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Paul Devereux

Author, lecturer/workshop presenter, researcher, broadcaster, artist, photographer.

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Leys / "Ley Lines"

Abridged summary of paper given at the "WEGE DES GEISTES - WEGE DER KRAFT (Ways of Spirit - Ways of Power)" conference in October, 1996, in Germany

The origin of the ley theory

Leys for the 1960s

Energy lines

Parting of the ways

Spirit Lines in the Americas

Shamanic Landscapes

The Geography of Trance

Journeying in Aluna

Roads of the Dead (a Passage of Spirits)

 


The subject of leys (or 'ley lines' or 'ley hunting') as we have come to know it is essentially a British one. Both the good and bad aspects can be blamed on the British! For 20 years I edited the only journal in the world devoted solely to leys, THE LEY HUNTER, and I think I have come to know the subject more intimately and in more detail than anyone else alive. The first thing I can assure you is that what is talked about in New Age journals, workshops and groups today about 'leylines' is mainly a combination of misunderstanding, old falsehoods, wishful thinking and downright fantasy. What I am going to tell you now is the true history of ley research. Like most histories, it is essentially a list of dates and names, but unless we understand the growth of the ley idea, we will never understand what leys are, and what it is we are dealing with.

Alfred Watkins, pioneer proponent of the ley theory, shown taking photographs along one of his alignments.

Alfred Watkins, pioneer proponent of the ley theory, shown taking photographs along one of his alignments. Photo: Major Tyler/Northern Earth.Photo: Major Tyler/Northern Earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The origin of the Ley theory

In 1921, Englishman Alfred Watkins had a sudden perception (he called it a 'flood of ancestral memory'), while looking at a map of the Herefordshire countryside. He saw that various prehistoric places, such as standing stones, earthen burial mounds, prehistoric earthworked hills, and other such features fell into straight lines for miles across country. Watkins spent many years studying such alignments on the ground and on maps. He was a pioneer photographer and he took photographs of his alignments, wrote books and gave lectures. In response to his work, especially to his most important book, The Old Straight Track (1925), the Straight Track Club was formed, in which people all over Britain conducted field research looking for alignments of sites, and perhaps remnants of old straight tracks lying along them.

Members of the Straight Track Club at Stonehenge circa 1930.
Members of the Straight Track Club at Stonehenge circa 1930.

 
 
 
 
 
 

For about 7 years in the 1920s, Watkins referred to his alignments as 'leys'. This is an Anglo-Saxon word meaning 'cleared strips of ground' or 'meadows'. Watkins' theory of leys was that they were old straight traders' tracks laid down by surveyors in the Neolithic period of prehistory. They used surveying rods, he claimed, and it was this line-of-sight method that led to the straightness of the old tracks. The tracks ran from hilltop to hilltop, mountain ridge to mountain ridge, like 'a fairy chain' Watkins suggested. They cut through wild country, and in the valleys there was dense forest. Over time, this was cleared along the course of the straight tracks, Watkins maintained, and this was the reason he used the word 'ley' to describe such tracks. However, by 1929, he had discarded the use of the name 'ley' and referred to his alignments only as 'old straight tracks' or 'archaic tracks'.

Watkins felt that many of the key sighting points along these old straight tracks evolved into sacred sites, such as standing stones and burial mounds. Watkins felt that eventually the old straight tracks fell out of use, and so we only have the aligned sites today to indicate their courses or routes. He also theorised that in the historic, Christian era, some of the prehistoric, pagan sites became Christianised, and this explained why he found so many ancient churches standing on his alignments. It is certainly a fact that many such sites did become Christianised throughout Europe.

 Photo: Paul Devereux.
An old trackway on one of Alfred Watkins' ley alignments passes through the ruins of Llanthony Abbey in the Black Mountains, Wales.

Photo: Paul Devereux.

(Watkins was not the first to suggest that ancient sites fell into straight alignments, there had been a number of British, American, French and German researchers making similar suggestions, from at least the 18th century.)

