Dowsing for the Pulse of Totnes
I’ve never cracked Totnes; never really found its raison d’être. Arguably, it is one of the UK’s most alternative civil communities, and theoretically a dowser’s backyard – yet, when I gave a talk about the late Hamish Miller there, even with widespread publicity, it attracted an audience in single figures, and even then some of those who did attend had come ‘from away’. My offer to write a dowsing-related article for the local green magazine met with a ‘don’t call us, we’ll call you’ response. The nearest dowsing groups are far distant, to the north and to the west, and the British Society of Dowsers has never established much of a presence there.
It has been suggested to me that as an ability to use dowsing tools could be seen as ‘normal for Totnes’, my kind of talk might seem a bit pedestrian – or maybe it’s just that there is so much else going on in the town, every day of the week, that an input from an unknown outsider wouldn’t even register on the local radar. Either way, an invitation to carry out some informal personal tuition also gave me the opportunity to re-examine this enigmatic town from a different viewpoint.
We started with a basic session on Vire Island in the River Dart. As one might expect, there were abundant and varied water and energy lines, leys and thought forms. All very useful, and illustrative, but nothing out of the ordinary. We walked up to the old castle on its prominent mound; the physical core of the settlement from the dawn of human occupation well into the mediaeval period and beyond. Again, much excellent dowsing material, but nothing that hinted at life-giving heartbeat.
Our next stop was the red block-built parish church of St Mary. I had never been inside before, and I was quite surprised at the strength of the energy that I found there. As the dedication suggests, this a place with a predominantly female presence, with many of the major energy lines drawing the diviner down into the depth of the site. Perhaps, this is the solid grounding point of an area famous for its esoteric extravaganza. The energy in the church felt intense yet significant, almost heavy yet quite vital. I put into my cerebral filing tray a promise to return on another occasion. I might not have found the life-force, but at least I had found somewhere that might be helping to give the town some ethereal structure.
With the Devon drizzle edging up a notch, we ambled down the road in search of another indoor dowsary. Our next location was the old Totnes Guildhall. Having been a trainee Devonian for over 40 years, I am still constantly surprised at the remarkable ‘new’ places that I chance across through dowsing. The Guildhall is a Tudor structure in its current incarnation, but was an early Christian foundation for centuries before that – and I picked up at least one part of the masonry that dated back to Norman times. The entrance to the Guildhall is, bizarrely, actually through someone’s office in the Town Council. However, the incumbent was friendly and handed us a laminated information sheet. The next huge surprise was the uplifting energy in the building. As somewhere that had been used as a courtroom since mediaeval times, houses remarkably well preserved prison cells (including a ‘womens’ cell) and was used as a holding area for many of those to be deported on a one-way ticket to Australia, often for minor felonies, one might expect a certain amount of unpleasant residual remanence. But, not a bit of it.
The comparison with the sobriety church was quite startling – and dowsing the cause was a dowser’s dream. Running right across the courtroom chamber is a substantial earth energy line. On the day of our visit it was registering 8 out of 10 in terms of rising benevolent energy, and the metaphor that came to mind was one of a tap of pretty pure water from an almost-inexhaustible source that had been left running indefinitely for the benefit of anyone who needed it. It seemed that whatever trauma or suffering had befallen either the victims or the perpetrators of the events and decisions taken in the room, or lived out on the cells attached, it had long since been washed away by this ever-flowing stream. It is a super place to sit and contemplate the history of our culture, free from the burdens and baggage accumulated over the generations. A quick trawl of the psychic background, for demonstration purposes only, found the structure all-but neutral. For a town with such a rich tradition of celebrating the non-physical, perhaps it was not too surprising that the pains of the past have long since been quietly deposited into the Akashic Record. This might not have been the pulse I had been questing, but I had certainly chanced upon a carrier wave, that might be supporting the well-being of the town.
On our way back, my host was keen to make a slight detour, to show me a recently opened public open space. A former piece of leftover land has been bargained from the developers of some nearby social housing, to create a substantial community garden and children’s playing-area. As a former town planner myself, I was impressed that even the preservation and acquisition of such a large tract of very buildable urban greenspace had been achieved. It is no mean feat – and shows local community involvement very much in action. The site buzzed with the animated conversations of young mums, relaxing on artisan-designed benches, while their offspring played joyously on ingeniously sculptural installations. Even though the mizzle had developed a hardening edge, I was in no rush to leave. Here was a space of re-creation, which gently echoed the walled gardens of the cities of East Asia, where a dedicated tiny enclave of frangipani and goldfish ponds can provide a welcome respite from the massive pollution and manic traffic, just a few metres away.
At times, my attempts at deviceless dowsing can be embarrassingly nondescript, yet crossing the threshold into the community garden was a revelation. Entering the enclosure through the iron gateway felt like crossing the sacred boundary of a consecrated area – the tangible difference between the without to the within. I doubted if the area had ever been so designated, although in a town such as this there are doubtless many who could effectively erect a psychic protective shield.
With my conscious mind disengaging from the quest of the day, and starting to reconsider a trip home in the rush hour, I just glimpsed the essence of Totnes out of the corner of my mind’s eye. It is a town where a significant proportion of the population engages with the spirit of the place in a deliberately non-physical manner – an ill-defined mélange of overlapping auras, that results in the well-defined feel of a vibrant corporate community.
I might be no nearer to an occasional physical engagement with Totnes, but I did feel I came away with a much better understanding of what makes it tick.
Nigel Twinn May 2014