The last book is written and there is a release date. It seems almost futile now to engage in Harry Potter theories because soon we will know all. Well, not all; there are still a great many details that might not make it into this novel for the dedicated Harry Potter sleuth to work out. This article is concerned with something that makes up that background, although it is possible that ley lines will be very important in the last book. They have some interesting names to various people: ley lines, dragon lines, and passing hallows. So read on, gentle reader, read on, because Harry's life might depend on this force.
Where the Truth Leys
The route of the Knight Bus is very curious. It does not seem to follow Muggle roads when dropping off passengers or picking them up. It was somewhere in Wales when Harry flagged the bus down in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and rather than dropping him off in London which would have been closer, it went back to Wales to drop off Madam Marsh in Abergavenny before stopping at the Leaky Cauldron.1 It has been discussed in the forums whether or not the movements of the bus are due to its travelling along ley lines.2
Ley lines were discovered by Alfred Watkins.3 He was a partner in a flour-milling business, a photographer and an amateur archaeologist. He travelled around the countryside for his business and while visiting Backwardine he discovered that several places of antiquity appeared to fall in a straight line on the map he was consulting. He looked at more maps and discovered that these alignments occurred with most ancient sites and he called them "ley lines" from lea, the Saxon word for "open spaces." He published his findings in a book called The Old Straight Track in 1925.4
That ancient monuments were constructed along straight lines is not in doubt. Alfred Watkins always thought they were merely pathways between points of spiritual power,5 not conduits of that power, and it is this relationship between those points in alignment that is in doubt. However, in a constructed world like Harry Potter's where the author can set her own rules about what is and what is not, anything is possible, and it appears that there are ley lines in Harry's world. Whether they are conduits of extraordinary magical power or a system to bring order to Harry's world remains to be seen but I think we can guess, at the very least, that the movements of the Knight Bus are not so random ’ nor is the selection of names for things like home towns of Quidditch teams and water skiing budgies. It appears as though J.K. Rowling has a map on which she has drawn her own ley lines and she selects towns that are only placed along those lines. If we can find the lines, we can make some guesses about the places Harry goes, like the true location of Little Whinging and Hogwarts.
I would doubt if these lines are merely straight pathways between points, since flying and Apparation make a straight path on the ground unnecessary. I think these lines are corridors of power, and that crossroads or the beginning points of those lines are places of extraordinary power. It would certainly be the most magical way to organize the map of Wizarding Britain.
I say that Watkins "discovered" them, but the Chinese have known about ley lines for many years. They called them "dragon lines" and, using geomancy to detect them, sought some benefit from these earth energies by placing tombs on them and for town planning, which we know as Feng Shui.6
The early settlers to Iceland knew of these types of earth energies, too. Iceland was discovered by the Vikings, followed soon after by Irish and Scottish monks. These first settlers to Iceland saw a spirituality in the land and left certain areas undeveloped specially for the use of land wights, or spirits, as their very own. Places of worship were discovered using geomancy, as the Chinese used, to respect the anima loci (spirit of place) in the location. This is outlined in Landnamabok: The Book of Settlement.7 This may be how the Celts developed the lands they settled as well, perhaps by dowsing or geomancy as a means of discovering hidden ley lines.
The early Celts had an animistic religion;8 they worshipped god in nature, i.e. tree spirits, rivers and mountains, stones and others. Much of Harry's world draws upon Celtic lore. The wand woods are Celtic based.9 Hogwarts is built on an old Celtic site.10 Harry comes of age at seventeen,11 which was the age of choice for the Celts.12 The high feast at Hogwarts is Hallowe'en,13 or Samhain as the Celts once called it. There are so many examples.
Modern occultists have taken Watkins' original idea and made these alignments into corridors of magical power. Some role-playing games even refer to power surges along these lines of power as "passing hallows' 14 since the monuments along these lines are frequently referred to as hallows, or sacred places, and either the hallows create an energy that passes between the points or the lines create the energy that the hallows draw upon. Indeed if they are points on an energy grid, then it follows that energy will flow. Many of these lines are across barrows, monoliths and wells where supernatural beings congregate and this includes ghosts. With all the ghostly activity, Hogwarts must be located on a very powerful hallow!
