The Mystical Island of Portland
A zoom talk by Gary Biltcliffe for the
Tamar, Devon, Trencrom and Somerset Dowsers
It’s over a decade since Gary Biltcliffe first gave a version of this presentation to an astonished audience here in the south west. Zoom was something that happened when cars were driven by teenagers, and Gary and I were still being encouraged by Hamish Miller to get on with our own research. The world has moved on apace, and it is pleasing to realise that by no means all of it has been in a negative direction.
Gary, with his life partner Caroline Hoare, have spent the last 15 years tracing leys, alignments and the spirit of place, right across the UK - but it all started much closer to us, in his adopted homeland of south Dorset.
If you wanted to choose anywhere more interesting and individual, yet less trawled over or written into the ground, then the Isle of Portland would be an ideal first stepping stone of a very long journey. To visit the causewayed presq’isle today, you could be forgiven for not seeing the precious, invaluable, timeless, earth energy hub and information repository, but the quarried-out, post-military, prison island that it now hosts.
Right up to the last century, the relative isolation of Portland must have given it a very distinctive, if highly insular, sense of place. Gary’s research talks of people who rarely left the island - and who had their own approach and outlook, which was only loosely connected them to the mainstream world of the south of England. This self-sufficiency of the community meant that all but the most unusual of purchases could be made on the outpost, with employment, education and social support all available locally. Times have changed dramatically, but some of that idiosyncrasy lives on, albeit subtly.
Gary’s research initially pointed to a distinct ‘sub-race’ of Portlanders, many descended from sea-faring migrants - notably the Phoenicians and, later, the Huguenots. The Mediterranean people, in particular, may have traded, settled and brought arcane knowledge of building techniques - and even of the interpretation of such heretical ideas as (what we would call today) Earth Energy detection and application. As ever with such time-distanced inspired intuition, the physical and academic linkages are tenuous and obscured. However, the case for this handed-down information transfer is building, and Gary is still very much on it. Throughout his later work on the Belinus line, he has also drawn parallels with the pre-modern population of the Isle of Wight - and the two offshore havens may indeed have socio-genetic similarities.
Perhaps the most important breakthrough for the Portland project was Gary being led to the largely untapped local archive of Clara King-Warry (1856-1940), whose own well-documented research pinpointed the existence of seven former stone circles and numerous other fading historical and archaeological features. What Biltcliffe and Hoare bring to the party is the rediscovery of many of the sites of these long-lost megaliths by dowsing - and, even more importantly, their relationship both to one another, and to the wider sacred landscape. Add to this the interrelationship with Christian churches, both ancient and comparatively modern, and we have a subtle matrix of material and informational patterning, worthy of any such complex, anywhere in the world.
One of the other undercurrents, largely intangible to the outsider, is the input and impact of freemasonry to this scenario. Whether or not southern sailors brought Egyptian or Phoenician secret knowledge to the outskirts of Weymouth is, as yet, unproven. But, the use of earth energy networks to determine the location of comparatively contemporary churches and institutional buildings on Portland is there for even the novice dowser to determine. Into modern times, three freemasonry lodges have been active on the isle and the complete silence, even of a rebuttal to Gary’s seminal book, which makes explicit reference to the subject, from that source may indicate a degree of tacit acknowledgement that the Lancastrian decorator has detected a significant piece of the etheric picture. Modern masons may, or may not, have the insight of their distant forebears, but the architect Christopher Wren - a high-ranking mason in his day - spent a great deal of time on Portland, where much of the stone was sourced for the rebuilding of London’s grand buildings following the Great Fire of 1666.
While few of the discoveries on Portland are unique in dowsing terms, there is such a concentration of earth energy features, in such a small geographical area that it makes the location a priceless treasure trove for the 21st Century diviner. In particular, Gary has been guided to examine not just the straight alignments there - of which there are several, clearly evident - but also precise circular groupings of churches and former megalithic sites. A circular ley would be a contradiction in terms, so maybe we should call them circuleys! Not only do these appear to exist, and can be confirmed by anyone with the time and inclination to do so, but on the map they form two large overlapping circles, creating a virtual Vesica Piscis between them - with a further circular feature within the VP forming an ‘eye’. Sceptics may claim that there are so many potential arrangements within the compact landscape that they could form a number of potential arrays - and Gary would be the first to acknowledge that not every significant point appears in every emerging pattern. However, the information is there to be sensed and/or tested as you think fit - and I am sure that Gary and Caroline would welcome your feedback, and any additional input you may derive on site or by map dowsing.
Perhaps the greatest service given to us here is that we can look at our own local landscapes in a new, or at least an enhanced, manner - and we can find out whether we, too, have such features in our own backyards.
From Wight to Orkney, Thanet to Scilly, island and peninsular communities have developed and, to some extent, preserved a previous idea of meaning in, and on, their landscapes. The example of Portland is perhaps one of the most intriguing and the most understated - and all the more interesting for it.
In the early years of the century, Gary’s book about Portland was always about to come out. It was a slow burner, but eventually, it did indeed burst into the light. So let’s hope that his current Covid-retarded project, considering an alignment of special sites between Iona and Lindisfarne is a little more timely.
If he can do for the Northumbrian Tourist Board what he must have already achieved in south Dorset, he should be welcomed with open arms!
Many thanks to Gary Biltcliffe for zooming with us - and for conveying his enthusiasm for this very personal endeavour.
Gary Biltcliffe’s book The Spirit of Portland - Revelations of a Sacred Isle is available in a recently revised edition from all good bookshops - and elsewhere, if you must!