It’s time to return to the subject of the occult, a topic I dealt with all too briefly first time.
Particularly, I want to talk about the concept of Ley Lines. Leys are an idea with a wonderfully strange intellectual history. By the time they reach the milieu within which I am conducting business they have gone from archaeological theory to new age belief system to psychogeographic metaphor, via Atlantis, Glastonbury and other places between. Although when talking about the occult and psychogeography it might at first seem that we should be looking at the secondary evolutions of Leys (into great, world-encompassing mystic energy currents; more on that in a bit), but actually in many ways the use of Leys by figures such as Iain Sinclair signals a return to the origins of the concept.
The theory of Leys first finds expression in a frankly quite charming little book called The Old Straight Track, written (and illustrated) by travelling salesman, photographic pioneer, naturalist and amateur archaeologist Alfred Watkins. ‘Ley’ was a neologism that he developed from the philological component of his ideas, and his theory (put very simply) was this: that the stone age peoples of Great Britain travelled around and organised themselves based around a network of straight pathways, marked by stones, arrangements of trees and notches cut out of the tops of hills and ridges. Watkins developed this theory during his career as a travelling salesman, from prolonged personal contact with the landscape of his native Herefordshire. It seems he first came up with the idea in a flash of inspiration, when reading a map and noticing chance alignments between church towers, standing stones and notches in the skyline. He went on to develop his idea painstakingly, trying to work out the position and purpose of various leys, and marshalling a body of evidence to support his ideas from various sources; place names, intricate maps, photographs. The Old Straight Track is obviously the culmination of several years of diligent and careful work, a fascinating record of one man’s obsession.