Watkins tried to make his theory of alignments acceptable to science by establishing a system of points to make it a measurable, solid thing. For instance, a mound was worth one point, a standing stone was worth another point, beacons were worth one point, crossroads if named and ancient Â¾ point and so on. The total value had to add up to five points to be a valid ley,15 but four points was generally accepted as not being the result of a coincidence.
The theory was this: if ten points are marked haphazardly on a sheet of paper, "there is an average probability that there will be one three point alignment." 16 Watkins wrote that "if only three accidentally placed points are on the sheet, the chance of a three point alignment is 1 in 720." 17 So if you put ten dots on a piece of paper or a map, odds are you will get one alignment of three dots. Fair enough ’ so he required four or more points to make it a valid ley.
A ley should not be taken as proved with less than four good mark-points. Three good points with several others of less value like cross roads and coinciding tracks may be sufficient. 18
The Ley Hunter's Manual states that since an alignment must be within an arc of Â¼ of a degree, a map with a scale of one inch to the mile "encompasses something like a additional 600 feet." 19 That is a lot of wiggle room, but we are not out to prove that ley lines exist to a physicist, only that J.K. Rowling planned out Harry's world along ley lines of her own making. And that, I think we can do.
Muggle History and the Wizarding World Collide
Most of the truly important places in Harry's world are hidden from us with their wizarding names, such as Godric's Hollow, Hogwarts, Little Hangleton. With a little detective work, a good map and some history books, we can make some deductions about the Muggle equivalents in the map of Muggle Britain.
Many of the names in the Harry Potter series come out of the Battle of Hastings and the Domesday Book:20 Dawlish, Dudley, Dursley, Lydney,21 Orpington22 and Snape are all towns in the Domesday Book. The Bishop of Bayeux is called Odo,23 and a Norman knight was Richard le Fort Escue,24 or Richard Strong Shield. Another was William Peveril,25 a Norman knight who was reputed to be an illegitimate son of William the Conqueror, and fought on the Norman side at the Battle. The Peverell coat of arms on Marvolo's ring is one of the heirlooms of which the last of the Slytherin descendants are so proud. It is their link to "royalty." At this point in time, they carry the last name of Gaunt, which comes from a player in the War of the Roses, John of Gaunt,26 father of the Lancastrian side of the war. It suffices to say that Muggle history plays a big part in the background of wizarding Britain.
The Domesday Book lists a number of holdings by William Peveril but the most interesting for the purposes of this article is Peveril Castle27 in the southern part of the Peak District National Park. It was originally owned by William Peveril in the Domesday Book but was later given to John of Gaunt.28 This brings two of the Slytherin branches to the same area where they could mingle. Near the ruins of this castle are the little towns of Little Hucklow and Great Hucklow and Grindlow (grindylow?) all in the Domesday Book as well.29
A quick check on the British Automobile Association's Route Planner page shows that Little Hucklow is 208 miles from the center of Surrey, selecting Crawley as my centerpoint.30 Since we don't know where Little Whinging is yet, this is a good starting point as the area around Little Hucklow is sufficiently wooded, rural and hilly to fit the description in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince for Little Hangleton and is close to Manchester, where Rowling lived for a time.
Figure 1: Little Hucklow
The cave where the Slytherin locket was hidden was difficult to place but I have a candidate for this location: Flamborough Head in East Riding of Yorkshire. This is about a three and a half hour train ride,31 which seems like a long ride for a day trip from an orphanage but there are some compelling reasons for placing it here.
The idea for the orphans' trip to the seaside was probably borrowed from a real charity in London called the London Taxi Drivers' Fund for Underprivileged Children,32 started by a taxi driver who had grown up in an orphanage. In 1928, he organized with five other taxi drivers a ride in a taxi to the coast for London orphans to see the sea and get some sea air. The timing is perfect for Tom Riddle who was born around 1926.33 However, the taxi drivers took those first children to Southend which is too close to sea level to have the cliffs and caves in which Riddle scared two other orphans. And since Mrs. Cole does not mention a taxi in these excursions, one may assume that no taxis were involved.
