At the last two sessions, we were drenched, then blown away. This time we were baked. Variety is as much the trademark of the weather of the south west of England, as it is of the world of the dowser.
Having weaved our various ways to our site through literally hundreds of serious Sunday cyclists, pumping and sweating their way through a strenuous time trial across Dartmoor, it seemed something of a relief to have actually reached our destination – a quiet cairn circle in a clearing of post-war pine trees.
Alan Neal had helpfully printed off a map of the area, as it had looked around the start of the last century. Today it is a conserved enclave in a dense forest, but in the early 1900s, there were a smattering of barrows and standing stones in an empty moorland landscape. This was a place of demarcated spiritual significance, long before the woodsmen reclaimed it for the commercial world.
Although intended as a day for those seeking to improve and enhance their skills, as ever, it turned out to be an outing of great interest to dowsers at all levels of experience – and of none.
We started with the basics, finding strong water, fault and earth energy lines running through the site. We had a look at an energy ley and at a line of consciousness – trying to sense the unique signature of the various lines, as best as one can in a group situation. Clearly, anyone could do any of this in the vicinity of their own home, but to get all the elements together in one place certainly helps the understanding that there are various types of similar dowsing target – all of which have their own feel and their own distinct presence. Distinguishing one from another is more down to practice than innate ability – and I would be the first to admit that I am well down the class on both counts.
We demonstrated some archaeological dowsing, with Gordon Ratcliffe showing how to date the various features of a site – in this case, a former wooden palisade, and the circumference of the former cairn mound, which seemed much smaller than the stone circle that had surrounded it suggested. Gordon also showed that the original grave, now represented by a central cist (robbed out stone tomb) predated the former cairn by some considerable time. He also showed how the entrance, which now comes off the road to the south, might well have faced east in times gone by.
We went on to have a look at some of the ‘manifestations’ and ‘pictograms’, originally brought into the public domain by the late Hamish Miller. In the middle of the circle, a manifestation of at least two circular, but saw-toothed, lines surrounded the cist. Nearby, and outside of the circle itself, we looked at a couple of enigmatic pictograms – one clearly floral in style and symmetrical, the other rather more abstract. We pondered the possible origins of these etheric images, with both the improvers and the more experienced dowsers offering suggestions and asking questions. It is at a moment like this that my own mentor, Billy Gawn, would disarmingly say ‘I’ve no idea, try it for yourself – and let me know what you find!’ It may be 80 years since the BSD was formed by retired members of the Royal Engineers – and we have certainly come a long way, both physically and philosophically in that time – but we still have more questions than answers, and the future is racing away from us all the time.
However, dowsing is not just about stones and lines. We also had a look at how humans interact with their environment. One of the first skills that I was taught by Alan Neal a couple of decades ago, was to follow in the footsteps of someone who lived in a place in times gone by. Having already established that we were in a place of meeting and, potentially, interacting lines of force, I chose to try to follow in the footsteps of a dignitary, who might have used this site a couple of millennia ago. Often when you try this as a public demonstration, nothing much happens and you end up looking a bit daft, but here the gods (or more accurately the ancestors) were with us. I followed the track of a priest (who turned out to be a priestess) entering the site, walking clockwise tight around the inside of the circle of stones and then doubling back on herself, before seeming to follow one of the saw-toothed lines of the manifestation that we had observed earlier.
The circle-dancers present declared that my movements (and I am no dancer!) looked quite akin to one of their own circle dances. Had the priestess actually been dancing on this sacred site? As you may have read elsewhere, my own dowsing experience at sacred sites is that dancing (probably, though not necessarily, with intent) will heighten and strengthen the energy lines present. It is as if the dancer is in active dialogue with the energy, or the spirit, of the place, in the performance of an act that is of significance to both parties. Just for good measure, and to try to get my own head around what I was doing, I tried to follow her a second time. However, not having been too specific about times and dates during the first demonstration (!), I found myself picking up someone completely different. Again, this was a woman, who entered the circle. This time she described an anticlockwise circuit just inside the circle of stones, and again she seemed to follow one of the saw-toothed patterns around the central spot, causing me to sway, not very elegantly, from side to side as I followed the rods. Were the priestesses really following the energy pattern in the ground, or in the ether? Was the movement really a dance, or was it them taking avoiding action around some form of stone or wooden obstructions? Did the intent of the dancing cause the pattern, or maybe modify it in some way? So many questions.
As a finale, I showed that the earth energy pattern here also mapped out three spirals in a triangular form – a common motif in Celtic culture. This was very similar to what Billy Gawn describes in his books as being found in the long barrows of Antrim and elsewhere. This site formerly hosted a mound, so maybe there is a pre-historic connection being displayed in the energy patterns here.
There is so much to discover in the non-physical world, wherever you live – and we are all taking the very first steps on that road of discovery.
Many thanks to Alan, Gordon and Annie for supporting this most enjoyable day.
Nigel Twinn, Tamar Dowsers June 2014