Thinking about ley-lines

Over the past few months, I’ve been writing a page on ley-lines for Bodge. It’s a subject I’ve been thinking about for years, and I’ve accumulated several books on the topic. I’m very aware that ley lines are a statistical effect, drawing meaning from random data: they still fascinate me. They’re part of British landscape folklore.

Most of my books are from the 1970s through to the the 1990s. The more recent volumes focus on the new age/earth energy side of the topic. Indeed, wikipedia refers to this in their summary:

In 2005, Ruggles [in Ancient Astronomy: An Encyclopaedia of Cosmologies and Myth] noted that “for the most part, ley lines represent an unhappy episode now consigned to history”. However, belief in ley lines persists among various esoteric groups, having become an “enduring feature of some brands of esotericism”.

Considering the amount written about the subject, the books I’ve read are slightly flimsy. Mitchell’s New Views of Atlantis spends a lot of time discussing the metrology of the pyramids. Later books on ley-lines move into shamanism and death roads. There is a huge amount of material in magazines such as the Quicksilver Messenger and the Ley Hunter, both available online. But, the books informed by this are not particularly complicated.

The 1983 book Ley Lines in Question, by Liz Bellamy and Tom Williamson, performed a fairly clear demolition of most of the historical theories about ley lines and computer mapping easily demonstrates alignments of spurious data such as phone boxes, public toilets and pizza restaurants.

My interest is in ley-lines as a form of land art and storytelling. A paper on the Tate website links Alfred Watkins to artists like Richard Long. There was also the Seattle Ley Line project from the Geo Group, which caused controversy by receiving public funding.

Ley lines might be ahistorical, but there’s a beauty to how they cut across time and landscape, connecting places. While there may be little evidence to support them, I’m excited about the idea of creating ley lines and what stories they can be used to tell.

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One thought on “Thinking about ley-lines”

  1. Thanks for writing this.
    It actually puts into words my feeling about leylines. They aren’t real in the literal sense, that’s just a mathematical quirk, but they are real in the story they tell in the land.

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