The geology of Kent and Sussex is not really suitable for natural caves. There are some caves there but they are mostly man made.34 The chalk that forms the cliffs along those shires are held to be too unstable for the large deep kind of cave that Riddle used for his Horcrux. And, if you follow the coastline north from the Thames Estuary, the countryside has some lovely beaches, mostly because the shorelines are at sea level. It is not until Flamborough Head that there are the towering, rocky cliffs that Harry saw while with Dumbledore. These caves are natural and more stable than the south coast caves and many are inaccessible at high tide. Even more promising: the small village along the cliffs, Sewerby,35 is mentioned in the Domesday Book as having been laid to waste.
The caves and cliffs on the Welsh and Cornish coast fit the description as well but, as Slytherin's element is water and the direction is east, they just don't fit the pattern. And there is a pattern.
The next place I propose to mark on the map is Ely in Norfolk, a county in which there is a grassy marsh called the Fens. Ely is a man made island in the Fens where people lived long before the Norman invasion.36 The Venerable Bede mentions Ely as being so named because it is a place where there are lots of eels, a snakelike type of fish. Ely is also in the east, which corresponds well with Slytherin's element of water, being an island in a swamp. Since the Bede knows of Ely in the 7th century, it was settled in long before Salazar Slytherin went north and helped to found Hogwarts.
The Saxons made their last stand against the Normans here, led by Hereward the Wake.37 The Saxons were betrayed and Ely was captured, but Hereward escaped before the Normans could get him. He clearly had some magical help as the Normans brought a witch to curse the besieged in Ely, but the tower she stood on caught fire and toppled over. While his men were on the run and lost in Rockingham Forest, a wolf guided them and supernatural candles burned on the trees, their shields pointing the way. Hereward was eventually pardoned because he was so slippery and eluded capture for so long that the Normans gave up.38 It is uncertain where Hereward went after he escaped the fall of Ely, but perhaps his wizarding helper went north to Little Hucklow.
My pet theory about why Slytherin fought with Gryffindor and left Hogwarts forever is because Gryffindor, who allowed anyone magical to study at the school, allowed the conquering Norman wizards in. The Saxon nobility was largely sold into slavery after 1066 and their lands were given to Normans.39 Could the last straw have been that Slytherin was forced to accept the Malfoys into his house?
Lydney in Gloucestershire is my choice for Godric's Hollow, due to the shrine of Nodens that is placed there. Other points on the map are taken from the series such as Abergavenny (where Madam Marsh got off the Knight Bus), Aberdeen (another Knight Bus stop), Bristol (over which Harry fell asleep while flying with Hagrid), Peebles (where a Muggle saw a flying Ford Anglia), Portree (a town with its own Quidditch team), etc. The system does not seem to work with the towns named on the Famous Wizarding cards, but it does work with towns in Quidditch Through the Ages and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Once we have all our points marked on the map, we can start drawing lines between them and see if they line up, or at least if some of them do.
Lining Them Up On a Map
I have 46 points on my map in the end. I have included one line as a ley line although it is never mentioned in the series simply because it is such a powerful ley, the ultimate ley line: the Prime Meridian. The place where time begins, which runs through Greenwich in London but also runs through Surrey and, depending on the scale of the map you are using, runs near Ely and just skims past Flamborough Head. And there you have my first problem. How big was the map Rowling used and how fine a point on her pencil? Some things are close but for the theory to work they have to be on the line. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, not ley lines.
Every time I take a new map and mark my points, I end up with slightly different lines. A difference of Â¼ of degree on an arc ’with a map scaled at one inch to a mile ’and you get a variance of 600 feet! Imagine in a map with a scale of one inch to 30 or 60 miles and there are some deviations between maps on coastlines and placements of towns, however slight. But in spite of the difficulties, the points on the map almost all end up either on a ley line or right beside one.
Figure 2: Ley lines through England and Wales. Please click on image for an enlarged version.
