Sacred Sonoma, by Beth Winegarner Sacred Sonoma: Sacred Sites and Alignments in Sonoma County, California, by Beth Winegarner
Kirin Books, 9781430320678, 180 pp. (incl. acknowledgements and bibliography), 2007

In the interest of full disclosure I should preface this review by noting that I’ve known Beth online for a number of years, though we’ve never met in person. This is the first book I’ve read of hers, though she has published several books, including two novels, Dream Brother and Beloved, and a collection of essays on music titled, Read the Music and several published poems and short stories in various literary magazines. I was thrilled when she asked me to review her latest, Sacred Sonoma, detailing her exploration of the ley lines and energetic sites in Sonoma County.

Winegarner received her introduction to ley lines through a university friend who lent her a book on the subject, from there, ideas began to percolate. She writes, “I’d been living in Sonoma County for a number of years and had some concept that the land itself was special in many ways – some of them quite “unexplainable.” The idea that there might be energy emanating from the earth fascinated me, and I set myself on a quest to learn about these ley lines and figure out if their theories applied to Sonoma County’s landscapes. What I learned has been far more rewarding than I could have imagined.”

I’m not overly familiar with leys, but fortunately Winegarner does a great job of explaining these and other difficult terms and concepts, acknowledging that “[m]any times the terminology alone can be confusing, especially when dealing with something that has not yet been empirically proven and cannot be perceived with the standard five senses.”

A ley line is generally described as an “alignment of sacred sites,” but for the purposes of this book Winegarner has used the “strictest definition of the term…these “ley lines” are alignments of sites that many have considered sacred or energetically unique. The alignments will include a number of sacred sites as well as the types of sites Watkins would have called “waymarkers,” which serve to indicate a continuity of the alignment.”

An early proponent of ley lines, Alfred Watkins, “concluded that sites on each ley were chosen for their ability to indicate the continuity of the line. For this reason, the points on which the lines terminate are generally sites from which the other terminus can be seen, even from a long way off. The purpose of these lines…was so that…salt and coal traders could get from one place to another as quickly and easy as possible.”

A distinction is made between these and “energy leys” or leys “which have earth energy running along them, much like rivers or blood veins.” She also describes “geomantic corridors”, which are lines which “extend for hundreds of miles…Documented leys are perhaps a maximum of 25 miles in length; distances beyond that length, which are affected by earth’s geometry, are considered geomantic corridors.”

Winegarner describes three ley lines, Goat Rock Ley, Joy Woods Ley, and Bohemian Grove Ley, illustrated with maps and notes the key points along the leys. From there more detailed histories are divided by region, such as the volcanic and seismic regions, North County, Santa Rosa and vicinity, West County, and the Coastal Regions, within which specific points are detailed, especially as they related to the Pomo history and culture and the given area’s – often colourful – local history.

The text is illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs, accompanied by evocative text. I’ve never visited Sonoma County, but I can imagine that this would be an excellent guide to explore it with. Local historians and ley hunters alike will find it a useful and engaging aid.