Category Archives: seeing demons and satanic stuff everywhere

Cherrington, Gloucestershire, 27 July 2014

Our favourite circle of the season, and one that we know was much-loved by many people.

Even the farmer loved this one, despite his initial misgivings. The story featured in The Daily Mail on 5 August 2014 and is well-worth repeating, if only because it’s heartening to see a farmer appreciative of a circle that appears on his land, especially in view of the anger of many Wiltshire farmers in recent years. Read it here – below we have included screen captures of the whole article, partly for convenience and partly in case the link goes down:


We were especially impressed with the fact that The Daily Mail of all people acknowledged that the pentagram is a harmonious symbol and not a satanic one. Unlike Andrew Pyrka and Report A Crop Circle Formation, who went all fire and brimstone, hell and damnation, over this circle:

Yeah, right, Andrew, of course. Now go and take your meds.

Ignoring the ring of code – which has yet to be deciphered – perhaps the most striking and innovative thing about this design is the fact that the pattern is entirely within the lay rather than the conventional ‘alternating standing and flattened bits’ style. Yes, there have been woven circles before – indeed there were other woven circles in 2014 – but Cherrington takes it to another level entirely. Though few people seemed to pick up on it when Cherrington appeared, there is one particular example we can think of where this has been done before.

This circle appeared below the Hackpen Hill white horse in August 2013. From a distance it merely looks like a small and unremarkable ringed circle.

Hackpen Hill, 11 August 2013. Note the white horse to the right in the photo above, and – just to the left of the circle – the ghost of the Hackpen Hill cubes formation of August 2012, which was in the same field. Hackpen Hill photos above and below by Janet Ossebaard.

A closer look, however, reveals a striking hexagram lay.


This was one of those circles which was for the most part neglected when it appeared, but which was loved by all who took the time to appreciate it, especially those who visited. Its qualities take effort on the part of the participant. Perhaps that is the message of these two circles; get to know them, appreciate the detail, rather than just give the aerials a quick glance and a ‘yeah that’s nice’ or ‘fail’.

We’ve not seen anybody else link these two circles, though to our minds the relationship is obvious. Cherrington 2014 is Hackpen Hill 2013 taken to the next level.

Ask Poppy

What exactly is a crop circle?

A circle. In a crop field. At least, that’s what a crop circle was when the term was first coined. Now it seems to cover all manner of markings, from splodges to squiggles to complex configurations of circles, squares, triangles, lines, crescents, rings, and kitchen sinks. In an effort to keep up with the development of the designs, various other terms have been made up, including ‘pictogram’, ‘agriglyph’, ‘crop glyph’. Call us old-fashioned, but we’ve decided to stick with ‘crop circle’. ‘Crop formation’ seems to be the most recent variant, or ‘formation’ as it’s known to its friends. We like and frequently use that one, too, being one of said friends.

singleSmall single circle from Weston Turville, Bucks, August 2005. “The crop circle enigma” ™ began with small single circles and circle-sets. Back in the day a single circle was known as a ‘singleton’, and was affectionately termed a ‘valerie’ by some researchers. Photograph of the Weston Turville circle by Darren Francis, who as far as we’re aware was the only person to visit this formation aside from its maker and the farmer as he combined it.

Aren’t all crop circles man-made?

Oh leave it.

Aren’t all crop circles made by aliens / ultraterrestrial intelligences / earth energies / satan / gaia etc?


But I’ve heard tell of ‘genuine crop circles’. What is meant by this? What constitutes a ‘genuine crop circle’?

That’s a toughie, and the answer depends very much on who you speak to. First off, ‘genuine crop circle’ generally means ‘crop circle not made by people’. The main problem with this is that said term assumes or implies that there are accepted criteria by which one should judge such things, factors that can be assessed and tests that can be employed to give a definitive answer either way. Quite a few people claim there are such tests and factors, though nobody seems to be able to agree on exactly what they are. Studies of lay, design aspects, and analysis of crop samples have all been cited. Others employ all manner of gizmos, black box technology, sacred rites, dowsing, and the like. The subjectivity of these methods is a sticking point, as is the fact that different people look for different things. We’ve read field reports of the same formation by different parties, which vary to such an extent that you’d be forgiven for thinking they were referring to separate circles. Terms like ‘genuine crop circle’ and ‘genuine phenomenon’ also imply that one believes that crop circles are not, or cannot, be man-made; some of them, at least. Not everybody adheres to this view. Similarly, some researchers consider all crop circles ‘genuine’ until there is evidence to suggest otherwise, others that all crop circles should be assumed man-made until evidence suggests otherwise. Most sit somewhere in the middle. Horses for courses.

Okay. If you can’t tell us what constitutes a ‘genuine’ crop circle, at least tell us what constitutes a ‘good’ crop circle.

04jul99hackpen350It depends what you like. Personally we go for precision, neatness and sophistication of lay, and aesthetically pleasing design. Yes, we know that’s vague, but it is difficult to define. Here’s an example of a circle we like: Hackpen Hill, 4th July 1999 (photo by Peter Sorensen). There are some formations rated highly in croppiedom which we personally don’t get along with, for example Bythorn, Cambridgeshire, September 1993 (though we’re not that keen on pentagrams as a rule), the East Field ‘pictogram of pictograms’ of 1999, the ‘dolphins’ of 1991 (ersatz hippy tat), anything involving ladders or eyes, and the Beckhampton ‘Charm Bracelet’ of 16 August 1992 (cheesy crap – nice lay, though), to name a few. A lot of it comes down to personal taste, and we suspect that for all the posturing, most pronouncements about particular formations and their place in the phenomenon as a whole are aesthetic. This is simplifying the point somewhat, though crop circles are artistic as much as anything else. One human circlemaker we spoke to (as opposed to all the non-human circlemakers we’ve spoken to; haven’t you?) said he considered crop circle researchers to be more akin to art critics than paranormal investigators, and we do think there is a great deal of truth in this.

