnetic energy forces were subsequently linked to the lines that Watkins discovered and the name Ley became the term used to describe energetic currents, whether or not they followed Watkins’ original criteria.
Many other cultures have similar theories or beliefs about paths or lines in the landscape. Some of these lines are linked to the astral movement of bodies such as the sun, moon, stars or planets, while others link to geomancy and earth energies, underground water streams or magnetic currents.
In Nasca, Peru, dozens of straight lines, stone heaps and mounds are laid across the desert; the ancient Inca city of Cuzco is said to have had invisible lines called ceques radiating out from it; and, in the Americas, there are ancient road systems which link holy or sacred places.
Elsewhere, Aborigines believe in The Dreaming, an event in which the gods emerged from a featureless earth and began to wander, leaving features where they stopped. The lines of their wandering were sung as songs between tribes which, when drawn, represent a mythical map of Australia. And, in China, the science of Feng Shui was originally used to find the best locations for tombs, combining the manipulation of natural forces that course through veins in the earth. These forces manifest themselves as lung mei, or dragon lines.
Many people believe that energy lines can be detected by dowsing; a technique used for centuries to find water sources or minerals. It is thought that the use of rods or pendulums can aid a latent sixth sense to detect and even measure the energies emanating from the earth. Those that dowse earth energies, whether electro-magnetic or geophysical anomalies, say that they feel strong forces from sacred sites and certain Ley lines.
Some even think that these forces can be controlled and redirected along rows of stones, avenues and other earth features. They say that this could help amplify and utilise the current, possibly trapping and concentrating it in tombs, or caves, and that those who entered could achieve a heightened states of awareness.
Within the UK there are said to be two powerful Ley lines, the Michael and Mary lines. The Michael line, which was first mapped by John Mitchell, crosses England, from east to west, starting near Great Yarmouth, on the Norfolk coast, and ending at St Michael’s Mount, on the western tip of Cornwall.
The Michael line is in close alignment to the May day sunrise. These sunrises were marked by a festival called Beltane, named after the Celtic Sun God. It’s been suggested that the rising of the sun on the Beltane could have coincided with beacons lit along the Michael line to celebrate it. Others say that the line follows the direction of sunrise on the 8th May, the spring festival of St Michael.
The Mary line is thought to be more meandering and entwines around the Michael line, meeting at certain points. Dowsers say that the energies they feel for each line are different. The Michael line is solar and masculine while the Mary line is lunar and feminine.
Dowsers Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller decided to follow these two lines in their entirety, and their account can be read in The Sun and the Serpent. They followed each line, passing through sacred sites such as Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Royston Cave.
Royston Cave is one of a few sites that both the Michael and Mary lines are thought to cross over, which makes it a very special place for Ley line believers. Interestingly, from Royston, the Michael line follows a path to Baldock, where the Knights Templar had a stronghold, and the Mary line leads to the site of a Templar priory at Little Wymondley and another at Temple Dinsley. Many attribute Royston Cave to the Knights Templar, and some believe that the Templars were skilled in the art of dowsing, and could redirect the energy lines. Note that Dinsley and Wymondley both end in ‘ley’.
Of course, there is no scientific proof that these lines exist. Statisticians argue that they are just coincidental alignments of otherwise unrelated features. And, because dowsing is an intuitive practise and therefore subjective, electromagnetic equipment cannot pick up the energy traces that dowsers or psychics can feel. However, to those who do believe, Royston Cave, and the lines that cross there, remains deeply spiritual and significant.
Houldcroft, P.T. (2008). A Medieval Mystery at the Crossroads. Royston: Royston and District Local History Society.
Beamon, S.P. (1992). Royston Cave: Used By Saints or Sinners? Baldock: Cortney Publications.
Miller, H. and Broadhurst P. (1990). The Sun and the Serpent. New York: Pendragon Press.
Watkins, A. (1989). The Ley Hunter’s Manual: A Guide to Early Tracks. Aquarian.
Williamson, T. and Bellamy, L. (1983). Ley Lines in Question. World’s Work.