 
 
 
 
 
 

 

In 1935, Watkins died. In 1936, the British occultist Dion Fortune wrote a fictional book, a novel, called The Goat-Foot God, in which she put forward the notion of 'lines of force' connecting megalithic sites such as Avebury and Stonehenge in southern England. In 1938, Arthur Lawton, a member of the Straight Track Club, wrote a paper in which he claimed that leys were lines of cosmic force which could be dowsed. He was a dowser himself, and was impressed with the German geopathological dowsing that was then getting under way, and French dowsing work which claimed that there were lines of force beneath standing stones. Lawton put all this together in his own head and came up with his theory about leys.

In 1948, the Straight Track Club was closed down as there were only a few surviving members, and no new work was being done. The idea of Watkins' leys was kept alive by a few fringe writers and researchers in Britain during the 1950s. Probably in no other country in the world at this time was anyone preserving the idea of leys.

Leys for the 1960s

From 1960 the ley theory took on a new lease of life, one that has led to the modern New Age notion of 'ley lines'. An ex-R.A.F. pilot, Tony Wedd, was very interested in flying saucers, or UFOs. He had read Watkins' The Old Straight Track and also a French book, Flying Saucers and the Straight Line Mystery (1958) by Aim=82 Michel, in which it was (falsely) suggested that the locations where flying saucers landed or hovered very low during the 1954 French flying saucer outbreak or 'wave' fell into straight lines or 'orthotenies'. Wedd made the excited conclusion that Watkins' 'leys' and Michel's 'orthotenies' were one and the same phenomenon. He had also read an American book by Buck Nelson called My Trip to Mars, the Moon and Venus (1956) in which Rogers claimed to have flown in UFOs, and to have witnessed them picking up energy from 'magnetic currents' flowing through the Earth. In 1961, Wedd published a pamphlet called Skyways and Landmarks in which he theorised that UFO occupants flew along magnetic lines of force which linked ancient sites, and that the ancient sites acted as landmarks for UFO pilots. It all relied very much on the notions and experiences of an old-fashioned terrestrial airplane pilot, rather than intergalactic extra-terrestrial creatures!

Wedd formed the Star Fellowship, which aimed to contact the Space Brothers. The members of the club enlisted the aid of a psychic called Mary Long in their ley hunting, and she started referring to 'lines of force' and magnetic nodes in the landscape. She also channelled communications from a Space Being called 'Attalita'. In 1962 a Ley Hunter's Club was set up with Wedd's encouragement, and by 1965 it produced the first few copies of THE LEY HUNTER journal.

It was at a conference held by members of Wedd's group in London in 1966 that I first became introduced to the idea of leys, and it is possible that John Michell also attended that same meeting. Other pioneers of this new wave of ley hunting also became involved in the subject in the 1960s. In 1967 John Michell wrote his first book, The Flying Saucer Vision, in which he talked about UFOs, ancient sites, Alfred Watkins and leys. In 1969 he produced his seminal work, The View Over Atlantis, in which he brought his erudition and insight to bear on the ley theory, and mixed it with ancient, sacred geometrical and number systems, and much else besides, particularly the Chinese systemof landscape divination called Feng shui. He also speculated about dowsing. This book had a profound influence on the new generation of ley hunters. In it, as well as in magazine articles, he put forward his idea of a 'St Michael Line' running for 400 miles across southern England. In that same year of 1969, THE LEY HUNTER journal came under the editorship of Paul Screeton, and remained in continuous publication until 1999.