Wasn’t there some guy who analysed crop samples and concluded that some formations couldn’t be made by people?

Doctor William Levengood, together with Nancy Talbot and the less-famed John Burke, collectively known as the BLT Research Team. We were just about to get on to them. When they’re not making sandwiches (and nobody else has made that joke) they examine plant-samples from crop circles. They report a number of biological changes to the plants including elongation and bending of nodes, expulsion cavities (tiny holes around the nodal area), shrivelled seed-heads, cellular alteration, and severely stunted or accelerated germination, deducing that such anomalies are consistent with brief exposure to some form of intense microwave energy. An awful lot has been written and said about the BLT results over the years. We hope to be able to present a more detailed overview of their work on this site in the future.

But didn’t the good doctor analyse lodging and find the same anomalies he reports in crop circles?

There were patches of ‘strange lodging’ which Levengood examined and in which he found anomalies akin to those found in crop circle samples, leading him to speculate that occasionally what is defined as lodging may in fact be caused by similar ‘forces’ as crop circles (if indeed one believes – as Levengood seems to – that the circles are made by said ‘forces’). This doesn’t necessarily mean he considers all lodging to be malformed crop circles, or – to look at it another way – that he believes crop circles to be sophisticated lodging. Wait for our BLT analysis to make this aspect clearer. What’s that, you say? Their same results found in lodging? Their ‘strange lodging’ clutching at straws? And people call us cynics.

Is there a simple way to tell which crop circles are man-made and which aren’t?

This is probably the most commonly asked crop circle question, and we’ve dealt with it at various points elsewehere on this page and on this site. We find all alleged ‘authenticity’ tests to be lacking to one degree or another. Put another way, in circle-speak the term ‘genuine crop circle’ means “I don’t know who made this”, though it sometimes means “I know who made this but I don’t believe them because I think it’s such a great circle”. It may also mean “this formation is genuine because it fits into my theory”, or conversely “this formation is man-made because it doesn’t fit into my theory”.

Genuiness is in the eye of the beholder. All crop circles are genuine, but some crop circles are more genuine than others.

How long have crop circles been appearing?

The answer to this one is relatively straightforward, compared to some of these questions. Contrary to popular view, crop circles did not – as far as we can tell – first appear in fields close to the Percy Hobbs pub in the mid 1970s. There are many (largely anecdotal) accounts of formations throughout the 20th century and earlier.

percyThe sign of The Percy Hobbs pub, near Cheesefoot Head, Hampshire. In the 1980s this pub sign looked rather different. In the mid-1990s it was re-drawn (as pictured here) into a stylised representation of Doug Bower, in honour of the pints he sank and plans he hatched in the snug, before he kicked ass at darts and dominoes then ventured into the fields. Photograph by Darren Francis, Summer 2006.

The problem of course is that the further back in history one goes, the more hazy the reports get, though there are photographs of circles throughout the world from the 1960s onward at least (many reproduced – poorly, we regret to add – in Terry Wilson’s book The Secret History of Crop Circles); the difference, of course, being that back then they were called ‘UFO nests’ and not ‘crop circles’. Croppie lore speaks of a photo from the 1930s of a formation in Sussex, though we haven’t seen this one ourselves. An article from Nature magazine in 1880 by spectroscopist J Rand Capron details an investigation into circles that appeared near Guildford, Surrey, in that year. Similar reports have been found in the 1686 book The Natural History of Staffordshire by Robert Plot, this time detailing grass formations (or were they?). That’s the kind of evidence we want to see ourselves, instead of taking every historical mention of a mark in a field (or even not in a field) and interpreting it as crop circle lineage. It might be, but it equally might not be.

Then you have the famed ‘Mowing Devil’ woodcut of 1678, though we have reservations here; the crop appears to have been cut rather than swirled flat, and so – unlike the Capron or Plot reports – doesn’t tally with what one might now define as a crop circle.

mowingdevilThe Mowing Devil of 1678. We were quite shocked to discover that there have been four different versions of the Mowing Devil image doing the rounds over the years. This is a reproduction of the authentic one. We’ve noticed that almost all accounts we’ve read of the Mowing Devil in crop circle books quote from the cover text only (which you can read on this image), such that one might be forgiven for not realising that the true account is considerably longer. The full text has been reproduced in a few books, though – for example The Field Guide by Rob Irving and John Lundberg (pages 27-31) or Terence Meaden’s Circles From The Sky (pages 186-188).

We’d also repeat a point made by Bob Boyd in The Circular # 31 (May 1998) that, if crop circles have been appearing so long, it seems strange that Charles Fort – exhaustive archivist of tales of all things wyrd – makes absolutely no mention of them. We suspect that, even if they have been appearing as long as the evidence might suggest, it’s never been in anything approaching the numbers or complexity we see today.

Like all croppies worth their salt we are intensely interested in reports that pre-date the 1970s. The sheer number of reports is certainly suggestive, though the intangibility of almost all of them is frustrating. Pre-1970s circles are another item on the long list of things we hope to do a more detailed feature about in the future.

How many crop circles appear each year?

