It is a great tribute to the drawing power of local author, researcher and dowser, Paul Broadhurst, that over 60 people braved the dire weather forecast of gale force winds and driving rain to travel from the four corners of the known world (well, an area bounded by Redruth, Bude, Teignmouth and Plymouth) to hear him talk.
While Paul is, perhaps, best known in dowsing circles for his former collaboration with Hamish Miller, and the co-production of the seminal works The Sun and the Serpent and The Dance of the Dragon, his latest project has taken him deeper into the realm of mythology – to a place where legend and history merge, leaving us with a half-remembered past and a none-too-certain present.
St George is one of those everyday icons that we take for granted, but that we could probably not place either in history or hagiography. The one-time Roman centurion come Lebanese knight has become the patron saint of a swathe of countries, cities and regions across Europe and beyond. Yet, his origins are unclear to say the least.
PB made a convincing case for the erstwhile dragon-slayer being none other than the archetypal Green Man. His mythical attributes, his geographical distribution and his absorption into the mainstream of a raft of religions and philosophies lends weight to his theory that St George is less of a superannuated armoured warrior and more an elemental force.
Only comparatively recently has his relationship with the dragon/ serpent/worm become one of the conquistador pitted against the devil. Throughout recorded history the dragon - and the dragon’s power - has been embraced, encouraged and revered. This is evidenced not only by the wealth of dragon images protecting holy places and sacred spaces, but by the ubiquitous use of serpentine iconography to denote the beneficial power of nature - from Egypt to Scandinavia, from Britain to China.
The concept of the spiralling energy of the earth, vitalising the fields and the forests, is stock-in-trade for dowsers the world over. At a time when politicised religion feared the destabilising, unseen force of the natural world, dowsers and dragons were convenient bogey men. But while the established Church demonised the whole concept of working with the energy of the natural realm for over five centuries, the ingrained influence of the Green Man never quite went away. Indeed, he was quietly brought into the institutional fold - where his image remains, emblazoned across fonts and roof bosses, cloisters and rood screens, from Camborne to Chartres to Constantinople.
Paul has personally visited a multitude of sites across the UK and Europe, on what he describes as a grandiose church-crawl (a bit like a pub-crawl without the alcohol). While he is clearly a dedicated student of the field, the ideas he has developed and the images he uses in his presentation are very much his own.
This was a virtuoso performance from an accomplished professional, who had the audience enraptured for almost two hours. Paul could clearly have carried on talking all night, without ever straying from the interesting or the insightful, and was only obliged to call a temporary halt to the stream of consciousness by the imminence of throwing out time. Even then, many people sought to ask personal questions and discuss detailed points with him – and I never did find out if he managed to acquire a cup of tea somewhere along the line.
During 2007, the TDs marked their fifth anniversary - and a celebratory cake was cut by Alan Neal, and distributed to the assembled multitude, as a mark of this achievement. We have come a long way, from a time when four of us could spend an hour or so examining a standing stone and feel we had had a good afternoon’s dowsing, to attracting a significant attendance for a leading exponent of the genre.
I would like to take this opportunity of acknowledging all those who have contributed to sustaining the TDs in these early years - and trust that they, and others, will help the group to evolve in the years ahead.
My personal thanks to Paul Broadhurst for adding gravitas to our special day, to John & Ruth, Annie & Ros for providing refreshments to an unexpectedly large turnout, to Jacki for relieving the punters of their cash and signing up several new members and, as ever, to Pete and Jenny for organising North Hill Village Hall, without which we would have been very wet and cold.