Energy lines

So by the end of the 1960s, the new young generation of ley hunters felt that leys were probably lines of energy, of magnetism even, and associated the lines with UFOs and psychic experience. The ley theory had become as brightly coloured as a 1960s psychedelic shirt,and would hardly have been recognised by Alfred Watkins. All sorts of books, articles in the new 'Underground Press', and pamphlets appeared enriching and enlarging the ideas of earth energies and leys. In 1972, Janet and Colin Bord published their extremely widely-read book, "Mysterious Britain", in which they summarised all the New Age thinking about leys and powerfully mixed this with many photographs of ancient monuments and themes from folklore. In 1974, THE LEY HUNTER editor, Paul Screeton, published his book, "Quicksilver Heritage", in which he further amplified ideas about leys, earth energies and mystic, occult themes. Another book came out by John Michell at this time, as well, called "The Old Stones of Land's End", in which he described alignments of standing stones in Cornwall, at the southwestern tip of England. This was classic Alfred Watkins ley hunting, and was good fieldwork, standing in quite a contrast to the more New Age 'energy' ideas about leys being peddled almost everywhere else. In this same year of 1974, the first article on leys was published in the USA by the then president of the American Society of Dowsers. The author, Terry Ross, had read the Bords' Mysterious Britain and he talked only about leys as being lines of energy. This was picked up and amplified by various elements in the New Age movement in America. In the USA, leys were energy lines, and there was little or no knowledge of Alfred Watkins, or the original old straight track theory. Also in 1974, an unknown writer in "The Whole Earth Catalogue" referred to the whole area of leys, ancient sites and wisdom, occult lore, landscape mysteries, earth energies and the rest of it by the collective title of 'earth mysteries', and that name of convenience has stuck ever since.

Parting of the ways

As the 1970s progressed, ley hunting began to divide into two halves. One side treated the subject as dowsable lines of energy and speculated about supposed alignments hundreds and even thousands of miles long, and some people, like the Fountain Group in England, started to claim that mental influence could be transmitted down 'ley lines'. The other, smaller group was more scholarly and research-oriented, and began studying and trying to understand the nature and meaning of real landscape lines that real people had really made in the remote past. The trigger for this came in 1978, when British filmaker Tony Morrison came back from Bolivia with news of mysterious old straight tracks cutting through the altiplano there. Those of us who represented the research-based school of ley hunting immediately thought of the Nazca lines in Peru, which Erich Von Daniken had claimed were landing strips for ancient astronauts -- yet another twentieth century notion projected onto the ancient landscape. We wanted to know what these lines were really all about (see following excerpt).

In the USA meanwhile, through the 1970s and the 1980s, the idea of energy lines grew and grew and became a part of the New Age movement there. People started talking about interplanetary and even intergalactic 'ley lines', lines of yin or yang energy, 'ley lines' that came down from the sky as columns of force which turned at right angles when they reached the Earth's surface, and then ran along under the ground! There was no end to the fantasies. The idea of 'line sof the world' was even included in the bestselling and fictional books by Carlos Castaneda, and this further cemented the idea of leys as energy lines in the mind of the New Age audience. By the late 1970s, 'energy line' ideas where mentioned by many presenters on the international circuit of New Age centres and workshops. The fantastic notions that had been originally spawned in Britain were magnified in the USA and then these fantasies were exported back to Europe as part of the New Age movement. People who had no idea of the origins of the idea of leys, who, in other words, were not grounded in any real knowledge, started writing books and booklets on their pet theories about ley lines, and began to run workshops including such ideas. Very soon, the whole New Age version of the subject became like a corridor of mirrors, with one fantasy piling up on another. To this very day, this false and time-wasting approach to the mystery of the lines is the most publically known version of the subject. Germany was particularly vulnerable, for it absorbed all the American New Age ideas, including energy 'ley lines', knowing little or nothing about the origin of the ley theory in Britain. In addition, ideas of ley energies fitted in very well with Germany's own history of geopathological dowsing and dowsable energy grids or nets, and the two, completely different subjects became merged together in the New Age melting pot. (Holland in some ways was worse off, because it received its information fairly equally from the New Age in Britain, Germany and the USA, and I have found that it is virtually impossible to talk to anyone in Holland about research- based ley hunting.)