It varies. Up until the mid-1980s, less than ten circles appeared annually in the UK on average, and non-UK circles were comparatively rare. From the late 1980s to the late 1990s annual numbers did steadily climb, peaking in 1999 then dropping a little to between a hundred and a hundred a fifty a year in the UK for the early part of the 2000s. The last few seasons (we write this paragraph in July 2008) have seen quite a sudden drop from this, with UK circles averaging about 55 in 2006 and 2007. There has been a great deal of speculation as to why this might be. Theories range from fewer circlemakers out in the fields to sunspot and other cycles, or of the ‘genuine’ circlemakers having taken a backseat and leaving the fields to the ‘hoaxers’ (or vice versa). After the sudden drop in 2006 it was speculated by Andy Thomas in particular (see article here) that the dry Summer had something to do with it; “It is widely recognised that the majority of crop formations cluster around the main aquifiers… in the UK, and many believe that natural energy generated by their water contributes to their creation. In 2006, the UK suffered the driest conditions since 1976 – could this have been an important factor?” Although Andy makes an interesting point here, it is perhaps worth pointing out that 2007 had about the same number of circles as 2006 and it absolutely bucketed down with rain for most of the Summer.

We can’t leave the subject of annual circles numbers without mentioning that we still see it claimed that over 300 circles appeared in 1989, with double that number in 1990. This is entirely down to Terence Meaden’s cataloging methods; Meaden would count (for example) a quintuplet as five separate circles, a triplet as three separate circles. This means that circle numbers from any year in which Meaden was cataloguing data – up to 1991 in fact – should be treated with suspicion.

How big was the biggest crop circle ever recorded?

Ah, the ‘Size Queen croppie’ question.

It depends.

2005.12.05_15.53.14_-_Werner_AnderhubThere have been a few very long pictograms – for example East Field, Alton Barnes, Wiltshire, 12th June 1999 (1040′), Ashbury, Oxfordshire, 26th July 1994 (approximately a quarter of a mile), Etchilhampton, Wiltshire, 30th July 1996 (eight tenths of a mile, which might sound impressive but the actual design was just a path with 13 circles spaced along it) though due to the nature of these designs the actual amount of flattened crop is relatively little. The formation with the greatest amount of flattened crop is generally reckoned to be East Field, 9th July 1998 (see photo by Werner Anderhaub), which covered approximately 6000 square metres. Though this was a fair few seasons ago we think the record still holds, but would be curious to see how it compares to – say – the August 2001 Milk Hill formation. Speaking of which, although Milk Hill 2001 holds the record for the most circles in a single formation (409) its diameter is ‘only’ 767′. Compare this to the Windmill Hill Julia Set of July 1996, which – although it had less than half the circles of its Milk Hill sibling – spanned anywhere between 800′ and 1,000′ tip to tip depending on who you ask. Or compare it to the Alton Barnes, Wilts formation of 7th July 2007; 1033′ foot tip to tip, with approximately 130 circles. So which is bigger? Which we guess means that ‘size’, as much as ‘genuineness’, is relative. Would you like it any other way?

See also the article Size Matters Not for further discussion of this topic.

Hackpen08Hackpen Hill, 24 May 2008.It’s been pointed out that this formation is the ‘spine’ of the Milk Hill 2001 formation, and that it’s about the same size. It is on both counts. Why do croppies find this formation less interesting than its Milk Hill mother? We don’t know. If size is your game, it’s a good circle. If geometry is your game, it’s a good circle. If lineage is your game, it’s a good circle. If precision is your game, it’s a good circle. If ‘the season is young and I want my circle fix’ is your game, it’s a good circle. To tell the truth we know the reason for the neglect entirely. Croppies are fickle and get bored. Want the next bigger and next better thing and next thing. Don’t see what is in front of their eyes. For curio value we’d also add that this was in the same field as the 1999 Hackpen Hill formation mentioned above in this page. Photograph by Peter Sorensen.

How significant is the placing of crop circles?

Without knowing who / what put a particular formation in the field, this is an impossible question to answer. We do know, however, that factors as mundane as availability of fields containing particular crop types, or ease of access to those fields or to points where the maker may remain unseen or may leave a vehicle, are considerations.

A number of studies have been made into the positioning of crop circles in relation to each other, the most impressive of which is probably this one. Freddy Silva has also written about this puzzling crop circle aspect, with particular regard to formations from the 1999 season (The Cereologist # 31, pages 7-11, and also in Secrets In The Fields) and his findings – that circles reference not only prominent landmarks but also the location of the next circle – make for fascinating reading. However, he does ignore the vast majority of 1999 formations along the way, getting around this by dismissing them as ‘hoaxes’. The question of whether circlemakers deliberately position formations in relation to ancient sites and other prominent landmarks has also been addressed in The Field Guide (pages 167-168) and elsewhere.

It might also be worth mentioning in passing here that in any given season formations will be trumpeted as aligned to something or other – and indeed they will be aligned to that something or other (usually a barrow, stone circle, hill or such) – though the majority of circles aren’t aligned to anything. Or at least anything that gets noticed. And who bothers writing about alignments in a circle that doesn’t have any? Nobody. Except us.

06jul00silburyCrop circle of “mysterious origin” that appeared opposite Silbury Hill 6 July 2000. Yes, it’s aligned to Silbury Hill. But so are the tramlines. Does that mean that the farmer was guided by arcane forces when he sowed his field? Photograph by Peter Sorensen.

Where is the best place to see new crop circles?

Theoretically, one can see crop circles wherever there are crop fields, and our advice is to check the ‘new formations’ websites throughout the Summer to find the nearest formations to you. However, a much simpler answer for lazy croppies is that if you visit the Avebury / Alton Barnes area any time between late June and mid-August you are guaranteed to see circles. Visiting on most Saturday and Sunday mornings in this period will also guarantee that you can see fresh, ‘appeared the night before in a field that was being watched and then dawn came and there were hundreds of orbs’ circles.

