(Pronounced "lays.") A term now used to indicate ancient straight tracks formed by the alignment of burial mounds, beacon hills, earthworks, moats, and church sites in Britain. The term had long been thought by philologists to indicate a pasture or enclosed field, but this meaning was challenged by Alfred Watkins (born 1855) in his book The Old Straight Track, first published in London in 1925. Watkins pointed out that the word "ley" in its various place-name forms "lay," "lee," "lea," or "leigh" must have predated the enclosure of fields or pastures.
Watkins was an original thinker, an early photographer, and inventor of a pinhole camera and the Watkins exposure meter. In 1922 he published his book Early British Trackways, based on a lecture to the Woolhope Club of Hereford, England. Three years later he published The Old Straight Track, in which he detailed his investigations, which tended to show a vast network of straight tracks in Britain, aligned with either the sun or a star path. He also claimed evidence that such sighted straight tracks existed in other parts of the world.
The purpose of such tracks remains a mystery, but more recently they have been connected with occult beliefs and ancient lines of earth power. Such lines of force have been reported in primitive magical systems such as the mana of the Polynesian Islands. It has also been suggested that certain line marks of ground sites indicate gigantic zodiacs
(see Glastonbury Zodiac ).
Michell, John. The View over Atlantis. Rev. ed. London: Abacus, 1976.
Underwood, Guy. Patterns of the Past. London: Museum Press, 1969.
Watkins, Allen. Alfred Watkins of Hereford: His Life and Pioneer Work in the Three Worlds of Archaeology, Photography, and Flour Milling, 1855-1935. England: Privately printed, 1961.
——. The Ley Hunter's Manual: A Guide to Early Tracks. 1927. Reprint, Wellingborough, England: Aquarian Press, 1983.
——. The Old Straight Track. London: Methuen, 1925. Reprint, London: Sphere Books, 1974.
Wilcock, John. A Guide to Occult Britain: The Quest for Magic in Pagan Britain. London: Sidgwick & Jackson, 1976.
Williamson, Tom, and Liz Bellamy. Ley Lines in Question. Kingwood, England: World's Work, 1983.