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Ley lines

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Deanna Witmer
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« on: October 22, 2010, 01:11:16 pm »

Ley lines

Ley lines are alleged alignments of a number of places of geographical interest, such as ancient monuments and megaliths that are thought by certain adherents to dowsing and New Age beliefs to have spiritual power. Their existence was suggested in 1921 by the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins, in his book The Old Straight Track. The believers in ley lines think that the lines and their intersection points resonate a special psychic or mystical energy.[1] Ascribing such characteristics to ley lines has led to the term being classified as pseudoscience.

Ley lines can be the product of ancient surveying, property markings, or commonly traveled pathways. Many cultures use straight lines across the landscape. In South America, such lines often are directed towards mountain peaks; the Nazca lines are a famous example of lengthy lines made by ancient cultures. Straight lines connect ancient pyramids in Mexico; today, modern roads built on the ancient roads deviate around the huge pyramids. The Chaco culture of Northwestern New Mexico cut stairs into sandstone cliffs to facilitate keeping roads straight. Additionally, chance alignments and coincidence are often cited as explanations that cannot be ruled out.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2010, 01:11:50 pm »

Alfred Watkins and The Old Straight Track

The concept of ley lines was first proposed by Alfred Watkins. On 30 June 1921, Watkins visited Blackwardine in Herefordshire, and went riding a horse near some hills in the vicinity of Bredwardine, when he noted that many of the footpaths there seemed to connect one hilltop to another in a straight line. He was studying a map when he noticed places in alignment. "The whole thing came to me in a flash", he later told his son.[2] It has been suggested that Watkin's experience stemmed from faint memories of an account in September 1870 by William Henry Black given to the British Archaeological Association in Hereford titled Boundaries and Landmarks, in which he speculated that "Monuments exist marking grand geometrical lines which cover the whole of Western Europe".[3]

Watkins believed that, in ancient times, when Britain was far more densely forested, the country was crisscrossed by a network of straight-line travel routes, with prominent features of the landscape being used as navigation points. This observation was made public at a meeting of the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club of Hereford in September 1921. His work referred to G. H. Piper's paper presented to the Woolhope Club in 1882, which noted that: "A line drawn from the Skirrid-fawr mountain northwards to Arthur's Stone would pass over the camp and southern most point of Hatterall Hill, Oldcastle, Longtown Castle, and Urishay and Snodhill castles."[4] The ancient surveyors who supposedly made the lines were given the name "dodmen".[2] He believed that the lines themselves had been called "leys" because so many of them passed through locations whose names included the element "ley".[5]

Watkins published his ideas in the books Early British Trackways and The Old Straight Track. They generally met with skepticism from archaeologists, one of whom, O. G. S. Crawford, refused to accept advertisements for the latter book in the journal Antiquity.[6] Most archaeologists since then have continued to reject Watkins's ideas.
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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2010, 01:12:06 pm »

In 2004, John Bruno Hare wrote:

Watkins never attributed any supernatural significance to leys; he believed that they were simply pathways that had been used for trade or ceremonial purposes, very ancient in origin, possibly dating back to the Neolithic, certainly pre-Roman. His obsession with leys was a natural outgrowth of his interest in landscape photography and love of the British countryside. He was an intensely rational person with an active intellect, and I think he would be a bit disappointed with some of the fringe aspects of ley lines today".[7]

Despite the mostly negative reception to his ideas, some writers have made observations similar to Watkins's. Megalithic researcher Alexander Thom offered a detailed analysis of megalithic alignments, proposing a standardization of measure by those who built megaliths, but avoided the term ley line. The discovery by Europeans of the Nazca lines, man-made lines on desert pavement in southern Peru, prompted study of their astronomical alignments.[
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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2010, 01:12:26 pm »

Spiritual significance of ley lines
Watkins's theories have been adapted by later writers. Some of his ideas were taken up by the occultist Dion Fortune who featured them in her 1936 novel The Goat-footed God. Since then, ley lines have become the subject of a few magical and mystical theories.[citation needed]

Two British dowsers, Captain Robert Boothby and Reginald A. Smith, Keeper of the British and Roman Antiquities of the British Museum, have linked the appearance of prehistoric sites such as earthworks, barrows and prehistoric temples, with underground streams and magnetic currents. (Capt Robert Boothby, R.N.: "The Religion of the Stone Age", Journal of the British Society of Dowsers, Vol 2, p135).

Guy Underwood conducted various investigations and claimed that crossings of 'negative' water lines and positive aquastats explain why certain sites were chosen as holy. He found so many of these 'double lines' on sacred sites that he named them 'holy lines.'[citation needed] Citation: More accurately, Underwood does not refer to the actual crossings of water lines and aquastats as "holy lines", but as instances in which the two "run together on approximately the same course".(Guy Underwood "The Pattern of the Past" Page 37, Abacus Books, ISBN 349134138).

One of Underwood's major observations obtained through his study of dowsing was that both the siting and entire layout of ancient monuments in Europe, from Stonehenge up to the medieval cathedrals and churches, all appear to be predicated entirely by the geodetic topology, noting that all the major spiritual centers and sites he had studied were built over 'blind springs'; major confluences of lines at specific places, which take a spiral course (blind springs, also referred to as 'knots' by traditional water dowsers, are also where water-wells are typically drilled).