When ley hunting became popular in the 1960s, mainstream archaeological scholars dismissed it all and became very angry with ley hunters. This was partly because the professors did not want a revolution in their thinking; they did not want anything that might threaten their academic positions. Now, today, I find that New Agers are like the old professors: they resist or dismiss the new research we have on old straight tracks and landscape lines around the world. This is because many of them earn their living from writing New Age books, giving New Age lectures and workshops, and so they feel threatened. Others simply do not want their pet fantasies disturbed. Yet others are not prepared to admit to past mistakes and misunderstandings. The New Age is no longer new, vibrant and fresh; it has become old and inflexible. In their minds, many New Age people are still living about a quarter of a century ago, not aware of what has been found, discovered and understood in those intervening decades.

Understanding the nature of real straight line markings in archaic landscapes can actually introduce us to a whole hidden history of human consciousness, a remarkable legacy.

A ley alignment marked out on an airphoto at Saintbury, in the English Cotswold hills. The line follows the general line of an ancient track, and passes through a medieval cross, a Saxon church, and prehistoric burial mounds beyond.

Photo: Paul Devereux.

Copyright: © Paul Devereux, 1996.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A significantly-abridged version of article "SPIRIT WAYS & SHAMANISM", published in the German journal, "Dao", in 1997 (elements of this text also used in part in other contexts, such as in The Ley Hunter journal):

Feng-shui, the ancient Chinese art of landscape divination, has its ancient roots in ancestor worship and Taoism, which in turn derived from shamanism. One of Feng-shui's basic tenets is that houses and tombs should not be built on straight lines in the landscape. Such features include roads, ridges, river courses, lines of trees, fences and such like. They all facilitated the passage of troublesome spirits, so if a tomb or building was on the course of such an "arrow" in the land, then preventative measures had to be taken. These included the erection of physical barriers to mask the entrance to the building, placing fearsome "door guardian" effigies either side of the door, or placing a special mirror at the entrance so that any horrible spirits would scare themselves off by their own reflections.

A Feng shui geomant assessing a site.

This basic idea of spirits traveling in straight lines is found all around the Pacific rim, but the association of straight ways across the land with the passage of spirits is even wider.

Spirit Lines in the Americas

Archaeological evidence of the ancient practice of building spirit ways has survived best in the Americas, as it has experienced less cultural upheaval as the Old World. A brief north-to-south survey shows this. In Ohio, between 150 BC and 500, the Hopewell Indians built geometrical earthworks covering many acres, along with straight linear features which seem to have been ceremonial roadways. In 1995, archaeolgists announced the discovery of a 60-mile-long, dead straight Hopewell ritual road connecting earthworks at Newark with the Hopewell necropolis at Chillicothe.

In the California Sierras, prehistoric Miwok Indians left behind the remains of dead-straight tracks. Archaeologists in the 1930s described them as "almost airline in their directness, running up hill and down dale without zigzags or detours". Mysterious prehistoric Indian roads have been found in Utah, Colorado and Arizona, but the most dramatic examples in the United States as a whole are those that converge on (or diverge from) Chaco Canyon, a cult centre of the lost Anasazi people, in the high, arid desert country in northwestern New Mexico. These Chacoan roads stretch for 60 miles beyond the canyon, and possibly much further, linking Anasazi ceremonial "Great Houses", of which there are many dozens scattered thoughout the desert area surrounding Chaco Canyon.

Where the roads meet the rimrock of the canyon, stairways were carved out of the rock walls reaching down to the canyon floor. Photo: Paul Devereux.
Where the roads meet the rimrock of the canyon, stairways were carved out of the rock walls reaching down to the canyon floor.

Photo: Paul Devereux.

 

 

 

These mysterious roads are not mere tracks, but engineered features. Primary roads are 30 feet wide. They are strikingly straight ("arrow straight" was one description), changing direction when they do in a sudden dogleg, not a curve.

