(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.
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Leys
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,
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,
———. 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.