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Posted Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Midsummer at Stanton Moor Stone Circle:
`shadowy figures are occasionally silhouetted against the glow of camp fires'
It is Midsummer Eve, the night of the Summer Solstice; deep in the twilight shadowy figures are occasionally silhouetted against the glow of camp fires; the vague shapes of tents and tepees can be seen scattered beneath the midsummer canopy of the birch trees, and the muffled sound of distant laughter mixed with mellow guitar and the pulsing of bongo’s adds atmosphere to the night as darkness falls like a cloak around the Nine Ladies Stone Circle up on Stanton Moor in the heart of Derbyshire.
Three figures emerge from the deepening gloom walking slowly towards the circle from the direction of the Kings Stone; the leader is carrying a forked hazel `wand’ or divining rod and as he enters the circle the rod suddenly turns upwards in his hands as if by magic and begins to rotate. This, he tells me later, signifies `the sacredness of the site` and it’s `capacity for healing by the mystical forces of earth magic’.
Jason the Druid (he wouldn’t tell me his real name) practices the ancient art of dowsing (also known as water- divining) in his quest as a `ley hunter’,- and I was fascinated to learn that a whole host of `ley lines’ crossed Stanton Moor and all led directly to the Nine Ladies Stone Circle.
The one that Jason the Druid was walking on Midsummer Eve runs due west for almost 20 miles from Clay Cross church and along the way aligns precisely with Ashover church, Sydnope Stand, Nine Ladies Stone Circle, Middleton Castle, Arbor Low, Parsley Hay tumulus, Pilsbury Castle and Knowsley Cross.
For the uninitiated the term `ley line` was coined in 1921 by a brewer from Hereford named Alfred Watkins, who on June 30th of that year was out riding his horse, and pausing on a hilltop, had a vision of what he later described as `a flood of ancestral memory’. He saw a complex network of straight tracks and ancient footpaths running across the countryside, - linking ancient burial mounds, old churches, standing stones, tumuli, and stone circles. It occurred to him that he was looking at early man's equivalent of a communications system. He thought that some of the tracks may be trade routes, whilst others must have some religious significance because they connected sacred sites. He called them `ley lines’ from the old English word for an enclosed field, but fearing ridicule he told no one about his discovery, - until he had sat down with maps and rulers to check for evidence to back up his theory.
Time and again he found that the projected lines on his maps passed through a series of ancient sites, all precisely aligned, and when he later visited these places he was able to follow the line of the leys `arrow-straight’ across the landscape.
Many have since ridiculed Watkins’ theory, especially the archeological fraternity who have poured scorn on the idea of `ley lines’, but without any rational explanation of the strange source of `earth-power’ which is undoubtedly encountered along their path by those initiated in the ancient art of earth mysticism, - and dowsers, the like of Jason the Druid.
Scientists bracketed believers in ley lines and earth magic along with those of the Flat Earth Society until thirty three years ago when research by Professor Alexander Thom, Professor Emeritus of Engineering Science at Oxford made some astounding discoveries. He surveyed over 600 european megalithic sites and concluded that prehistoric man had laid them out with astonishing engineering skill in precise astronomical alignments. Similar amazing results throughout the world have added to the mystery, from the Nazca lines in Peru, the straight `roads' of the lost Anasazi Indians of Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, and the Neolithic earthen lines called `cursuses’ that link long barrows in Britain. The Celtic idea of `Fairy Paths’ also relates to this core concept of geomancy and earth magic, as does the old Chinese geomantic system known as `Feng Shui’.
Despite such evidence there are many sceptics who refuse to accept that these alignments exist. Statisticians discount them by saying that in an island as small and as densely populated as Britain, straight lines drawn on ordnance survey maps are bound to run through some ancient sites and other features believed significant by ley hunters.
In an attempt to prove that ley lines occur purely by chance, mathematicians devised a formulae and tested it by computer, but analysis showed that the chance factor for a six-point ley was only one in 200; (that is for six generally accepted ley markers to fall exactly in a straight line not more than 30 miles long). For a seven point ley the random element soars to one in a thousand, - and results showed that many alignments featured six or more points in a length of only ten or twelve miles!
In the light of Professor Thom’s research, attitudes subsequently changed and `leys’ became an accepted reality to most, but disputes rage about their origins and properties with a variety of theories propounded by different schools.
So what are `ley lines’? Current research suggests a number of answers:
Alfred Watkins believed that these lines across the landscape were originally laid down by line-of sight as ancient pathways which linked Neolithic religious sites, also known as `corpse paths’ because they linked cemeteries and ancient burial mounds; they also possibly doubled as old trading routes. This theory lapsed after the war, but was reborn in the 60’s when it became popular to believe, along with renowned dowser Tom Lethbridge, that leys were also dowsable `energy lines’. New Age thinking goes even further and adds spritual significance, according the lines shamanic origins and sometimes referring to them as `spirit lines’. Another theory is that the `earth energy’ encountered is the result of natural magnetic currents deep beneath the earth’s surface. Whatever the truth of the matter there is no doubt that ley lines exist, but disputes suggest that the `experts’ have their lines crossed.
Paul Devereux, editor of The Ley Hunter Magazine says “Yes, there is some limited validity in dowsing, and yes, there are energies from the earth in a variety of forms, some of which may be dowsable. But there are no energy lines of the kind sprinkling the New Age literature and lecture circuits”. I put this to Jason the Druid for his response;
“That may be his opinion, he said - but there are plenty sprinkling the Nine Ladies, and that’s good enough for me”, - and with that he drifted off into the Midsummer night.