Remember crop circles, those strange shapes that started appearing in the Nineties in fields all across England? We haven’t heard much about them lately, but according to an article in the Guardian’s G2 magazine, this year hikers in England’s beautiful countryside should see a bumper crop. May was a banner month, and new circles are already showing up in June. The article has an interesting gallery of some of this year’s best and gives a step-by-step guide to making your own, although there are more detailed instructions at How Stuff Works.
Nobody is sure when the crop circle phenomenon actually began, but simple designs caught the attention of UFO researchers in the Seventies. Soon simple circles weren’t enough and designs became more and more elaborate. Paranormal investigators argued whether they were made by aliens, earth spirits, or dozens of other possible sources. They tried to ignore the TV interviews with artists who showed how you could flatten wheat into designs with simple tools such as a board and rope. The craze eventually spread to mainland Europe, Japan, and North America.
Some artists have even created an organization called Circlemakers and boast of their work on their website. Not only have these guys done the typical circles and designs, they’ve also done ads for Shredded Wheat, Nike, and Hello Kitty.
This hasn’t stopped organizations such as the Wiltshire Crop Circle Study Group from studying what they say is an unexplained phenomenon. They claim that while evidence such as post holes or confessions by artists prove most crop circles are man made, a minority of circles defy explanation, an argument that is tantamount to saying that while we have documentation for the construction of most medieval cathedrals, there are no blueprints or payrolls for other cathedrals and therefore they must have been made by aliens.
But that is neither here nor there. The truth is not as mundane as the skeptics insist or the believers fear–in fact the truth is even more amazing than UFOs or Earth Powers or whatever. Dedicated groups of artists have, usually for no fame or money, imprinted complex works of art onto the landscape under the cover of night. England has always been a culture deeply tied to its landscape and hiking is one of the most popular activities here. Most of its ancient monuments such as Stonehenge or Silbury Hill are in fact modifications of their natural surroundings. As England becomes more urban, the English are losing touch with the landscape. The artists who make crop circles are bringing their country back to its roots. It’s an amazing cultural movement that is giving the country beautiful works of art rooted in tradition yet with a futuristic twist. They should be applauded.
I once got to examine a crop circle near West Kennet Long Barrow. Circle makers like to make their designs near ancient sites, which is pretty easy considering the countryside is full of them. This circle was a simple pattern, a big circle with some radial designs. Being on the hill leading up to one of England’s most impressive megalithic ruins added to the atmosphere and made the visit more memorable. As the hiking season gets going, I’m starting a new series called English Country Walks. If I come across more crop circles, I’ll be sure to take photos and share them here!