So why do most crop circles appear on Friday and Saturday nights?

Because some ETs / faeries / earth energies / demons / field pixies have day jobs.

What do the farmers make of it all?

Farmers? Who are they? Oh you mean those annoying sorts who sometimes turn up to spoil croppies’ fun when they’re out trampling through crop fields? Who sometimes even have the sheer cheek to throw people out of fields or cut circles before hundreds of people visit and stomp the crop to chaff and dust?

Actually we do feel very sorry for farmers, especially those in Wiltshire. Bear in mind that some of these people have had crop circles on their land every single year, and in some years multiple formations, for nearly two decades. Is it really surprising that they might be getting sick of it?

While we’re on the subject of farmers, we’d add that although it says in the Crop Circle Code of Conduct and in many croppie books that visitors should always ask permission from the farmer before entering a formation, we know very few croppies that do so – and this includes some very prominent researchers, some of them published authors. As such we find it bemusing that croppies will bemoan the illegal activities of ‘evil hoaxers’ before engaging in illegal activities themselves by trespassing on farmers’ property.

How comes nobody has ever been caught making a circle?

They have; see here.

Why do people who research crop circles call themselves cerealogists?

Because it adds the illusion of science to them and to their efforts. Actually, few people seem to use this term any more; the PC term at present is ‘croppie’. Though commonly believed to have been co-opted from Trekkie, we personally prefer the theory that ‘croppie’ is a compound term derived from ‘crop circle groupie’.

‘Cerealogist’ is sometimes spelt ‘cereologist’. What’s that all about?

When the journal of the same name was first published, it was spelt ‘cereologist’, though as they note in their editorial in issue 3, “‘a number of learned readers have pointed out that it is etymologically incorrect” and that it should in fact be ‘cerealogist’. It fluctuated after that – indeed the cover-banners are spelt differently depending on which issue you look at. There was actually a reader-poll, the results of which favoured ‘cereologist’. We disagree; surely the term is derived from the word ‘cereal’, and therefore ‘cerealogist’ makes more sense. Michael Glickman also favours ‘cerealogist’, as he notes in his column in issue 7 of said organ (reproduced in his book Cornography). We welcome this; it’s nice to agree with Glickers on something for a change.

Does this etymological pondering matter? Of course it matters. Even if it is a made up word.

Is there any proof that some crop circles are made by aliens?


And before you ask, complexity of design in a formation is not proof that it was made by aliens. Anomalous plant effects reported in formations are not proof that formation was made by aliens. Balls of light seen in and around a formation are not proof that those balls of light were guided by aliens (or indeed were aliens themselves) and made that formation. Crop circles that depict aliens are not proof that aliens are taken to self-portraiture. Not knowing how a crop circle got into a field in the middle of the night is not proof that it was put there by aliens.

pitt150802The famed Crabwood formation of August 2002. A depiction of a Grey in a crop field isn’t proof that the formation was made by Greys. Going by that logic, Greys also made the film Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. We’ve also heard it argued that this formation – when taken in light of the message that accompanies it – is in fact a warning against Greys put there by another race of aliens (Pleidians, Nordics, Sirians, Reptilians, Arcturans, take your pick). This isn’t quite as far-fetched as it sounds, when you consider what shifty buggers Greys are, with rectal probing and embryo-theft and cattle mutilation listed amongst their hobbies in the contact ads.That doesn’t of course mean that we think this formation was made by aliens – of whatever race – because we don’t. We’d love to be able to, but simply don’t see the evidence. Aerial photo of the Crabwood formation by Peter Sorensen.

In amongst all the bickering and gossip and who-made-what allegations and insulting each other on internet forums and gallivanting around Wiltshire lining the pockets of the local landlords, does anybody actually do any research into crop circles anymore?

Something we’ve wondered ourselves, it has to be said.

A related point – why do most croppies drink so much?

There are several answers to this one:- 1. In order to support their theories; 2. Because sitting in the Barge Inn getting sloshed is easier than field work; 3. Because after one has visited the latest formations, there isn’t much else to do other than retire to your tent / B&B, or have a bevy or two; 4. Because crop circles are as much a social activity as anything else.

We’d also like to float a theory here; never mind the notion that some farmers are in cahoots with those making formations on their land so they can charge people to go in (which, considering the ire with which some Wiltshire farmers mow formations as soon as they arrive seems unlikely these days), what about the Wiltshire pub owners? They employ people to make formations, croppies flock to have a look and then hit the boozer. Utterly implausible but it just might be true. Which could be said to eloquently sum up the whole phenomenon, in a way.

bargesignThe sign of the Barge Inn pub, Honeystreet, Wiltshire. This photo was taken (by Darren Francis) in Summer 2007, at which point the sign had recently been re-done. Many croppies will no doubt remember the older version, of which we’ll have a (non-digital) image somewhere and may load at some point as well.

Is it true that making crop circles can be as much if not more spiritually rewarding than investigating them?

Some might say, and so we’ve heard.

But why do so many croppies end up making circles themselves?

Like most of these questions there are several answers, some of them contradictory. The obvious reason is to test the plausibility of the ‘crop circles are all man-made’ hypothesis, to see what is and isn’t possible to create in a field at night. We think this a reasonable venture, personally, and find it bizarre that some croppies do not consider it worthwhile as research, even if they wouldn’t want to have a go themselves. Some leave it at this; others go on to make circles season after season. Some because they think it’s fun, some because they find it rewarding, some to see what they can get away with, some because they enjoy seeing other croppies making fools of themselves, most because they’re croppies too and love crop circles as much as the rest.

