The Old Straight Track

French Lake District

In my blog on walkabouts  I described how when Australian Aboriginals go ‘walkabout’ they follow paths known as ‘songlines‘ or ‘dreaming lines’. I was reminded of Ley Lines.  Ley Lines could be said to be the Western European equivalent of ‘songlines’, in that they are similarly believed to be connections between sacred sites.

Ley Lines are a 20th century hypothesis, attributed to the amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins.  He set out the theory in his book ‘The Old Straight Track‘.

As well as inventing the term ‘Ley lines’, Watkins also gave the monicker dodmento the alleged ancient surveyors who supposedly made the lines, deriving the name from a connection between the word ‘dodman’ and ‘hod’:

“[He] thought that in the words “dodman” and the builder’s “hod” there was a survival of an ancient British term for a surveyor. Watkins felt that the name came about because the snail’s two horns resembled a surveyor’s two surveying rods. Watkins also supported this idea with an etymology from ‘doddering ‘ along and ‘dodge’ (akin, in his mind, to the series of actions a surveyor would carry out in moving his rod back and forth until it accurately lined up with another one as a backsight or foresight) and the Welsh verb ‘dodi’ meaning to lay or place. He thus decided that The Long Man of Wilmington was an image of an ancient surveyor”.

Hedgehog Waterfalls

I think the above is imaginative, but as proof, hardly ’empirical’. It’s no wonder the archaeologists of the day debunked Watkins’ theories.

I hope however, one day, the ‘Age of Enlightenment’ will be more appropriately named for what it has been, the ‘Age of Dehumanisation’.  I’ve digressed …!

Watkins called his ancient routes ‘Leys’ because he found that many of them passed through places whose names included ‘ley’ or similar, like ‘lay’, ‘lee’, ‘lea’ or ‘leigh’.  I looked up the variations. ‘Lee’ can refer to that side of some structure, e.g; a natural place or a ship or other building, that’s sheltered from the wind.  It would be rational to make a path through a wild place that incorporated shelter.  ‘Lee’ and ‘lea’ are literary words referring to meadowland. Again, it would make sense to make paths across open, grassy areas, i.e. avoiding dense forest. 

Jura Vista

It would also make sense that paths would follow as straight a line as possible between A and B and that they would be set down where connections were needed between important, much-frequented places, such as places of worship – like WembLEY Stadium. (According to NASCA (not NASA) ” … Wembley, with its “ley” name-ending was itself a focus of numerous lines that included this great centre of global soccer”). Perhaps this ‘fact’ is the reason for football hooliganism: “I wasn’t drunk, Your Honour, I was under the influence of the Wembley Stadium Ley Line Network”.

The NASCA article goes on to discuss how there are many networks of lines focussed around the great French cathedrals. Some of these networks have been found to form shapes which parallel several main stellar constellations and include sites several hundred miles apart. 

Forest Interior & Stream

This ‘French Network’  of Ley Lines is said to have been discovered by French Police Detective Xavier Guichard.  He believed he had uncovered one very particular network of lines emanating from the small village of Alaise in the French Jura (as in ‘Jurassic’Franche-Comté region of France. The network is said to link villages of similar names and not just in France, but through many neighbouring countries

The personality of Xavier Guichard (1870-47) is as fascinating as his ideas.  He was born in Pesmes, Haute Saône, France, became Vice-President of Société Préhistorique Française and also Director of Police in Paris.  The main detective character in the works of Georges Simenon (of ‘Maigret’ fame) is known to have been Xavier Guichard. 

In 1936 Guichard  published ‘Eleuse Alaise: Enquete sur les origines de la civilisation europeenne’ (Investigation of the Origins of European Civilisation).  I’ve not read the book, but I’d hazard a guess that it makes connections between the name ‘Alaise’, ‘Elysees’, the ‘Elysian Fields’ and the French  ‘Champs-Elysees‘ and it hasn’t escaped my notice that there is, in ‘Alaise’ , the sound ‘lay’.

The most significant aspect of the topic of  ‘Ley Lines’ may be that, if there really are such  networks, then ‘primitive’ man had access to advanced geometry. How could this be possible?  Perhaps Von Daniken is right, that, as he suggests in his book ‘Chariots of the Gods‘, such knowledge was brought to our distant ancestors by beings from other planets?

I haven’t finished with Ley Lines yet.  Look out for at least one more blog when I’ll mention electro-magnetism and dowsing. 

I’ll also be writing about my walks in the French Jura region of France, when I stayed, coincidentally, quite close to Alaise. I don’t know about Ley Lines, but Jura is certainly a ‘magical’ place, known also as the French Lake District.

  • Fancy yourself as a Ley Hunter?
    Try the Society of Ley Hunters:
  • Fancy a ‘Ley Line’ Walking Holiday?
    Try these links:

The Sacred Landscape:
Visionary Landscape Walks:
Edward Hunt’s Forest of Dean Miscellany:
Ley Line Tours Scotland:

Ann Isik

About AnnIsikArts

Artist/Writer/Chess Enthusiast/Musician (Singer)/Gardener
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