The Old Straight Track

The Old Straight Track is a book by Alfred Watkins that was first published in 1925 describing ley lines in the United Kingdom. The full title is "The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones".

After he first suggested ley lines in 1921, Watkins searched for ley lines with great precision, using maps and charts. In this book he presented a methodical and thorough exposition of his theories of ley lines, following an earlier much shorter publication, "Early British Trackways" in 1922. The book has a preface, thirty chapters, four appendices and an index. There are many figures, and photographs taken by the author. In the book Watkins claims the straight "Roman roads" were based on earlier ancient tracks. According to the author, these ancient tracks 'criss-cross' the British Isles and were already very old when the Ancient Romans first came to Britain.

While the practice of Traditional Witchcraft may be known as Following the Crooked Path, it is with Old Straight Track that we wish to examine today. Those ley-paths known throughout many countries, as the Daeda-Waeg to the Saxons, or the Faery Roads as the Kelts named them. Those hailing from the British Isles referred to them as the Ghost Roads and the Germanic peoples spoke of them as the Geisterweige.

Alfred Watkins saw them himself in the summer of 1921 and called them Ley Lines. In 1925 he published his magnum opus "The Old Straight Track" as a result of several lectures given. What Alfred saw that June afternoon resulted from a cumulative effort of previous study and interest in the nearby landscape of his home and countryside and in a moment of enlightenment that day led him to see "…a fairy chain stretched from mountain peak to mountain peak, as far as the eye could reach, and paid out until it reached the 'high places' of the earth at a number of ridges, banks, and knowls…".

Watkins, a flour miller and local Magistrate and Councillor in his countryside home of Herfordshire, goes on to write about the great standing stones, the herms, the dolmens and menhirs that dotted the countryside as being additional markers that were sometimes brought from great distances away to be such silent powerful sentry way-markers. He continues to write of being guided by the notches on the skyline that are born of the deeply cut tracks of the fords. As he was envisioning beacon fires that were lit annually leading the eye to the next reflecting point and on it was at once simple for him to see the entire pattern *in a flash* and write about it with a spectacular passion and enthusiasm for the next several years, thereby pioneering the beginnings of what is known today as the Earth Mysteries.

Today that term encompasses a wide variety of meanings and even wider scope of activities. One would imagine that Alfred himself, were he alive today, would be amazed at how his localized and general theories and ideas have spread like wildfire across the globe over the last 75 years. These many varied activities also have a wide and broad geographical range - incorporating not only the British Isles and surrounding regions but the veritable rest of the planet. And while much of the literature devoted to this subject mostly deals with that particular portion of the world, the very concept of what the actual Earth Mysteries entail is worldwide and not limited to only that geographical region.

Since Geomancy is not an exact and absolute science and the study of it is so newly founded with no proper way to gauge how realistic and relevant many of the theories are it is suggested that the reader leave off the more New Age branches of study that one finds do not resonate within his or her own soul. Like many newer fields that are an amalgamation or blend of hard science and more mystical theory, there are to be found many unscrupulous characters who see this new avenue of study and research as another way to use the varied elements in regards to Earth energies to pull the wool over the eyes of the gullible public with many outrageous claims from the finding of Atlantis to the locating of an immortality panacea or elixir using the sometimes vague and ambiguous Earth Mysteries on which to base their claims.

What do we really mean when we use the term Earth Mystery? One aspect is that we are naming a force, energy or inherent power within the land itself called many names by many different peoples (Serpent Power, Dragon Energy, Nwyvre, Spirament, Ond, Vril, Odyle to name a few) and this power may have been tapped into at key locations by our ancestors in a variety of ways to do such things as promote the fertility of animals, crops and people. Subsequently, the use of such such focused energy raising actions (such as the traditional circular Witches' dances) on spots where this power conjoins with other streams adds great and beneficent dimensions to the original ritualistic endeavors for all intents and purposes. When such locations are used in a similar manner today it is for a variety of reasons, from attempts to contact Ancestors and Ancestral energies to the petitioning of a specific actions and occurrences from local Deities or the Geniia Loci.

These streams or avenues of energy that are being described are also known as ley lines (old straight tracks) although Alfred himself gave up using this term himself in his latter years as it seemed to create a confusion as to what he actually meant by it. More orthodox interpretation of the term ley is derived as being a *pasture* or *field* - also considered is the obsolete term *leye* which meant island (some specifically marked points on a ley were encircled by a moat of water allowing visual sightings for many miles away) or fire, blaze or flame (recall that belfires were also used as ways to mark points on a particular ley). Additional confirmation can be found in the usage of the word *laia* meaning a roadway in the wood and *layon* (French for sportsman's tracks) and even *laie* which describes a forest ride or bridleway.

These leys were conceptual alignments (straightways) that connected ancient places of power and were marked for ease in recognition by such things as standing stones, holy wells and even the ancient churches. In other countries they may be marked by such things as hillforts, old mills, burial grounds, crossroads and even fords. And they do not only exist on British Isles soil only though that is the country where most of the research and published literature refers to.

How should one go about seeking out the ley lines in their own locale? First, look to local folklore and mythologies, places that have a history of faery sightings, odd or unusual events, strange lights and that sort of thing should be looked at first. Often those sorts of phenomenon go hand in hand with ley hunting as those are indicative signs of an active ley. Utilize your local library and staff as well as speak to local historical societies and the authors of written works about the area.

Another step that is crucial is the purchasing of a local ordnance map so that you have an accurate scale and gauge of your geographical area. The local cartography of the fields you know should be approached in several different ways. You can use the map not only to plot out suggestive spots that you found from the research into local legends and such but you can also merge the use of a rather mundane implement with a more mystical approach. Put yourself into a light trance state by whatever methods you normally would and then approach your map. Let your inner instincts and silent guides lead you to areas that would be more conducive to ley activity and mark them well. You may be elated and thrilled to find particular areas that seem to beckon and call to you.

The next step is simple. Pack a light lunch and needed supplies (camera, medicines, notepad and pen etc.), put on appropriate clothing for the season and lace up your hiking boots. Reading about ley hunting is fine, but you have to take your experience into the landscape and do some serious field work to see any sort of results. Keep a journal about where you have been and what you have experienced, include all sorts of mundane things that may have had an effect on your search from inclement weather to seasonal changes in the lay of the land. Most of all, enjoy your experiential activities. And with that, I'll see you at the standing stones!

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