Reconsidering the Terrestrial Zodiac

The landscape or terrestrial zodiac is a concept that burgeoned in the heady enthusiasms of 1970s earth mysteries. The concept arose from insights by the sculptor Katherine Maltwood in the 1920s, who envisioned a huge representation of the astrological wheel in the landscapes around Glastonbury and believed it to be an example of ancient engineering, with the help perhaps of some extra-human dimension. The Glastonbury Zodiac has since inspired a host of studies ranging from the credulous to the insightful, from New Age wonder to reasoned attempts to delve into whart might lie behind the phenomenon. The concept is indeed either wondrous or nonsensical in the terms of contemporary cultural divisions between the miraculously-minded and the materially-minded. Several dozen have been proposed over the years, some obviously illusory, others requiring a more nuanced perspective. None can be said to actually exist in an empirical sense. None are examples of ancient engineering, still less of alien engineering of some kind. If there is any reality to be found in this concept, it lies in the realm of the Imagination; and rather than zodiacs waiting in the landscape to be found, it may be that the very perception of them has a creative dynamic, and very much not in the manner of a Rorschach Blot ‘fool’s vision’.

Even if landscape zodiacs are ephemeral, even a mare’s nest of assumptions and whimsy, a reasoned and reflective study of the landscapes involved and an active engagement with those landscapes through the lenses offered by mythical and psychogeographic awareness can bring about insights into place that effectively ‘renarrativises’ our surroudings and offers a sense of place far deeper than current materialist and consumer worldviews of ‘place as resource’ allow, all without succumbing to to wide-eyed and vacuous New Age fantasies.

The current writer was one of those caught up in the 1970s enthusiasm, albeit against their will. What began as an intent to spoof what seemed a rather dubious notion was derailed by dreams and assisted my OS maps and walks to become a landscape zodiac encompassing a small northern town; what then seemed like an ambitious art project became a fascination with the personal and wider implications of a landscape zodiac vision, and a quest of sorts into how Imagination (in the Blakean sense) can formulate a or the world. I came to some sort of conclusion that the Hebden Bridge Zodiac exists as some kind of reality, not as something that was created, but as something that came about by everyday human interaction with a patch of landscape, awaiting the release of perception. My thinking behind that conclusion is summarised in the first article See also

The articles in this section present a ‘theoretical overview’ that might help explain why I put so many hours of study and embodied research into it, and then present a series of walks around the separate signs. Readers are invited to use them in whatever way, both right-brained and left-brained, that they might feel inclined – as pleasant walks with an unaccustomed narrative; as a way to  focus on their own astrological sign and its correspondences; as a kind of extended landscape meditation; of walking mythic dimensions into modern place; as a psychogeographical exercise to explore how this lens may inform our sense of place. In the end, though, my own preferred engagements with the Zodiac are as exercises in psychogeography, in using folkloric and mythic tropes to enliven another dimension of the Calder Valley landscape, a landscape to which over 50 years I have come to feel attuned in both its empirical aspect and the oblique perspectives to which it gives rise.

Please note that all the walk sections have been walked by the author and others extensively and repeatedly over several years. The route descriptors are considered accurate as of the last complete survey around 2018. However, paths do change both in route and condition, so the walker should be aware of this; the Ordnance Survey South Pennines Explorer map is an essential accompaniment – a smartphone map does not provide the larger geographical scope that a map allows, though it may help with any immediate uncertainties encountered en route.

Finally, an apology: all historical claims here are cited from reputable documentary sources, but I did not have time to fully include those references in the text.













The Crow