I take a pencil and draw my first line from Lydney, Gloucestershire and connect it to Dursley in Somerset, extending it both directions into Wales and into southern England. It crosses the Prime Meridian at a lovely town called East Grinstead. East Grinstead is not in the Domesday Book because it is a modern town. This makes it a contender for Little Whinging because it too is a modern town and also due to the following passage in Brewer's Britain and Ireland, taken from George Hay's Sleeper:
Funny place, East Grinstead. Nothing remarkable, on the face of it ’ just masses of Stockbroker Tudor mansions on the outskirts, a messily indeterminate centre, if you can call it that, and then a sprawl of smaller houses fading into industrial estates. Neither charming nor particularly ugly: just a sort of nothing town. And yet... And yet the whole area has been some sort of manna-accumulator as far back as one can trace. The Druids were just the earliest one could be certain of, but we know there were other practitioners long before they were put down by the Romans. Down, but not out. The place was and remain pagan, in any true sense: friendly in fact, to just about any belief short of orthodox christianity. Today, you have the Great Mormon Church, the Rudolf Steiner school, the Church of Scientology, and more witches than one could shake a broom at. 40
I love the idea that the Dursleys are living in this "sort of nothing" town that has "more witches than one could shake a broom at." Even better, the Automobile Association's Route Planner gives the miles from East Grinstead to Little Hucklow as 209 miles. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Frank Bryce was murdered in Little Hangleton and "two hundred miles away, the boy called Harry Potter awoke with a start." 41 We have a winner! Except for one snag. East Grinstead is not in Surrey, it is in Sussex. There is a difference of one mile between it and the place I chose as my centre point. I will mention it as a possibility nevertheless, because the boundary between Sussex and Surrey is not marked on most of the maps that I looked at. East Grinstead is situated close to the boundary and juts into Surrey so that one could be forgiven in mistakenly placing it there. It was not until reading an entry in Brewer's Britain and Ireland that I realized my error. If Rowling made the same mistake as I did, once it was committed in print to being Surrey, she could not change it back. So, while it has potential and is a personal favourite, I cannot consider it as definitely being Little Whinging. And I still have to prove that any ley lines exist.
I have another city that has bearing on the books in spite of not actually being mentioned in the series. That place is Ipswich and it is going to lead us to Ottery St. Catchpole. While I agree with the Harry Potter Lexicon that the home village of the Burrow is likely to be Ottery St. Mary,42 since the name refers to being on the river Otter and the only river Otter is in Devon, I think Rowling chose to honour another person rather than St. Mary in its naming. In Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, there are two entries for "catchpole": one refers to the sheriff's office and the other refers to the extraordinary Margaret Catchpole,43 an almost legendary folk-hero from Suffolk ’ St. Catchpole!
It would be further evidence of Rowling's sense of humour to deify a woman who was thrown into jail for stealing a horse, consorting with smugglers and escaping from jail twice before being shipped off to Australia. She is associated with Ipswich in Suffolk. A line drawn to connect Ottery St. Mary to Ipswich and beyond takes in Maidenhead (where a wizarding party went awry), Little Norton (where Stubby Boardman was hit in the ear with a turnip), Topsham (where Madam Z. Nettles used Kwikspell to improve her abilities) and Chudleigh (which is probably where Ron's favourite Quidditch team is from). This line also goes through Stonehenge, another place associated with many ley lines and is located near the Malfoy mansion, which is somewhere in Wiltshire. This gives us six points. That is enough to not be a coincidence, even if Ipswich is a controversial choice.
There are two other major ley lines running through London besides the Prime Meridian: Diagon-al Ley and Knockturn-al Ley. Perhaps Diagon Alley is at a slant to Charing Cross and Knockturn Alley's power waxes in the dark. And I can find more on the map. I drew a line connecting Aberdeen to Holyhead (another Quidditch town) in Anglesey (another Knight Bus stop) and along this line, I also found Montrose (Quidditch team), Arbroath (to where Guthrie Lochrin flew a splintery broomstick), and Peebles ’ five more points, another viable ley line and all towns are canon!