So these people who make crop circles… do they use strimmers, then?

We have actually been asked this question. And no, they don’t use strimmers (though if they did it might explain the ellusive ‘trilling sound’). Farmers have occasionally been known to use strimmers, though, when faced with the latest glorious message from the stars in their fields.

Why do crop circles only appear in the Summer in the UK?

Erm… because crop circles need crops? Before we elaborate we should say that we’ve been asked this question, too. It isn’t quite as dumb as it sounds (though it’s still pretty dumb).

Though the ‘because crop circles need crops’ rule applies, formations do of course appear in Spring in oilseed rape and (late Spring) in barley and in early wheat, before the fields give way to the most glorious designs which are as a rule in wheat. The (very) occasional Autumn formation might turn up in maize or grass, and Winter grass formations have also – abeit rarely – been spotted. Also worth mentioning here is a barley formation that was discovered on 15th November 2007 near Manton, Wiltshire (picture left and article here) and which is undoubtedly the latest in the year that a UK formation has appeared.

MantonDumbbell2aManton, Wiltshire, 15 November 2007. Considering how cold we remember it being in the UK when this appeared, we don’t envy who / what made it in the slightest. Aerial photograph by Peter Sorensen

Why does The Barge Inn have a circlemaking equipment store next door to it?

Coincidence. Besides, it isn’t a circlemaking store, it’s a country supplies store and sawmill. That said, we wouldn’t like to speculate how many wood-planks may have been ‘borrowed’ from outside the place in the dead of night over the years.

Can I tell you my personal theory as to what crop circles mean and what makes them, even though I have absolutely no evidence for it and have never even been in a crop circle?

No. It isn’t that we don’t care, more that we don’t have the time. We hope you understand.

It’s all done by the military, though, isn’t it?

We really must be going now.

Why are you guys so cynical?

There’s a fine line between cynicism and credulity. We’ve been accused of being cynics, debunkers, disbelievers, and worse. We’re none of these things. We’re agnostics. We do think that something very interesting is going on here. We know we understand some of it, we think we understand other bits, elsewhere have an inkling, sometimes don’t have a clue. A bit like everybody else, really, but at least we’re honest.

First written Summer 2003; revised intermittently since then; most recent tarting Summer 2008.

NB: Perhaps it is only fair to say that a couple of the statements in these photo comments aren’t actually true.

Rorschach Blots & Mandalas: Adventures In Circle Perilous – Darren Francis

This article was first published in issue 29 (Autumn 2000) of The Cereologist, wherein John Sayer prefaced it by saying “Pulling no punches, Darren Francis casts a critical eye over crop circle analysis.”

When we look at crop circles, what do we actually see?  What has been learned in almost twenty years of investigation?  ‘We are looking at flattened corn’, Dave Chorley has been quoted as saying.  Regardless of what one makes of Doug and Dave’s activities, what can say with certainty, other than the fact that crop circles are patterns within downed crop?

Part of the appeal of crop circles is the fact that there can be no doubt about their existence.  They can be visited and investigated by anybody who has the inclination to do so (the wishes of the landowner permitting).  This distinguishes them from many other fields of paranormal research, where one is often reliant on second-hand accounts and cannot always verify the details for oneself.  Whilst it may sound obvious, the primary question one should ask in investigating crop circles is, therefore, how did they get there?  What is the mechanism that causes them to appear?  Once one answers this question – or once one has a model through which to seek to answer this question – other questions will arise.  The answer may also be different for different formations.  However, it often seems that much of the research being done on the subject approaches the question the other way round.

‘For a phenomenon of which almost nothing is known for sure, there’s a lot of people with a lot to say to a lot of people wishing to hear a lot about something of which almost nothing is known for sure’ (Danny Sotham).

In crop circles we often see what we want to see – or what conforms to our belief systems – as opposed to what is actually there.  To paraphrase Hamlet, whilst one researcher may look at a formation and see a whale, another may see a weasel.  Whatever our favoured paradigm, evidence can be found to support it.  The phenomenon easily expands to accommodate any view.  Formations can be planetary portents, extraterrestrial etchings, land art, meterological oddities, vandalism, spiritual cyphers.  The phenomenon does not seem to mind; it continues regardless.

Much of what are commonly perceived as ‘the facts’ about crop circles are what investigators have brought to them, tainted invariably by that investigator’s belief system.  For example, a lot of very earnest work has been undertaken in deciphering the symbolism of formations.  Whilst this can be valuable to an extent, it may be beside the point.  Until one knows what caused a particular formation to appear, any interpretation of its meaning can only be subjective.  To say, for example, that the 4th July 1998 Birling formation is a mandala of the human psyche, that the 14th June 1997 Upham formation represents Caduceus, or that the June 2 1991 Cheesefoot Head formation depicts Gaia, and that this formation has a sad, drooping quality to it, indicative of our abuse of the planet’s resources, is meaningless (and often tells us more about the interpreter than the formation).  Yes, these formations could symbolise these things.  They could also have many other meanings.  With the exception of the ‘fractal’ designs and certain others, there are very few formations whose symbolism can be precisely pinned (and in the case of the fractals, these formations are adaptions of fractals rather than true fractals).  This does not mean that such readings are of no use to the interpreter, or to anybody else who chooses to accept them.  They are, however, suggestions and not definitions.

