There are good dowsing weekends and there are great dowsing weekends. This one exceeded all expectations right across the spectrum – a bit like dowsing itself, really.
The first South West Festival of Dowsing (DFest) was held in South Zeal, which is a postcard pretty, tucked away sort of place, nestled under the bleak northern edge of Dartmoor, and overshadowed by the looming bulk of the mighty Cosden Beacon (well, it’s big by our standards!). It’s the sort of place that is easily bypassed, even by many who have lived in the South West for years. But this is a secluded village with a long history, and plenty of 21stcentury experience of hosting such events, as it has been the venue for the burgeoning Dartmoor Folk Festival for many a year. With its two excellent pubs – one much haunted and containing an in situ Menhir, the other with a good camping field, and a bit more space – not to mention a very serviceable village hall, this was an ideal and very compact place, right next to a vast and beckoning open space, for a coming together of the open hearted and the open minded.
Originally conceived by the Somerset Dowsers and the Devon Dowsers as an event within an hour and a half’s drive from most of the likely participants – it ended up as a wonderfully intimate gathering of dowsers from right across the south and west of England. Support was forthcoming from members of both the Trencrom and the Tamar Dowsers, and counties from Sussex to Gloucestershire to Cornwall were all well represented, together with a scattering from further afield.
The hope was for an attendance of at least 50, with both the Devons and the Somersets tentatively chipping in to underwrite the endeavour. The eventual turnout of well over 100 could hardly have been anticipated.
The vibe was in full flow right from the outset. National (dowsing) Treasure, Ann Lodygowski, set the ball rolling in her inimitable style, recounting her own introduction to the craft, and her personal history of living in the village as a teenager. Normally known largely for her great experience in animal communication, this was AL explaining many of her broader insights, and how she came to gain that experience.
Mandy Bennett kept the flow moving nicely with a well-balanced and well-prepared presentation about the aspects of her work as a professional health dowser relating to dowsing and healing of land – including examples of some of the sites on Dartmoor chosen for Outings during the weekend. Again, a nice blend of the personal and the professional – concepts in action, and theories in practice.
Basking in the quite exceptional Dartmoor heat (just for once, not an oxymoron), by lunchtime on Day 1 people were already whispering in hushed tones to one another about how, when and where the next DFest would be held. What!
The afternoon saw most of us breaking into groups to do some outdoor dowsing in the superb scenery, and under perfect blue skies, in the strangely semi-arid landscape of the surrounding area. Others had the indoor option of two excellent workshops, run by Somerset’s Sarah Shaw.
The evening was spent socialising and networking with friends old and new. This was very much the mood of the moment – and one of the great successes of DFest 2018.
The morning of Day 2 saw us visiting more special sites, both around Dartmoor and closer to the village, for some practical dowsing and helpful demonstrations. Another workshop, with Ann Lodygowski demonstrating remarkable healing techniques to those present, was a parallel opportunity for those who hadn’t bargained on a couple of days of intense Mediterranean weather.
John Moss, of the Trencrom Dowsers, provided the afternoon entertainment, with his own stories of coming into dowsing, and of being the Director of the British Society of Dowsers for several years. John’s talk was deliberately challenging, but laced with good humour, and provided a welcome dose of grounding, as well as advice for all comers, based on his own experience. His approach was particularly valuable for those entering our exciting new arena for the first time.
The weekend ended, far too soon, with a Panel of the more experienced fielding some well-directed questions from the floor. It was a forum in which some of those just setting out felt comfortable in speaking up, and those who have been around for rather longer were generous in sharing their experience. How do you move an energy line; what is ‘Michael & Mary’; who says ants like detrimental energy; Hamish who? It’s good, and rewarding, and necessary to get back to dowsing basics from time to time.
Punters still had the opportunity to buy dowsing paraphernalia, including the specially commissioned DFest merchandise, which they purchased in some volume – and to get hold ofinformation about the BSD and its activities.
For a few fortunate hours, novices and those needing a little more confidence rubbed shoulders with some of the more experienced professionals and practitioners in the South West. Both groups learned a lot from one another, with dowsing taking the role of the bee in the flower garden.
Low cost, low tech, low impact – but maximum interest, enjoyment and camaraderie. This was unashamedly old time dowsing at its very best, albeit with an injection of new millennium enlightenment.
Inevitably, and rightly, Gwynn and Mandy may have been heavily focussed on getting their helpers and supporters through this adventure largely unscathed, but such was the unleashed power of the friendship of fellow travellers that, by the end of Day 2, there was already a surreptitious mini-Olympics process underway of bidding for the follow-up.
Huge thanks go to Gwynn and Mandy for getting the venture up and running, which had clearly developed a momentum of its own from the very start. Many thanks, too, to the platoon of volunteers from the Devon and Somerset teams, who kept the show seamlessly on the road – and especially to Diana Burton and to John Stedman, who did most of the backroom paperwork and administration, which provided the pivot, around which the rest of this temporary miniature universe turned so smoothly.
Nigel Twinn June 2018
A more comprehensive review can be found on the website of the Devon Dowsers.