There are two Barnsleys, home of the water-skiing budgie, in Britain. One is in Gloucestershire and one is in South Yorkshire. How to know which is the correct one? Find out if it lines up with other points on the map, of course. The one in South Yorkshire lines up with Little Hucklow, Abergavenny and Caerphilly (Quidditch team). Four points, good enough for Watkins.
Blackpool (where Great Uncle Algie pushed Neville off the pier), Liverpool (where Celestina Warbeck had a concert), Little Norton and Peebles line up and pass through an Edinburgh suburb called Barnton, a town mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages. The Lexicon places it near Liverpool but they do not seem to have found the other one near Edinburgh.44 If that is a valid ley, it is five points.
Snape is named after a town in Britain but which one? There are two Snapes. One is in Suffolk and the other is in North Yorkshire. Extending the line from Ottery St. Mary to Ipswich crosses Snape in Suffolk, giving that alignment seven points. But I must admit I favoured the Snape in Yorkshire and thought that it would appear on a line that also included the real world Spinner's End. It might, but one needs to know with which other points it aligns. Until we get that last book of the series, we don't know where the most important points on the map are. But as long as we can demonstrate that there are alignments and that they are not random, we can use the points we do have to guess at other possible ley lines and find the places that have eluded us until now. I have five ley lines listed here that would have satisfied Watkins, not including Diagon Alley and Knockturn, which may have just been a play on words.
Why Ley these Lines Down Anyway?
Ley lines could pinpoint Azkaban on the North Sea, Hogwarts, and the hiding place of the Horcrux Riddle made with Rowena Ravenclaw's wand. It has to be a wand because the fourth Hallow of the Tuatha de Danaan (that has yet to be accounted for) is the Spear of Lugh, which makes its way into the minor Tarot cards as the suit of wands. Her element is air and the direction is north. So since she comes from glen, this must be Scotland, perhaps even near Hogwarts.
Figure 3: Ley lines through Scotland. Please click on image for an enlarged version.
Although I have yet to find a site I am happy with, two of my lines on one map intersect at the north end of the Island of Skye in the Hebrides near a place called Creag an Fhithich or "Rock of the Raven." The one line started at Flamborough Point and went through Peebles, where Harry and Ron were spotted by Muggles while flying the Ford Anglia. The other line starts in Hastings, goes through London crossing the Prime Meridian at Greenwich, Little Hucklow, Paisley (the location of a witch who wrote to Harry to say she believed him in the fifth book), Loch Lomond (where Mirabella Plunkett fell in love with a merman), before going right through Waternish Point on the island of Skye where the Rock of the Raven is. Only one line has enough solid points to be sure that it is a valid ley, but with three to four points each, they are both worth considering. And, on a different map with a different scale, the lines did not fall the same way.
Hogwarts must surely be in Argyll. The Fat Lady hid in a map of Argyllshire after she was attacked by Sirius Black. Since there are many paintings in Hogwarts but no other maps mentioned as wall decorations, I can think of only one reason to put that map on the wall and that is because it covers the surrounding area. Several lines on different maps that I used went through Loch Morar, where the Morag,45 the resident lake monster, behaves very much like the giant squid. It has appeared to be a giant snake but boaters who must fend off an attack don't stop to check if it is a tail or a tentacle they are fighting. The east end of Loch Morar is very remote from Muggles as the main road to Mallaig now passes the town of Morarby.46 There is a train station, so perhaps this is Hogsmeade, or the model of it, because you have to walk to any settlements around the lake. There are no Muggle roads but perhaps the wizards have a branch line that will take them to Hogsmeade unnoticed, if Morar is not it. The Ordnance Survey map shows a cairn on the north side.
Figure 4: Loch Morar.
That there are ley lines in Harry's world has been shown. That there are ley lines in the Muggle world has also been demonstrated. The Vikings who settled Iceland used them for their spirit places and the Chinese harnessed their energy for many centuries as well. The people who built stone circles and barrows built their sacred places along a straight track as well. This could be the source of the ancient magic that is based in the elements of the earth and seeks to re-establish the balance that has been upset by the flouting of natural law that Lord Voldemort has done. Perhaps Harry will discover that the hallows along these lines are places of deathly power indeed. Harry is at a crossroads. Which way will he go next?