This mythologising of ‘fact’ can also be seen on other levels, with many pieces of information accepted as true proving to be nothing of the sort when one back-tracks and examines the original data.  For example, the contention that the three quarter mile Etchilhampton pictogram appeared on the same night as the Windmill Hill ‘Julia Set’ (29th July 1996); a study of contemporary reports reveals that the Etchilhampton formation was first sighted several days earlier.  Similarly, the contention that nobody has ever been caught making a formation is also untrue.  Several such reports are in existence (for example, the first ‘dolphin’ design at Firs Farm, Beckhampton, in August 1991), yet almost all books and articles neglect to mention them.

One thing that has always perplexed me is the way people let their lives fall into place around what they presume to be true (their belief system), and how aspects of said belief system can be arbitrary and / or unquestioned.  What we see is limited by language; by what we can explain, and what we think we can explain by putting words to.  We do not see things as they are.  We see them as they are filtered by our belief systems.

It is easy for anybody outside of the ‘mainstream’ (ie, outside of the dominant cultural belief systems), to feel that this does not apply to them, since they have chosen – for whatever reason – to ‘opt out’, and follow different pursuits to the perceived majority.  But more often than not in such cases, the mechanism itself does not change.  What changes are the symbol systems and the scenery.  In order to make a thing be accepted as true, all one need do is repeat it enough times.  We can see this in the above-mentioned Cheesefoot Head formation; many books and articles still regurgitate this idea without thought, as if it were the one and only accepted definition of this formation and any other idea is not even moot.

The last decade or so has seen the crop circle phenomenon swallowed further and further by the New Age movement.  And the phenomenon – reflecting as always the perspective of the viewer – has adapted to this very well.  The formations are seen as portents for the soul, as harbingers of global shift.  We must be very clear as to what exactly ‘the New Age’ constitutes; the emergence of a loose group of overlapping paradigms which differ in certain fundamental respects to the current dominant paradigms.  That one may consider such a paradigm shift to be more beneficial to the greater good is not the issue of this article, and it may have little to do with crop circles except for coincidences of time and location and the fact that people attracted to such paradigms are often also attracted to crop circles.  Some people argue that to embrace the New Age means to re-capture hidden or secret knowledge that was understood and utilised by our ancestors, to return us to a golden age in which we can live in harmony with the land; the evidence, however, suggests that it does little such thing.  Take, for example, the modern pagan revival.  With few exceptions, the various pagan traditions as they are currently practiced cannot be dated much beyond this century.  The extent to which this should matter is questionable; the relevance must be placed on what one does today, how one applies the available data, what use it is to us, rather than needing a traceable lineage to validate one’s identity.  I digress.

That crop circles can be seen as new age denominators also means that all manner of bibble-babble can be spouted about them, the only criteria seeming to be that they can be made to correspond to or originate from a belief system deemed to be ‘higher’ or ‘more spiritual’ than our dominant cultural paradigms.  Many people will proclaim that the circles have such a significance, but the evidence for this is reliant upon one first accepting certain givens.  Yes, of course crop circles can be found to correspond with chakras.  Of course one will find yin and yang energies.  If one goes looking for it.  It’s simply another way of viewing what is going on, and may be no more or less valid than any other way.  We must be very careful here, with regard to what we find and what we want to find (and what pleases our belief systems), or else we run the risk of dragging the whole phenomenon into a quagmire of conjecture and New Age psychobabble out of which it may never emerge intact.

This blight has also meant that the New Age’s trappings can be presented and freely accepted as evidence to support a hypothesis one wishes to pursue concerning the crop circle phenomenon.  For example, if one accepts that sacred or subtle or other “energies” are behind the formations, it seems to follow that such energies can be dowsed.  If one accepts that a non-human intelligence is behind the formations, it follows that one can contact such intelligence by channelling or other means.  The problem with such approaches – regardless of their merit – is their lack of testability.  If somebody tells you that they have channelled an entity, you can only accept their word; it would be very difficult to repeat the channelling for yourself under measurable conditions.  If somebody states that they dowsed a formation and registered a particular pattern of energy lines, and you dowse the formation and don’t get the same results, they can easily argue that it is your dowsing that is at fault.  This lack of repeatability is a grave and omniscient problem within crop circle investigation.  Whilst the actual formations themselves can be explored by all, such other findings cannot.  As such, reliance upon them as evidence is tenuous.

A further difficulty with channelling lies in identifying the origin of the channelled information, and in understanding the mechanisms by which it operates.  Anybody can spout platitudes about love and change and spiritual convergence.  Just because a message claims to be from a particular source, this does not mean that it is.  Other entities?  The channeller’s own mind?  Somebody else in the room at the time?  Species or planetary consciousness?  Cellular memory?  Yesterday’s news broadcast?  We do not know.  In the book Condensed Chaos, Phil Hine makes the point that channelled entities often manifest as endangered species or cultures, as if we wish to channel our own guilt out of ourselves, to personify it as an exterior entity.  It is also likely that the messages are ‘flavoured’ by the belief systems of the channeller and the aeon in which they live (for example, Crowley’s Book Of The Law is given an ancient Egyptian and occultist texture, the Revelation of St John a Christian apocalyptic texture, and much of the contemporary channelled material a New Age, extraterrestrial and ecological texture), so that no matter what their source a distortion of information occurs.  Further, experiments by Dion Fortune and others have demonstrated that entities can be created, and then quizzed to provide information unknown to the channeller.  None of this is necessarily an attempt to debunk channelling, but given that we have no clear idea of what is actually going on here, it seems a little suspicious to found a solution to the crop circle phenomenon on such results.  It may be.  It may not be.  The process itself is too open and too complex to reduce to such simplistic terms as messages to humanity from the stars / the angels / gaia / devas / whatever.

