Earth mysteries are a wide range of spiritual, quasi-religious and pseudoscientific ideas focusing on cultural and religious beliefs about the Earth, generally with regard to particular geographical locations of historical significance. Believers in Earth mysteries generally consider certain locations to be "sacred", or that certain spiritual "energies" may be active at those locations. The term "alternative archaeology" has also been used to describe the study of Earth mystery beliefs.
The study of ley lines originates in the 1920s with Alfred Watkins. The term "Earth mysteries" for this field of interest was coined about 1970 in The Ley Hunter journal, and the associated concepts have been embraced and reinvented by movements such as the New Age Movement and modern paganism during the 1970s to 1980s.
The concept of Earth mysteries can be traced back to two 17th-century antiquarians: John Aubrey and William Stukeley, who both believed that Stonehenge was associated with the druids. Stukeley mixed together ancient monuments and mythology towards an "idealized vision" of nature.
"Ley lines" were postulated by Alfred Watkins in 1921 at a presentation at the Woolhope Naturalists' Field Club, later published in Early British Trackways (1922) and The Old Straight Track (1925). Watkins formed the Old Straight Track Club in 1927, which was active until 1935 but became defunct during the World War II period.
A revival of interest in the topic began in the 1960s, now associated with neopagan currents like Wicca, and with ufology. Watkins' Straight Track Club was revived in 1962 by Philip Heselton and others as the Ley Hunters' Club. The new club's journal The Ley Hunter was issued from 1965 to 1970, subtitled "the Magazine of Earth Mysteries".
British writer John Ivimy wrote a book in 1975 called The Sphinx and the Megaliths in which he linked the Egyptian Sphinx to the British Stonehenge and other megalithic structures claiming they were all built by a group of "elite trained" people.
The New Age boom of the 1980s expanded the scope of the "Earth mysteries" field beyond the British landscape, and Earth mysteries as a "New Age invented tradition" by the 1990s could include the study of ancient sites and landscapes (including archaeology, archaeoastronomy, and ley lines), Chinese geomancy or feng shui, western magical concepts of gematria, and dowsing. An important writer combining these fields during the 1970s to 2000s was John Michell. Michell's book The View Over Atlantis mixed ley lines with folklore and archeology; these ideas became popularised as "earth mysteries". Other 1980s authors on the subject of Earth mysteries include Paul Devereux and Nigel Pennick.
Related ideas include the "landscape archaeology" advocated by German author Kurt Derungs from about 1990, and the wider field of "Forteana", a term taken to include paranormal phenomena more generally.
Books on Earth mysteries first appeared in the 1970s, discussing topics such as ley lines, earth energies, astro-archaeology, sacred landscapes, megalithic monuments, shamanism, paganism, dowsing and folklore.
Timeline of publications:
- 1973 – The View Over Atlantis, John Michell
- 1975 – Atlantean traditions in ancient Britain, Anthony Roberts
- 1977 – The Ancient Wisdom, Geoffrey Ashe
- 1977 – Quicksilver Heritage, Paul Screeto
- 1978 – Earth Magic, Francis Hitching
- 1986 – Planetary Mysteries, Richard Grossinge
- 1990 – Atlas of Earth Mysteries, Philip Whitfield
- 1995 – Earth Mysteries, Philip Heselton
- 2000 – The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Ancient Earth Mysteries, Paul Devereux
- 2003 – The New Encyclopedia of the Occult, John Michael Greer
- 2003 – Ley Lines and Earth Energies, David R. Cowan and Chris Arnold
- 2005 – Ley Lines, Danny Sullivan
Proponents consider the Earth mysteries to be "sacred" and "mythopoeic" rather than scientific. The ley lines idea has been generally ignored by the academic establishment in the field of archaeology. The work of researchers who support the paranormal aspects of Earth mysteries have been extensively criticized by "professional debunkers" such as James Randi, Martin Gardner, and the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).
The Earth mysteries movement in Great Britain embraced the term "ritual landscapes" that was used in British archaeology starting in the 1980s, with regards to "sacred" locations apparently used for mainly ceremonial purposes in the Neolithic and the early Bronze Age; the concept has been both adopted and criticized in the field of academic archaeology. Tourism associated with the Earth mysteries movement in this regard is known as the "landscape heritage" segment of the market.
- Hetherington, Kevin (2000). New Age Travellers: Vanloads of Uproarious Humanity. Continuum International Publishing Group. p. 143. ISBN 0304339784.
- Macdonald, Sharon; Gordon Fyfe (1996). Theorizing Museums: Representing Identity and Diversity in a Changing World. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 156, 164–6, 171. ISBN 0631201513.
- Hutton, Ronald (1993). The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 118–9, 123, 125, 340. ISBN 0631189467.
- Ivakhiv, Adrian J. (2001). Claiming Sacred Ground: Pilgrims and Politics at Glastonbury and Sedona. Indiana University Press. pp. 22, 24, 32. ISBN 0253338999.
- earlier use of the term "earth-mysteries" mostly refers to actual mysteries dedicated to chthonic deities in classical antiquity.
- Browne, Ray Broadus; Marsden, Michael T. (31 December 1994). "The Cultures of Celebrations". Popular Press – via Google Books.
- Information, Reed Business (29 August 1974). "New Scientist". Reed Business Information – via Google Books.
- JEFFERY L. MACDONALD (December 1995). "Inventing Traditions for the New Age: A Case Study of the Earth Energy Tradition". Anthropology of Consciousness. 6 (4.): 31–45. doi:10.1525/ac.19126.96.36.199.
- Danny Sullivan, Ley Lines: The Greatest Landscape Mystery, Publisher Green Magic, 2005, p. 11 ISBN 0954296346
- Caitlin Matthews, John Matthews, Walkers Between the Worlds: The Western Mysteries from Shaman to Magus, Publisher: Inner Traditions, 2004, p. 55 ISBN 9780892810918
- Teresa Moorey, Earth Mysteries: A Beginner's Guide, Hodder & Stoughton, 1999
- Daren Kemp, James R. Lewis, Handbook of New Age, 2007, p. 265
- John G. Robb, School of Geography and Development Studies, Bath Spa University College, Bath, UK (2 July 1998). "The 'ritual landscape' concept in archaeology: a heritage construction". Landscape Research. 23 (2): 159–174. doi:10.1080/01426399808706533.