Underwood credits Reginald Allender Smith with both the original discovery of this phenomenon in prehistoric temples and earthworks such as barrows, and also for coining the term "blind spring", in a paper Smith read to the British Society of Dowsers in 1939, which he concluded with the statement: "The constant presence of underground water at the exact centres of these circles and earthworks is a significant feature easily verified by others.If this is allowed to be intentional, then the selection of sites for consecration by the Druids and their predecessors no longer appears arbitrary, but dictated largely by geological conditions" (Journal of the British Society of Dowsers, volume 3, 1939).

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2010, 01:12:45 pm »

Underwood also wrote of the old churches he had dowsed, that 'certain blind springs and water lines determine the exact position of the altar'(Ibid, P165), and that animals typically give birth, create nests, or rest over blind springs, indicating to him that these spots emanated some form of "restorative property" (Ibid, P61-62).

Separate from other spiritual theories of ley lines (and likely used for propaganda purposes), two German Nazi researchers Wilhelm Teudt and Josef Heinsch have claimed that ancient Teutonic peoples contributed to the construction of a network of astronomical lines, called “Holy lines” (Heilige Linien), which could be mapped onto the geographical layout of ancient or sacred sites. Teudt located the Teutoburger Wald district in Lower Saxony, centered around the dramatic rock formation called Die Externsteine as the centre of Germany. Nazism often employed ideation of superiority and associated Aryan descent with ancient higher cultures, often without regard for archaeological or historic fact. See religious aspects of Nazism.[
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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2010, 01:13:29 pm »

Chance alignments

Watkins's discovery happened at a time when Ordnance Survey maps were being marketed for the leisure market, making them reasonably easy and cheap to obtain; this may have been a contributing factor to the popularity of ley line theories.

Given the high density of historic and prehistoric sites in Britain and other parts of Europe, finding straight lines that "connect" sites (usually selected to make them "fit") is trivial, and ascribable to coincidence. The diagram to the right shows an example of lines that pass very near to a set of random points: for all practical purposes, they can be regarded as nearly "exact" alignments. For a mathematical treatment of this topic, see alignments of random points.

Since the existence of alignments themselves are not controversial, analysis can proceed by an attempted rejection of the null hypothesis that ley-line-like alignments are due to random chance. Statistical analysis by skeptics of this hypothesis shows that random chance is consistent with the evidence.[8][9] Some Chaos Magicians[who?] claim such results to be in accord with their generative view of chance, though such alternative null hypothesis explanations are usually deprecated on philosophical grounds in hypothesis testing due to considerations of falsifiability and Occam's razor
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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2010, 01:13:42 pm »

One study by David George Kendall used the techniques of shape analysis to examine the triangles formed by standing stones to deduce if these were often arranged in straight lines. The shape of a triangle can be represented as a point on the sphere, and the distribution of all shapes can be thought of as a distribution over the sphere. The sample distribution from the standing stones was compared with the theoretical distribution to show that the occurrence of straight lines was no more than average.[9]

Archaeologist Richard Atkinson once demonstrated this by taking the positions of telephone boxes and pointing out the existence of "telephone box leys". This, he thus argued, showed that the mere existence of such lines in a set of points does not prove that the lines are deliberate artifacts, especially since it is known that telephone boxes were not laid out in any such manner, and without any such intention.[8]

Straight lines also do not make ideal roads in many circumstances, particularly where they ignore topography and require users to march up and down hills or mountains, or to cross rivers at points where there is no portage or bridge.

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #7 on: October 22, 2010, 01:14:15 pm »

Characterizing alignments
One precise definition that expresses the generally accepted meaning of Watkins's ley lines defines an alignment as:

a set of points, chosen from a given set of landmark points, all of which lie within at least an arc of 1/4 degree.
Watkins remarked that if this is accepted as the degree of error, then:

"if only three accidentally placed points are on the sheet, the chance of a three point alignment is 1 in 720."
"But this chance by accidental coincidence increases so rapidly in geometric progression with each point added that if ten mark-points are distributed haphazard on a sheet of paper, there is an average probability that there will be one three-point alignment, while if only two more points are added to make twelve points, there is a probability of two three-point alignments."
"It is clear that a three-point alignment must not be accepted as proof of a ley by itself, as a fair number of other eligible points are usually present."
"A ley should not be taken as proved with less than four good mark-points. Three good points with several others of less value like cross roads and coinciding tracks may be sufficient."
The Leyhunter's Manual (page 88), 1927
Lines and points on a map cover wide areas on the ground. With 1:63360 (1-inch-to-the-mile) maps a 1/100-inch (1/4 mm) wide line represents a path over 50 feet (15 m) across. And in travelling across a sheet, an angle of 1/4 degree encompasses something like an additional 600 feet (200 m).

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #8 on: October 22, 2010, 01:14:25 pm »

Examples
Alfred Watkins identified St. Ann's Well in Worcestershire as what he believed to be the start of a ley line that passes along the ridge of the Malvern Hills through several springs including the Holy Well, Walms Well and St. Pewtress Well.[10]

In the late 1970s Paul Devereux stated he had discovered the “Malvern Ley” which began at St Ann's Well and ended at Whiteleaved Oak. The alignment passes through St. Ann's Well, the Wyche Cutting, a section of the Shire Ditch, Midsummer hillfort and Whiteleaved Oak.[11]

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Deanna Witmer
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« Reply #9 on: October 22, 2010, 01:15:00 pm »



80 4-point alignments of 137 random points
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