Ley tunnels are treated as one of the favourite myths in Anglo-Saxon Europe. After the discovery of the 700th such tunnel in Bavaria alone, archaeologists decided to make a major stab at unravelling their secrets. As usual, archaeologists’ answers just produced many more questions.
Ancestor Worship Theory
Again, when the Vandals and their friends ended up at their destination or wherever they decided their destination was, they had a problem. They had crossed Europe and left the burials of their ancestors behind. As cheap flights were not available to go and venerate their ancestors, they built empty burial chambers to able to communicate with them all the same.
Part of the ancestor worship was the sharing of food, and no tunnel has contained anything that would indicate any food ever having been there. The Vandals ended up in North Africa, the Burgundians and Allemans ended up in Switzerland and the Black Forest, and no tunnels have been found in either location.
Store Room Theory
The tunnels were narrow and long, just about the most impractical thing you could wish for to put your stores in. Do you need the apples? They were stored first, so please get everything else out first. This doesn’t sound like our forbears who usually were immensely practical. And as to live stock, there isn’t a tunnel so far that has even a whiff of animal dung in it. I don’t think anyone was ever that tidy.
Penitents’ Cell Theory
Tunnels were found near monasteries and churches as well; and this gave rise to the idea that they could have been used as penitential cells for sinners. Considering the lack of oxygen, that would have been a rather permanent arrangement. And again, no food left-over or human faeces have ever been found in a tunnel. The idea has also been extended to criminals.
Healing Temple Theory
Adding the druids and some healing practices used in Greece and Rome led to the idea that these could have places of healing where people stripped off their illnesses or sent their dreams into the dark. The only bit that might support this theory would be the zigzag pattern used to build the tunnels; sort of like a snake. The lack of air inside the tunnels might have led to a rather permanent solution for sick people, though.
Soul Storage Theory
You didn’t misread that. There is a theory that claims that these tunnels were used to store souls. Souls of dead people, obviously, as the living usually object to being parted from them. The theory is based on the fact that the geographical distribution coincides largely with the wandering and preaching of Irish saints converting continental heathens to Christianity. The storage of souls to await the final judgement was after all a problem, and keeping them near to be resurrected with their loved ones might seem like a good idea.
At the beginning of the 13th century, though, the Catholic Church invented Purgatory and promoted this destination extensively together with Heaven and Hell. As all souls now had a destination even if they weren’t going straight to Heaven or Hell, the current lodgers of the tunnels were asked to move and the entrances were blocked up.
This might even work out, if the geographical distribution would actually coincide with the wandering of said Irishmen. Beliefs in the afterlife of pagan Celts would have been near enough to warrant such beliefs being transported into Christian custom like so many others. There is a catch, though. Saint Columba and Saint Gallus travelled and preached extensively in Switzerland and the Black Forest, Gallus even ended up near Lake Constance where the monastery and city of St. Gall were founded. And there are no such tunnels to be found in Switzerland, as I said earlier.
And finally my favourite theory: the demons’ dungeon. The tunnels were used to imprison demons, hobgoblins, bad ghosts, the undead, and other creepy crawlies of the supernatural. Some few tunnels show methods to block them off, but only a few. There is one find of a relief showing a hobgoblin. Otherwise the tunnels seem to have been open at the entrance. I personally would have found it unsettling to know that the opening to a place where demons rage would open into my cellar.
However you turn it, the lack of evidence makes almost every explanation possible. Feel free to start your own theory. One thing you may be sure of: You’ll find all kinds of spiritual and religious weirdoes propagating their own brand of ‘explanations’. Have fun with them despite the fact that the Pastafarians haven’t yet laid claim to the spaghetti tunnels.