If you open any book dedicated to earth mysteries and it is likely to mention St Mary’s Church (Map Ref: 7281 9046) in the North Yorkshire village of Lastingham, over the years it has gained a reputation as being evidential to leys or ‘earth energies’.
The church was founded on the site in 660 by St Cedd, in 1078 the crypt was built over St Cedd’s grave, the structure remains much the same today as when it was constructed. The crypt houses a far older altar and a collection of sections from ancient crosses collated from the countryside round about.
One of these sections is intertwined with serpents and on closer investigation carved serpents can be seen around parts of the church. The serpent is a lunar symbol, also connected with woman and fecundity, though the link is complex, and it also symbolises energy.
Many ley researchers who have visited Lastingham church crypt have experienced “energy emanations”. Paul Screeton, author of “Quicksilver Heritage” and former editor of “The Ley Hunter”, detected a very powerful “earth force” and wrote “”if you want to get a feeling of what ley power is like, go into the crypt at Lastingham church … you get that buzzing feeling”.
Paul Devereux while researching his book “The Ley Hunter’s Companion” experienced his compass behaving oddly.
”In the crypt, with the needle perfectly settled, the needle tended to maintain a rhythmic “jigging” motion” wrote Devereux.
In “The Unpolluted God” author Guy Ragland Phillips writes about the time he took a ‘psychic witch’ into Lastingham church crypt and she reported that a number of powerful influences both good and evil were present. As with a lot of ley line markers, it will come as no surprise to learn that the church is haunted. Guy Phillips was told by the blind Canon Gordon Thompson that he often experienced a “discarnate spirit” in the church, usually near the door linking the vestry and sanctuary.
Janet Bord remarked that the crypt’s power must be undulating; repeat visits to the church give alternative feelings. Visit in the morning and you may feel nothing, return later and you may be overcome!
The source of the power could be the ley that runs through the church. In the pre-mentioned Ley Hunter’s Companion, the authors believe the church is a part of a twelve and a half mile ley that joins Lastingham Church, the Black Howe Barrow and Dargate Dikes.
Most authors miss the fact that there is a field of holy weirdness around the village of Lastingham and often neglect to mention other cases of strangeness that have occurred.
Lastingham has three wells dedicated to saints, the first is on the end of the bridge that spans the small river. This well, St Cedd’s has a canopy made from stonework from nearby Rosedale Abbey. It is inscribed with a reference to Cedd’s foundation of a monastery in 648AD to his death in 664.
Another is situated on the east side of the High Street and consists of a stone trough inside a well-house. This is dedicated to St Chad one of three brothers involved in building the first monastery. An interesting legend is attached to the well and links it with Wulfhere, King of Mercia who put to death his two sons for worshipping at the cell, filled with remorse he adopted the faith of his murdered children.
The final well in central Lastingham is St Ovin’s near the old Post Office. The only surviving legend is the story of St Ovin as told by Bede; that he gave up high position in the household of Queen Ethelrid and went to Lastingham carrying an axe and a hatchet to denote that he joined the monastery to work not idle. St Ovin later followed Chad to Lichfield and was allowed to hear the sounds of angelic melody, interpreted as a heavenly call to Chad who died seven days later. Could these legends attributed to Saints actually contain deep symbolism from earlier attributes of prophecy, fertility and healing?
Just a quarter of a mile away on Lastingham’s boundaries is St Mary Magdalene’s Well. This is something special and for the first three times I visited the site I could not find any trace. The well is actually a spring of water that springs into a stone trough. Above the spring is a stone carved stone inscribed with the well’s dedicated. In 1964 the trough was exposed and excavated by H.Frank who also uncovered a shard of late Roman/Saxon pottery and a piece from 13th century. This well can be clearly dated to have been in use for nearly two thousand years and probably used for ritual or healing purposes. A number of local stories about the well also suggest that it is haunted a white lady who is seen near the road to Hutton Le Hole – is this an archetypal image attached to the well of St Mary Magdalene?
Lastingham is a pleasant village with a sense of the otherworldly. I do suggest that you take a walk from Hutton Le Hole to St Mary’s church, Lastingham. Visit the wells and maybe enjoy a pint in the Blacksmith’s Arms, another public place locally associated with weirdness. It is believed to be very haunted and contains a secret tunnel that goes directly underneath the church – similar in direction to the old pilgrim routes of old.
References and Further Reading:
Janet and Colin Bord “Earth Rites” Granada 1982 (Pages 235-236)
Paul Devereux and Ian Thompson – “The Ley Hunter’s Companion” Thames and Hudson 1979
Guy Ragland Phillips “The Unpolluted God” Northern Lights, Pocklington, 1987.