 

There are several archaeological sites in Mexico containing straight road systems that are older than those at Chaco. Sometimes there are altars on these causeways; often they seem to lead to strange places, like caves or cliff faces. Further south in Mexico, in the Yucatán peninsula, we enter the domain of the ancient Maya. They built long, straight roads the Maya today call sacbeob ("white ways"). These interconnected plazas and temples within some of the Mayan ceremonial cities, and also linked cities themselves. They now exist only in fragmentary sections, the longest-known surviving sacbe being the sixty-two-mile-long section that runs between Coba and Yaxuna in the northern part of the Yucatán peninsula. Thomas Gann described it in the 1920s as "a great elevated road, or causeway thirty-two-feet wide... This was one of the most remarkable roads ever constructed... straight as an arrow, and almost flat as a rule". Altars, arches and curious ramps are associated with the sacbeob, and according to local Mayan tradition the physical network of the sacbeob is augmented at various places by non-material, mythological routes: there are said to be undergound sacbeob and others than run through the air.

 

NASA surveys have found paths running through the mountainous rainforest of the Arenal area of Costa Rica. These paths, which "follow relatively straight lines" despite the difficult terrain, have been examined at ground level and have been dated to AD500-1200. Investigators discovered that the paths are "death roads", and are still used for carrying corpses to burial, and also for transporting laja, volcanic stone, used in the construction of tombs and cemetery walls.

The Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta on the northern coast of Colombia, South America, is the territory of the Kogi Indians. Scattered amongst the forests of the Sierra are the remains of the stone-built cities of the Taironas culture. The cities were linked by paved roads or paths, some of them straight. (We will return to these features later.)

South and west, along the Andes region of South America, we encounter a number of different "roads", desert lines and alignments. Peru has several examples. Straight, very ancient roads have been found and studied in the Moche Valley of northern Peru; further south along the western coast of Peru, we come to the most famous of the linear markings in the Americas, the "Nazca Lines". These date to between fifteen hundred and about two thousand years ago, and have had to suffer the ignominy of being classed as landing strips for ancient astronauts by the mid-twentieth-century mind, in the person of the fantasy writer, Erich Von Daniken. The lines are to be found on the desert tablelands or pampas at Cuzco and further afield, where marks made on the ground remain visible for very long periods of time. The linear markings vary from broad, rectangular and trapezoid areas to narrow, very straight lines, some of which run parallel to one another. They can run for up to several miles in length, passing over hills and ridges as if they did not exist.

A map of part of the Nazca lines complex, Peru.
A map of part of the Nazca lines complex, Peru.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Five hundred or so miles south of Cuzco, lines criss-cross the altiplano of western Bolivia. These lines can reach lengths of twenty miles, considerably longer than any found at Nazca. These are absolutely straight, regardless of the irregularities of the ground, and link shrines of various kinds.

Lines, solitary and in groups, in the form of desert markings or long rows of small stone heaps, have been seen at other places in the Andean region, at least as far south as the Atacama Desert in Chile.

Prehistoric roads and rumours of lines occur as well in lowland, rainforest parts of South America, east of the Andes. Some of these take the form of perfectly straight causways through dense jungle. The archaeological and ethnological study of these features has only just begun

Shamanic Landscapes

These straight lines, paths and roads are elements in what I call "shamanic landscapes". Other elements include terrestrial effigies such as ground drawings ("geoglyphs") and effigy mounds. This realisation was first noticed in 1977 by anthropologist Marlene Dobkin de Rios, and subsequently developed by myself and colleagues.

Some of the ground drawings or geoglyphs at Nazca. (After Maria Reiche.)Some of the ground drawings or geoglyphs at Nazca. (After Maria Reiche.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dobkin de Rios noted that some of these great ground markings occurred in areas where shamanic tribal people lived, and more detailed studies have confirmed that this was true in all cases. Specifically, shamanism built on the use of hallucinogenic plants. We have now been able to tie in all areas of ground markings with local peoples who used, or still use, native hallucinogenic drugs in a ritual, shamanistic context. We may note as just one example, that Chavin de Huantar, a temple in northern Peru, was the centre of a shamanic cult built around the psychoactive San Pedro cactus from around 800 BC. The influence of this cult extended form many hundreds of miles down the western coast of South America, covering all the Andean areas where we find straight pampa lines and prehistoric roads.