1. Rowling, Prisoner of Azkaban, 32.
2. Asphodel Wormwood, comment on "Spell Strength, How does magical power work?", post #3.
3. Wikipedia, s.v. "Alfred Watkins."
4. Devereux, New Ley Hunter's Guide.
5. Ibid., "A flood of ancestral memory."
6. Leyhunter.com, s.v. "Feng Shui."
7. Curran, Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology, 185’6.
8. Ibid., 184’5
9. Rowling, "Extra Stuff: Wands."
10. Mzimba, "Alfonso CuarÃ³n: The man behind the magic." Admittedly this is not canon because it is CuarÃ³n repeating something that Rowling said. Exact words in interview: "So then you say ˜What about a sundial?' She says: ˜That makes perfect sense because when the castle was built it was on an ancient Celtic site.'"
11. Rowling, Half-Blood Prince, 56.
12. Berresford Ellis, Ancient World of the Celts, 85
13. At least it appears to be the biggest feast day at Hogwarts. Christmas is only celebrated by the few left behind over the holidays and the end of the school year feast is not accompanied by entertainment. Easter does not appear to have any special celebration at all. Valentine's Day is the only other day mentioned.
14. Camarilla: UK, "Passing Hallows of Britannia." There are other websites but this one is the best example.
15. Devereux, New Ley Hunter's Guide, "Camps."
16. Wikipedia, s.v. "Ley Line' "Are alignments and ley lines the same thing?"
20. Domesday Book Online. Unless provided with separate footnotes, all references to towns in the Domesday Book come from this website.
21. TheRedWitch, "Finding Godric's Hollow."
22. Taken from the Domesday Book but I am assuming that Porpington is a corruption of Orpington, as in Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Porpington.
23. Wikipedia, s.v. Odo of Bayeux. This is a reference to the song about Odo that Slughorn and Hagrid sing after Aragog's funeral.
24. Mariboe, "Battle, East Sussex."
25. Wikipedia, s.v. "William Peveril."
26 The Heritage Trail, "Peveril Castle."
29. Domesday Book Online.
30. Automobile Association, "Route Planner."
31. Association of Train Operating Companies,"National Rail Enquiries." Checking the schedule for February 21, 2007, departure is at reasonable earliest 7:20 arriving in Bridlington at 10:54 and returning at 18:25 arriving at King's Cross Station in London at 21:59. It seems like a long ride but is doable. http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/#.
32. Wikipedia, s.v. "Norwood." For more info, see The London Taxidrivers' Fund for Underprivileged Children (video), http://www.thelondontaxidriverschildrenscharity.co.uk/index.php?p=HOME.
33. Lexicon, "The Master Timeline."
34. Kent Underground Research Group, "Natural Caves."
35. Domesday Book Online.
36. Ayto and Crofton, Brewer's Britain and Ireland, 386.
37. Ayto, Brewer's Phrase and Fable, 664.
38, Wikipedia, s.v. "Hereward the Wake."
39. Kirkby, "The Norman Conquest."
40. Ayto & Crofton, Brewer's Britain and Ireland, 368’9.
41. Rowling, Goblet of Fire, 19.
42. Lexicon, "Gazetteer' s.v. "Ottery St. Catchpole."
43. Ayto, Brewer's Phrase and Fable, pg. 242. I am basing my certainty that Margaret Catchpole is St. Catchpole on the fact that we know Rowling owns this book and uses it for names.
44. Lexicon, "Gazetteer' s.v. "Barnton."
45. Centre for Fortean Zoology, "Expeditions: Loch Morar' 2005.
46. Undiscovered Scotland, "Morar."
Asphodel Wormwood. Comment on "Spell Strength, How does magical power work?" Leaky Lounge forum, The Leaky Cauldron, post #3, 5 May 2005. http://www.leakylounge.com/index.php?showtopic=14855&st=0&p=406590entry406590.
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