Inconspicuous as your nose:
Not for the first time, I ran across reference to The Old Straight Track by Alfred Watkins now in print from Abacus of London but first published in 1925.  This time I thought that at last I had a reason to read it.  It should be an account of seeing something that had been obvious for a long time but which nobody had ever wrapped mind about.  In a feeling of kindred spirit I thought maybe I would learn something about doing it.  Alas not, but the book is a good read.

The subject is “ley” lines.  It is mentioned that the term is used because so many sites involved end in those letters.  If there is a lit, I did not register it. 

The new printing appears to be a facsimile of an earlier printing.  The photograph reproductions are not state of the art, but if you are traveling in England there is a collection of them you can see.  I found myself getting a very nostalgic feeling.  The pictures look more like I would have imagined England looking like two centuries ago, not just one.  But that wasn’t it.  Then I realized that this was a facsimile of the kind of book I would read as a boy.  In those far off times the child of a faculty member could go to the University of Florida library and go into the stacks, pull out a book and read it at one of the great tables.  Once you found the kind of book you were looking for in the card catalog you found that one in the stacks and there were all the others within arm’s reach.  I have been in some of the great libraries in New England.  Harvard’s Widener Library was more impressive when I visited it than the University of Florida’s had been some years before, but not by a whole lot. 

In those days air conditioning was not universal in Florida so the books had a very faint musty smell making them seem very old indeed.  The internet is very impressive in the way you can find facts, but emotionally I don’t feel that it’s that much of an improvement over having a stack pass for a world class library. 

One day I was reading a book on Avebury, the less famous big brother of Stonehenge.  The author was describing the report of the man who had discovered it.  Yes, it needed to be discovered.  There were these huge rocks.  They were mostly in a village.  Walk down the street and you might pass a rock as high as a cottage.  But nobody during recorded history had ever put them together and realized it was a single pattern.  There was my moral tale, but I wanted another.  As I was saying the discoverer described a long double colonnade about a mile and a half long and said it made an excellent promenade.  To this my own author snorted.  “It’s nothing like a promenade.  Obviously it’s for ritual.”  And I wondered what in the world a promenade was if not a ritual.

Since then I have always cringed a bit when somebody mentions ritual.  It’s not that I don’t believe they exist.  I just want more or kindly leave the issue aside.  Well now there is more.  (Dan Jones The Ritual Animal NATURE vol. 493 no. 7433 January 24, 2013 page 470)  Rituals come in two forms: intense ones involving few people and non intense ones involving many people.  I don’t know which one witch burning was or saying grace over meals.  The article didn’t mention them.   

So there are these ley lines.  They are straight lines that connect obvious Neolithic artifacts such as tombs or standing stones, churches and natural features such as hilltops.  There are a lot of them in England.  They are found widespread in the world and one supposedly passes pretty close to here.  Watkins explained that they were initially quite practical, a way for people to find their way around.  Intersections of course were obvious places to meet and eventually rituals emerged.  Tombs and churches would be built along the lines and at intersections. 

Well the spiritual approach was not long in coming.  John Michell wrote View Over Atlantis, emphasizing the spiritual energies or earth energies to be found there.  I met Michell and liked him a lot.  Indeed I miss him.  But for my own purposes Watkins is closer to the mark.  He was the man who looked at something all had looked at it and saw it for the first time.

But alas it was not so.  Watkins makes it quite clear that ley lines are by no means easy to find.  He goes into detail about exactly how to do it.  I would have thought that in this age of GPS and Google Earth availability there would be an enormous surge of interest.  After all, it involves nice walks in the country – at least in England – and times of quiet study.  There are nice puzzles he mentions to try to work out.  If there are multiple ley lines meeting at a point, which came first?  The age of the barrows along them is no more help than the ages of the churches.  But hilltops have been around a long time.  Ley line clubs ought to be fun.  They have been before. 

But alas theses lines do not illustrate my point.

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