When somebody claims to have had a specific spiritual or physiological result from a crop circle, can we say with any certainty that this has a jot to do with the inherent properties of the formation itself?  Aside from the surety that any such experience is filtered through the gloss of the experiencer, there are many variables which must be considered before any substantive analysis can be undertaken.  For example, the very excitement of being in a crop circle and the confoundment that it can bring.  The pesticides one is touching and breathing in.  The excitement (for some) of being in the countryside.  The mental ‘otherness’ that can often come from trying to fathom the formation.  It is a two-way process; what the experiencer brings to the formation is at least as significant as what the formation might give.  The effects of all these things are subtle and difficult to quantify.  To say “the crop circle dunnit” is too simplistic a premise.  And even if a formation were proved to have such curative or transformative properties, this tells us little about the actual creation process of the formation itself; to assume a cause solely on the basis of such data is tenuous.  An enormous amount of research needs to be done in this area before any conclusions can be sketched.

There has been much talk recently along the lines that the source of crop circles is secondaryto the effect they have on people.  Whilst there are a number of truths in this attitude, it is perhaps also a reaction to the growing body of evidence that people can flatten crop with much greater skill than previously acknowledged by many.  And surely, if one seeks to find solutions to the phenomenon, the abilities of such people must be considered.  Many researchers speak of a ‘genuine phenomenon’, of ‘genuine crop circles’, but few seem able to agree on exactly what ‘genuine’ constitutes.  Field reports often vary to such an extent that one might be forgiven for assuming one was reading accounts of different formations (some presenting their own point of view then arguing that anybody who disagrees clearly does not know what they are talking about).  An extreme example is the notorious 1996 Oliver’s Castle ‘Snowflake’, yet in this case the reports seem primarily to fall into two camps, with those that considered the video genuine reporting the crop circle as spectacular, and those that considered the video bogus reporting the formation as poor.  Belief determines how we see the evidence, not vice versa.

Formations known to be man-made are deemed mindless vandalism performed by con-men, whereas formations considered the work of ETS / faeries / earth energies / (insert favoured theory) are considered glorious signs of vital significance.  When a formation not considered man-made is discovered to be so, does it cease to be the latter and become the former?  Why are people considered vandals and con-artists whereas faeries, aliens et al are not?  The same deed is being perpetrated; the distinction lies in our assumption that we understand the motivations of the parties involved (human or otherwise).  Ditto the accusations of trespass and damage to crop levelled at human circlemakers; much crop damage in such formations is caused by the trampling boots of visitors, and many who consider themselves “investigators” – and who bemoan the illegal activities of “hoaxers” – will themselves trespass in order to examine the evidence.  This is not necessarily to condone the activities of human circlemakers, merely to give them a little perspective.

To illustrate some of these points, here are some experiments you can try.

1. Robert Anton Wilson relates an exercise he frequently performs at seminars, in which the group are asked to describe the corridor they passed through to get to the seminar room.  The descriptions invariably differ to the extent that one might assume they’d all walked through different corridors (which is in a sense true; the corridor is seen through each participant’s set of filters).  Wilson has at times ‘rigged’ the experiment by pinning up pictures of naked women in the corridor, thinking people would notice them; they don’t.  Since each of the participants used the corridor at least once a day, in their minds they already ‘knew’ what it looked like and so had stopped looking.

2. In the book Gifts Of The Gods?, John Spencer outlines an experiment conducted on live TV in which an audience were shown a faked UFO photograph for fifteen seconds.  The image was taken away and the audience were asked to draw it.  The degree to which the drawings differed was extraordinary.  In some cases people added details which were not present in the photograph.

Most of the people who took part in these experiments would probably consider themselves reliable witnesses.  Can we be certain we are any different every time we look at a crop circle?

We do have a number of pointers, features specific to the way in which the crop has been laid and to the affected crop itself, but what exactly do these tell us?  The work of the BLT team is frequently wafted about in this regard, sadly often by persons who have not read through it all in sufficient detail to grasp its many nuances.  Yes, this research is profound in its implications, but can only give an indication as to a formation’s origins after considerable analysis and testing has been conducted; to merely stroll into a formation in search of bent nodes is not enough.  Even the BLT team themselves are wary that their methods be relied upon as an ‘acid test’ by those who have not studied their papers.  Crop lay can indicate how and in what order the crop was laid, and analysing individual stems can reveal what force may have been applied to down them.  The degree and nature of breakage to crop within a formation can also be an indicator, but we must be careful to differentiate from damage caused by visitors.  And how can one be certain that the source (assuming a non-human origin) would not break or scrape stems?  ETs with stalk-stompers, anyone?

In the field of cerealogy, quantum leaps come easily.  For example, the conviction that if formations display evidence of intelligent origin then such intelligence must be extraterrestrial, or the determination that since a number of formations appear in proximity to ancient sites, they have been deliberately placed to reference those sites.  We are too eager to make assumptions, without equally considering every other possibility.  If one believes in UFOs, one can find evidence within the crop circle phenomenon that UFOs play a part.  If one believes in channelling, one will be able to tap sources which tell of the circles’ origins and meaning. This does not necessarily give these things any objective ‘meaning’, though nor does it make them ‘false’.  When one sees a ball of light, this does not automatically mean one sees an object of extraterrestrial origin (or an earthlight or a back-lit dandelion seed).  When one feels a physiological or spiritual effect within a crop circle, it does not have to mean that the circle itself ’caused’ such a change.  The sacred sites across our landscape, the alignments of which we often ponder in relation to crop circles, are man-made.  So too are the mandalas (whatever their source or inspiration) in which we see echoes of crop circle designs.  To therefore assume that crop circles cannot be man-made because of their configuration to ancient sites, or because their resemblance to mandalas carries a crucial spiritual significance, is nonsensical.

