Ley Lines, Labyrinths and Stone Circles

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Do magical lines connect stone circles and ancient sacred sites across the Earth? Who built these ancient sites? How? When? Why? What do they mean?

When planning our motorhome road trips, we always look for sites of ancient historical interest. We relish the chance to retrace the steps of our ancestors, to touch and tune into stones made special by their placement in the landscape.

Immersed in history, we dip into areas of ancient life not fully understood…

Is the modern world missing important connections, correlations and ancient wisdom? Alternatively, are we trying to attach significance to random sites and occurrences which have – and had – no real meaning?

Let’s find out…

Ley lines – what are they?

Born in Bury St Edmunds, us Hobos have always lived within the bounds of the St Michael and Mary ley lines as they cross through the town.

But what exactly is a ley line? It was Alfred Watkins, an amateur archaeologist, who first used the term in 1921. He noted that many historically significant buildings and geological features were aligned in straight lines.

The longest in the UK is the St Michael line. It has many sites dedicated to St Michael along its length. Beginning at St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, it crosses Southern England, through many significant places before it reaches the North Sea at Hopton, just south of Gt Yarmouth, in Norfolk.

map of southern England showing St Michael's Ley Line
Image source: Ancient-Wisdom

There are many such lines traversing the country and an equal number of theories concerned with their meaning, purpose, or properties. Some say they feel healing directed from angels to the lines; others state that they are lines of magnetic Earth Energy detectable by dowsing. One splinter group claims that such magnetic lines guide alien spacecraft. Others say some of the lines are funerary routes.

Roman roads often follow ancient tracks that were built along ley lines. Revealingly, archeological excavations have revealed pre-Roman conquest skills, such as levelling and drainage. Interestingly, similar roads exist in Ireland, though Ireland was not subject to Roman invasion.

Some lines appear to follow the path of the sun. St Michael’s line, for example, is aligned to the sun on the 8th May, the spring festival of St Michael. Consequently, it could be an astronomical track.

Ley lines and folklore

Ley lines are often discounted as folklore or are relegated to the realm of pseudo-science. Sceptics will say that Britain is so rich in ancient history that it is possible to draw a line anywhere across the country and find that it connects significant sites. Indeed, one can apply that argument to a map of phone boxes or Woolworths’ stores!

Sceptics state that sites crossed by ley lines are of diverse ages and unconnected cultures. However, archaeological digs along ley lines – which reveal previously undiscovered sites – counter this argument.

One of our favourite books about ley lines is this one…

Ley Lines book - by Danny Sullivan

Documented by Roman invaders and Nazis!

Modern science naturally deserves respect. However, it is worth noting that in their conquests of England and Europe, the Romans documented long straight tracks between sacred or ancient sites at the time of invasion.

Of course, ley lines are not exclusive to Britain; they are also recognised in other countries too. France, Portugal, Belgium, China, the USA and Malta for example.

Even the Nazis expressed an interest in ley lines quite independently of Watkins’ ideas. The Germans investigated ‘Heilige Linien’ (Holy Lines) in the 1920s. Indeed, the German heartland holds a huge network of them.

Ancient cultures

Ancient cultures tell stories of connective lines crossing the land…

In Ireland, these are called Fairy Lines and houses built upon them were often demolished or cursed. The Chinese call them dragon lines. Australian Aboriginal people speak of paths called ‘Turingas’ made by the creative Gods. (Turingas fill with energy at certain times of the year, revitalising and fertilising the land.)

The Incas had sacred spirit lines – ‘Ceques’. The Maya used the term ‘Seche’. Sadly, early Native American history was lost. However, there are remains of very straight tracks used by Native Americans which link earthworks and sacred sites.

What do we think about ley lines?

We are open minded and inquisitive, naturally, and we wonder about the effects of parking our Cree motorhome right across a ley line for the night… If these lines do hold special powers it might give the old girl a bit of ooooomph!

Labyrinths: another form of sacred path

Labyrinths and labyrinthine symbols date back to Neolithic times. They are found in many diverse regions and cultures all over the world.

Unlike a maze whose purpose is to confuse, a labyrinth is designed to give clarity. It is a single meandering path combining the circle and spiral to represent the journey to one’s core (or to God) and back into the world again, bringing integration of the inner and outer self.

Whilst pacing slowly along the path, one can contemplate growth, ask for understanding, self-discovery or envision healing.