All these native hallucinogens promote the sensation of spirit flight - the so-called "out of body experience". Dobkin de Rios felt that the mystery lines were associated with this aerial journey, the ecstatic centrepiece of the shamanic experience.

The Geography of Trance

But why straight lines? Dobkin de Rios suspected that they derived from the entoptic patterning that occurs in the human cortex early in trance states as a result of poorly-understood neurophysiological mechanisms. These entoptic ("within vision") images are universal to the whole human race in all periods of time, and adhere to a specific range of "form constants" - grids, dots, webs, spirals and tunnel forms, arabesques, nested curves, lines, and so on. They dance before the closed eyes in trance states (especially in trance states induced by hallucinogens), and form the basis of vivid geometric patterns that shimmer and move. With open eyes, the images can seem projected onto surfaces in the physical environment.

Eventually, as trance deepens, the entoptic forms attract representational imagery stored in memory, so that, for instance, a wavy line might turn into a snake. This produces fully-fledged hallucinatory or visionary material. This would of course always have been dressed up in the cultural baggage of particular Native American societies, in just the same way that ayahuasca-induced entoptic patterns are used to convey cultural ideas within the decorative art of the Amazonian Tukano Indians even now.

In brief, the straight landscape lines were a formalised expression of shamanic trance, whether occurring as a desert marking or ritual, ceremonial road. It was, in essence, a specific entoptic pattern, derived, it would seem, from the "tunnel" form constant, which is an experiential straight line.

Coincidentally, as this mystery was being unravelled, archaeologists were discovering entoptic imagery in prehistoric rock art, much of which is now realised to be of a shamanic nature. The landscape lines were simply a larger version of such patterns, deriving from the same shamanic source.

The symbolic interpretation given to such straight lines by the native peoples themselves was naturally very different to our modern neurophysiological explanations. To them, the original nature of the straight landscape line appears to have been symbolic of spirit travel, of journeying in the otherworld of spirits, of the ancestors, which in shamanic terms was simply another level or dimension of the physical landscape. The line was a sign, or even an actual mapping, of the shaman's ecstatic, out of body journey.

The shamanic straight lines in many societies developed from direct associations with the spirit flight of shamans and lines of spiritual power, to lines associated with the dead, as the shaman was considered temporarily dead while in trance, and the spirit world was inhabited by the ghosts of the ancestors. From such associations, the idea of the "death road" evolved.

There are numerous ways in which travel in the spirit realm was envisaged, but as indicated above, spirit flight is the pre-eminent form. It is the one most emphasised throughout shamanism worldwide: the allusions to flight, particularly through the medium of bird imagery, can be found in rock art, in geoglyphs, in effigy mounds, on a shaman's robes, in ceremonial dancing and costume, in ritual paraphenalia, in shamanic gestural symbolism (such as the flapping of the arms atop ritual poles), and in the legends concerning shamans (the exploits of flying shamans are particularly prominent in Inuit lore, for example). Flight is the very image of ecstasy, of course, and it is the central experience of shamanic trance.

Within the context of soul flight, straightness lends itself to an extra dimension of symbolism, for flight is the straight way over the land -- we say "as the crow flies" or "as straight as an arrow", using the very metaphors used by shamanic tradition itself. The lines, in essence, were the markings of a spiritual geography - a geography of the mind superimposed on the physical landscape. The mapping of ecstasy.

Journeying in Aluna

It has recently been ethnologically confirmed that these theories regarding the mysterious straight lines of the prehistoric Native Americans landscape are accurate. Enquiries among the Kogi Indians have confirmed that they view some of their straight paved "roads" as physical traces of the spirit routes they follow in the spirit world they call aluna. The Kogi, who live in remote mountain territory in northern Colombia., have the most ancient lifeway found surviving amongst any native American group, retaining many pre-Columbian traditions. Their tribal society is ruled by a shamanic theocracy formed by mamas, "enlightened ones. They can also see straight paths in aluna, however, that have never been physically marked on the ground. They have a "map stone" covered in criss-crossing straight lines that shows a map of these lines of spirit travel.