Eagerness to view the phenomenon in a single light, that of a non-human intelligence making contact through messages encoded within crop field etchings, is limiting.  Whatever the merits of such a belief, unquestioning pursuit of a single hypothesis not only blinds one to a full examination of the available evidence but also to any number of other possibilities.  For example, that the circles are the result of an entirely natural process which our science has not or cannot yet categorise or accommodate.  Or that the most complex formations could be man-made.  Or that whatever the origin of the formations, they act as ‘amplifiers’ and attract other paranormal phenomena.  Or that the circles are the ‘aftershock’ of something extra-, inter- or transdimensional.  Or that they are our own thoughts rendered in the fields as a kind of astral thoughtography.  Or all of these things.  Or none of them.  All these options are in and of themselves as fascinating and possibility-opening as the tired ‘non-human intelligence’ theory.  This does not necessarily mean that I believe any of these possibilities are true.  Nor do I believe that they are not true.

I call this borderland Circle Perilous, a term co-opted from Chapel Perilous.  Though the idea of Chapel Perilous is much written of, I was first drawn to it whilst reading Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger books.  Wilson defines Chapel Perilous as “a crossroads of mythic proportions”, a point invariably reached sooner or later by anybody who investigates occult or similar matters:-

 ‘Chapel Perilous, like the mysterious entity called “I”, cannot be located in the space-time continuum; it is weightless, odourless, tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments.  Indeed, like the Ego, it is even possible to deny that it is there.  And yet, even more like Ego, once you are inside it, there doesn’t seem to be any way to ever get out again, until you suddenly discover that it has been brought into existence by thought and does not exist outside thought.  Everything you fear is waiting with slavering jaws inside Chapel Perilous…’ (Cosmic Trigger volume I: Final Secret of the Illuminati, pg6).

In some respects it is a very similar experience to that known in occultist parlance as ‘the long dark night of the soul.’  Though it has no fixed nature or duration, one of Circle / Chapel Perilous’ more pesky traits is that one often does not know one has entered it, and may be roaming its passages and chambers with no inkling that one is doing so.  Similarly, one may think one has left it far behind only to find that one has not actually gone anywhere.  One either presumes to know exactly what is going on, or one presumes to not have a clue.  It seems to me that few crop circle aficionados do not have a dose of Circle Perilous to one degree or another; or maybe it’s that I am myself inside Circle Perilous far too deeply to form a clear model.  Circle Perilous is like this.

Wilson also reports that there are only two exits from Chapel Perilous; one either comes out an absolute paranoid, or an agnostic.  The latter attitude seems more valuable; a heightened objective openness, the ability to entertain simultaneously in the mind any number of different and sometimes conflicting interpretations and to recognise that all things are only as they are perceived through our belief systems (‘reality tunnels’, as Timothy Leary terms them).  As soon as one gets snared up in the proving of one theory (distillation / belief system / filter / reality tunnel) over all others, one is lost (“belief is the death of intelligence” – Wilson).  This is something we have seen many times in the cereological field, even to the extent of researchers denying or ‘adapting’ evidence which does not fit their favoured notions or their marketing strategies.  This will not do.

I’ve been roving around the corridors and halls of Circle Perilous for some years, no longer caring which side of the perimeter wall I happen to be on.  Finding interest in many things, watching different theories unfurl yet never being able to trust any of them, and never formulating a theory of my own other than that the entire adventure is much fun to be a part of.  The evidence indicates that this phenomenon has been with us for a long time; we have no idea how much longer it will continue, but have no reason to believe that it will cease in the immediate future.  All I know for certain is that the more one studies the crop circle issue, the curiouser it becomes.  I’m happy being curious.

It may be this neurological scrambling process that is the key; this befuddlement that seems to befall almost all who allow themselves to be entertained by flattened crop.  This simultaneous delight and confusion also seems consistent with much magickal and occult and initiatory experience (and with Chapel Perilous).  The crux is the process; how much reality it has outside of this can be allowed to be moot for a while.

What use one makes of one’s confusion is a different matter.  It seems that in order to negotiate this territory one must balance emotion, wisdom, open-mindedness, logic, intuition.  An imbalance can easily tip us into unreason.  We can see this in the degree of viciousness often levelled at anybody who has made – or even claims to have made – crop circles.  Sometimes even entertaining the notion that large and complex formations could be man-made can lead to ridicule.  We can also see it in the commercialisation that shadows the phenomenon, and in the descent into one-sidedness or new age quackery that has befallen certain investigators.

Where does this leave us?

 ‘The universe is a giant Rorschach ink blot.’ (Alan Watts)

‘No one mandala is the same as another; all are different because each is a projected image of the psychic condition of its author… an expression of the modification brought by this psychic content to the traditional idea of the mandala.’ (J E Cirlot, A Dictionary of Symbols).

Perhaps it is the perception of the individual that may provide the key.  We can view the crop circle phenomenon as a reflection of us rather than as a separate and exclusive phenomenon that happens outside of us; it is influenced by us as observers and participants, rather than occurring regardless of us.  The formations and their interpretation (or otherwise) can be seen as a process, a journey for the individual, with any meaning being as much what is sparked in the visitor / observer as an actual analysis of the formations themselves in comparative terms.  This is of course not to say that a scientific and / or objective study of crop formations cannot – and should not – be undertaken (it is quite the reverse), yet much of what currently passes as such is nothing of the sort.