Hobo Gav created and then walked his own labyrinth on the beach
Hobo Gav deep in contemplation as he walks his sand labyrinth

The usual track of the labyrinth encircles a centre bringing one tantalisingly close to the “end” (the answer, the goal, the now…whatever the walker ascribes to the middle) before swinging away again. Just like life!

Then, at last having reached the middle, one contemplates the journey thus far before setting out again, taking the learning back into the real world.

Labyrinth as pilgrimage and rite of passage

The labyrinth can be seen as a spiritual tool representing any journey in life. Walking the path disconnects the seeker from the distractions of the world, bringing focus to the intended contemplation. It can thus be viewed as a mini pilgrimage.

Labyrinths are usually constructed above ground and the experience is like a walking meditation.

However, as a rite of passage, the Hopi Indians built massive underground rectangular tunnel labyrinths which young men negotiated in the dark, twisting and turning before eventually emerging into the daylight again as braves. A boy entered. A man emerged.

Closer to home, in Bury St Edmunds Abbey Gardens there is a brand new labyrinth. Just imagine… a labyrinth in a ruined abbey with a ley line running underneath it!

Stone Circles

We have visited several stone circle sites on our travels and marvel at these huge rocks! How were they moved and erected?

Avebury Henge with some of the huge stones still in situ and Arbor Low Henge are two favourites.

Hobo Trudi standing between two giant megaliths at Avebury stone circle
Hobo Trudi amongst the megaliths at Avebury

Avebury is a circular bank and ditch (the henge) encompassing three stone circles. A well marshalled tourist attraction, the monument is free to enter and open during reasonable daylight hours and, unlike Stonehenge which is roped off, at Avebury you can actually touch the stones.

The National Trust manage the site for English Heritage. Therefore there are toilets and a museum as well as purchasing opportunities.  

To be practical about it, parking a motorhome in the height of summer at the main car park may be challenging – get up and arrive early! Parking is free for English Heritage members, otherwise there is a fee (£5 on our last visit). Alternatively, for the lucky few, there is a layby along West Kennet Avenue on the B4003 – but it is first come first served and there’s not much room for a large motorhome.

The history of Avebury

Within the henge, Avebury boasts the largest stone circle in Britain. This encompasses two further circles. The henge and stone circles were constructed and altered over the ages, mainly during the Neolithic period of 2850 and 2200 BC. Aerial photography and limited excavation suggests that prior to the standing stones being placed, there were wooden structures and circles within the henge.

Two avenues lead from – or to – the circle. These seem to be ceremonial. The site however was abandoned around 1800BC. Perhaps the people who used it were eradicated or moved on. Their religion may have altered. Who knows?

Pagan or devil worship was associated with stone circles during the middle ages. Consequently, some of Avebury’s stones were destroyed or moved during this period. Modern agriculture saw more of them removed or destroyed. Additionally, stones were purposefully broken to be used as building materials.

What we now see at Avebury owes much to Alexander Kieller. He bought the site and replaced many of the stones and removed the buildings that had been erected amongst the ancient circles.

Part of the ancient stone circle at Avebury

Other ancient sites near Avebury

There are five further ancient places of interest near to Avebury Henge, namely West Kennet Avenue, West Kennet Long Barrow, The Sanctuary, Windmill Hill and Silbury Hill. 

The paths between them can be muddy but are certainly well worth the effort. One spiritually alert person quietly pointed out to us West Kennet Avenue. Not visited as often as the main circle, the Avenue and the satellite installations therefore emit a stronger energy.

Arbor Low Stone Circle in the Peak District

Arbor Low was harder to locate on our road trip through the Peak District. It felt more spiritual than Avebury. Perhaps that is because it hosted few fellow humans when we went, which always lends a deeper experience. Arbor Low remains relatively well-preserved, receiving statutory protection.

We were able to take the motorhome along the track to the car park with no issues. The site is not touristy and there are no toilets or shops. In wet weather it will be muddy and mucky due to grazing livestock. However, the views of the Peak District are stunning and, without crowds, it is easy to slip back in time and appreciate why people found such places inspirational enough to deem them sacred.

Ancient sites: Arbor Low, Henge and Stone Circle, Peak District
Hobo Gav taking in the view at Arbor Low Henge and Stone Circle

The history of Arbor Low

Arbor Low was in use from the Neolithic into the early Bronze age. A massive earth bank with a ditch inside surrounds a stone circle. It features a central “cove” (horseshoe or rectangular shaped arrangement of stones) which points to its having been a site of sacred significance. Found close by were human skeletal remains.