In 1982, R.T.Zuidema, who is the ranking authority on the Cuzco ceques, equated ancient Native American lines with the divinatory aspects of shamanic experience. He found that the ceques, which often can extend over the visible horizon could "tie in to shamans who, on their hallucinogenic journeys to get knowledge of distant places and times, go 'over the horizon' and then return". Zuidema had emphasised the nature of ceques as "lines", as non-visible tracings that were, rather, "straight directions".

Roads of the Dead (a Passage of Spirits)

Signs of old trance tracks can be found in other parts of the world. In Laos, for example, the Hmong peoples have a rule that a new house in a village should not be built directly in front or directly behind another house. This is because spirits travel in straight lines, and when corpses are moved from the house for burial they must go straight out of the house. Again, in the Gilbert Islands, an archipelago of about fifty islands in the western Pacific, a similar belief prevails, as it does elsewhere in Oceania and Southeast Asia.

The Native Americans emerged from the palaeo-peoples who migrated from Siberia, the home of classical shamanism. Very recent ethnological investigation has shown that even today shamanic Buryat tribespeople bury their deceased shamans in special places in the landscape, so their spirits can act as guardians of those places. The shamanic spirits are thought to travel back and forth along specified routes, which the Buryat call goidel, which has the meaning of "animal track". So the Buryat territory is envisaged as being criss-crossed with invisbile tracks along which the spirits of dead shamans travel. (Taosim, which gave rise to Feng-shui, also evolved out of these Siberian shamanic traditions.)

Similar invisible spirit lines occur throughout Europe, with features like fairy passes in Ireland, which link prehistoric earthworks (and on which one was not supposed to build, similar to Feng-shui ideas), and Geisterwege in Germany, linking medieval cemeteries.

Archaeologically, there are mysterious physical linear features. These include straight lines of Bronze Age standing stones in France and Britain which pass through burial cairns, and have "blocking stones" at their ends, vaguely reminiscent of Feng-shui principles. Even older than these are the Neolithic earthen avenue lines in Britain, known as a "cursuses". Visible mainly from the air as crop markings, these can range up to two miles in length, and link burial mounds. Their function is unknown. Also in Britain, and also 4000-6000 years old, are ancient bog causeways constructed from timber. One of the oldest of these is the "Sweet Track" in Somerset, southwestern England. Excavation along this old straight track indicates that at least one of its uses was for transporting the dead.

This concept seems to have survived into medieval times. There is a straight Viking cult or death road unearthed by archaeologists at Rosaring, in Laassa, Uppland, Sweden, for example. The body of the dead Viking chieftain was drawn along it in a ceremonial wagon to its rest. Again, in the Netherlands, there were the Doodwegen, or deathroads (also known as spokenwegen or "ghostroads"), converging on medieval cemeteries. Some of these survive in fragments to this day, and are notable for their straightness.

A deathroad or Doodweg near Hilversum, Holland. Photo: Paul Devereux. 
A deathroad or Doodweg near Hilversum, Holland.

Photo: Paul Devereux.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

It remains to be seen if ongoing research can relate such features to shamanic origins in paleo-Eurasia.

The folk logic of straightness versus crooked in spirit lore is interesting. In Old Europe, "spirit traps" consisting of webs or nets of threads woven over hoops or other frameworks, or tangled threads in bottles, were placed on paths leading to and from cemeteries, or at the entrances to houses. These can sometimes still be found in regions such as Bavaria. The principle behind these was that while straight lines facilitated the passage of spirits, convoluted or tangled "lines" of threads or cord could ensnare them. There is evidence that ancient stone and turf labyrinths, found in many parts of Europe and Scandinavia, wer also used for trapping evil spirits. These ideas are of course very similar to those in Feng-shui, and the idea of straight lines allowing the passage of spirits and crooked one hindering spirit movement seems to have been universal.

Copyright: © Paul Devereux, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996