Leys, pronounced “lays” are thought to be patterns of invisible tracks or lines having a complex power in the ground which seem to link sacred places and natural magical sites. It is theorized in modern witchcraft and neo-paganism that these patterns or alignments are vital for their apparent connection to the forces of the elements, the basis of natural magic.
The original leys theory was put forth in 1925 by Alfred Watkins (b. 1855) in his book The Old Straight Track published in London in 1925. Originally the term leys was thought by philologists to mean only a pasture or an enclosed field. However, Watkins challenged this meaning in his work.
Watkins described the various place-named forms of the term occurring in the world, “lay,” “lee.” “lea,” or “leigh.” From these different word forms he concluded the term leys predates the terms pasture and enclosed field. Furthermore, Watkins observed that man-made sacred places such as burial gerounds, megliths, churches, and pagan worshipping sites, as well as natural peaks, magical springs and wells, and other earthworks seem to align with one and another.
The leys, as Watkins named theses alignments, had been “old straight tracks” discovered by prehistoric ley hunters, or Dodman surveyors, who scouted and mapped the countryside seeking to find power spots for sacred constructions, trading routes, and astronomical sites. Watkins’ listings of such sites for alignment is controversial because he not only included sites of prehistoric societies, but also those of pre-Reformation churches.
Three years after the publication of The Old Straight Track in which he documented his investigations which tended to show a vast network of traks across Britain, aligned with either the sun or a star path, he claimed evidence of the existence of similar tracks in various parts of the world.
Although most scientists reject the concept, the leys idea enjoyed popularity until the 1940s and the decreased. It was not until the 1960s and 1970s that it revived. Speculation is that the latter was mainly due to the increase in psychic and occult interests. Some use the term ley lines when referring to leys which many feel is inappropriate.
Not all alignments signify genuine leys. Modern ley-hunters who map leys have established some requirements: there is a straight line within a certain distance extending between two or more aligned sites, such as a standing stone, a church site, a pagan sacred site, a burial mound, or a mountain, etc. Some alignments are astronomical, such as where the sun rises at Beltane, the solstices or equinoxes. Some ley-hunters say at least five alignments within ten miles are required, while other say five within 25 miles. In addition, dowsers require the energy line be dowsable.
Points of leys, or leys centers, are places which radiate energy from at least seven lines over magnetic fields or blind springs, a primary spiral of converging primary geodetic lines (the shortest lines between two points on a curved surface). There is speculation that ancient pagan people sensed these points of energy radiation and situated their sacred worshipping places atop or around them.
The vital force of the energy charge is classed as either male or female depending on its rate of vibration, and it is believed to be present in all living material. This charge may be natural or artificial. In centers the artificial charge can be introduced by handling of stones or metals. Whether natural or artificial charges dissipate over time unless they are fixed by hammering, heating, or a magnetic field is presence.
Stones themselves can be charged and fixed with a certain magnitude of charge or power. This has been stated by J. Havelock Fidler, a British agricultural scientist and dowser. The stone employed in constructing megalithic monuments, churches, holy wells and temples are charged by handling, and then fixed by being shaped and fitted in place by blows from axes and chisels. Fidler said the stone’s charge was increased according to the number of blows it received.
Therefore, the charge in megaliths was considered to be very great. Also, helping to increase the megalithic charge, Fidler speculated, was the raising of the cone of power by witches and pagans. During his experiments Fidler discovered he could impact greater charges to stones during the full moon, the time of greatest magical and psychic power.
According to British folklore, the ground itself can be charged and fixed. There was an ancient custom known as “beating the parish bounds.” The priest and choirboys of a church would go around the parish perimeter using rods with which they would beat the ground. Presumably this procedure was believed to erect a protective barrier around the parish.
It is thought fire also fixes a charge. Charges were found at cremation pits, burials (such as those at Stonehenge), sacrificial pits, and the burning of wood.
Also, Fidler discovered that while the geomagnetic forces surrounding the ley centers emit beneficial energy, the stones themselves seem to emit a type of energy detrimental to animate objects. This latter energy is apparently counteracted by the leys themselves, which redirect the energy to other centers where it can be neutralized.
Charges at one time may have been deliberately masked. Certain types of wood, such as elm and elderberry; metals such as iron; and mineral substances such as salt, quartz crystals, amethysis, jasper and flint have been shown to mask charged stones. (It is interesting to note that iron, salt, elm, and elderberry are all revered in folklore for their protective properties against bewitchment, illness, demons and bad fortune.)
Leys, or straight path systems, are speculated to exist in the United Kingdom, perhaps in France and the United States. There is also speculation of their existence in Peru and Bolivia. In Peru, from the Sun Temple at the center of the city of Cuzco, 41 lines called ceques spread out into the country, marked by various shrines, hills, bridges, and other sites, some of them being astronomical sight lines. In Bolivia holy tracks have been shown to coverage on Indian shrines at top of holy hills. A.G.H.