The stones at Arbor Low are smaller than those at Avebury (eroded and broken as well as originally smaller than Avebury) and most are laying down. Some insist the stones were laid flat. Some say they fell. Others suggest that early Christians pushed them over.

Arbor Low stone circle and the earlier Neolithic Gib Hill Barrow are linked by an earthen ridge. Additionally, a barrow was dug out beside the henge during the Bronze age. Inside was evidence of human cremation. Extensive excavation however has not taken place.

Such sites are rarely solitary installations – there will often be a small group as with both our examples. Circles and henges often start with a bank or ditch with a timber structure in the middle. Large stones later replace the wood. Alternatively, some stone circles predated the surrounding ditch and mound.

The purpose of stone circles

The purpose of the circles is, of course, subject to conjecture. The prevailing theories are that stone circles were used as cosmic calendars or monuments to the dead. It is likely that they had an initial purpose which changed over time.

Perhaps a moated settlement gradually became a memorial? Or a place of mourning became a meeting arena? With beliefs and rituals changing over the millennia it is certain that most sites evolved over time with several recognised periods of reconstruction and building.

Many stone circles have evidence of feasting around them. Did people travel to the monument for festivals and rituals, or did they hold “bring a stone” parties where groups brought and erected more stones? Of course, the process of moving the massive stones remains a mystery. Theories abound but nothing has yet worked in practice!

And what of the word ‘henge’ itself? Henges are supposed to have a circular mound with a ditch running around the outside. The implication is that the henge was meant to contain something inside rather than keep invaders out. It might have been livestock or prisoners or, much less likely, sacrificial offerings. Possibly the raised mound acted as an amphitheatre for rituals and ceremonies held within the stone circles.

What this means is that the most famous henge in the UK – Stonehenge – doesn’t actually qualify as a henge as it has neither a mound or a ditch!

Stone Circles book - Dawn Finch

What we thought we knew about stone circles…

Previously believed facts about stone circles and other sacred sites have been disproven by modern science. For example, the “Celtic” labyrinthine carvings at Newgrange in Ireland existed 1500 years before the Celts.

And beliefs that the Druids built Stonehenge have also been de-bunked as we now know that the circles predate the arrival of the Druids by a thousand years.

However, there is one theory about one of the possible uses of Stonehenge that attracted us: many of the bodies found buried nearby have deformities or injuries, suggesting that Stonehenge could have been a healing centre. A bit like an ancient version of Lourdes, perhaps.

A recent BBC documentary about Stonehenge (February 2021) has revealed that the blue stones were moved from a fully formed stone circle in the Preseli Hills in Wales. Why they were moved the 150 miles to Stonehenge – and exactly how it was done – remains a mystery.

Mankind may, in time, discover all the reasons for ley lines, labyrinths, and stone circles. We may consequently learn how and exactly when they were constructed and for what purpose. But perhaps that will be a pity, as such places fuel the imagination and help us connect to The Great Mystery.

Three more books we love…

We were lucky enough to buy Julian Cope’s ‘Modern Antiquarian’ when it was first published for just £30. We thought that was a bit steep at the time but these days it’s selling on amazon for over £150! Julian travelled to just about every sacred site in the UK and Hobo Gav was lucky enough to meet him at Avebury. Alongside a detailed map and history of each place, the book includes Julian’s personal reflections and poems. Well worth the investment if you’re serious about sacred sites!

Julian Cope - The Modern Antiquarian book cover

A close second is ‘The Old Stones’ which features over a thousand sites in the UK and Ireland. A bit lighter to carry than Cope’s book, it’s the one we take in our van if we’re heading to sacred sites. We’ll use Cope’s book for research at home then use this as our field guide on the road…

The Old Stones - a field guide to the megalithic sites of Britain and Ireland

And thirdly, a brilliant book about ley lines which we were lucky enough to find in a charity shop for a fiver! An in-depth exploration about the mystery of ley lines and earth energies…

The sun and the serpent (book cover) Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller

Further online reading:

Ley Lines : https://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2000/may/13/weekend7.weekend1

Labyrinths: https://labyrinthsociety.org/about-labyrinths

Stone Circles: https://www.megalithic.co.uk/

Avebury: https://sacredsites.com/europe/england/avebury.ht

Arbor Low: http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/arborlow.htm

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