This very well attended event opened with Nick Thompson reading out the dictionary definition of a Pagan - ‘someone who is not a Christian, Muslim or Jew’. My own dictionary is not much help either in this respect as it, too, only indicates what Pagans are not, but not what they are. It certainly doesn’t tell us anything of the beliefs and outlook of the Pagan world.
There is evidently a huge overlap between the work and the worldview of the secular dowser and that of the practising Pagan. Each may come at the field of subtle energies from different directions, but there is a great deal of common ground - at least in the manner that both groups sense, and relate to, the surrounding environment.
Nick started off by demonstrating the extent of the aura that surrounds a person’s body – by walking towards the back of a volunteer until they felt the presence and then both participants raising a hand to signify the sensation of their auras touching. The simultaneous signals of the players were acknowledged by knowing grunts from the more experienced energy dowsers, and interested mirth from those who had not seen this demonstration before.
Having ‘chanced upon’ one of the few days of decent weather in February, Nick then took us outside to investigate a similar scenario - this time with some of the neighbourhood trees. Our first task was to measure the outer aura of a selected tree, which we managed with a reasonable consensus of crossing rods and twirling pendula. We then spent a few minutes ‘putting our energy’ into a selected tree. Different people had different ways of doing this.
Some of us just looked at it in a benevolent manner, while the more sensitive members of the group felt able to merge their own energy with that of the young chestnut. After we had input what we could of ourselves in our various ways, we measured the aura again with the same instruments. To the surprise of many, the dowsable aura of the tree had expanded way off across the playing field and out into the adjacent graveyard. Something significant had happened.
Various people also noted that what had originally been found as a single ring, at about the spread of the dormant branches, was now a series of concentric rings or turns of a spiral winding out from the trunk to the full extent of the manifestation. Nick explained that these were the bands of the tree’s aura that related to the various elements of it - similar to the chakra bands in the human aura. We then investigated the auras of other types of tree, to try to understand or sense the differences between them - ash, hawthorn, even ivy. Not all the auras were circular and some felt more comfortable than others. Doubtless there were other complexities to be teased out from this experiment, but a Cornish field still awaiting the arrival of spring is not a place to linger about, in a meditative manner, so we decamped back into the warmth of the hall at this point.
The next practical demonstration of engaging with natural energy saw us working in pairs and small groups to ascertain the auras of other group members. People who were in good health and of a comfortable disposition had more or less circular auras, which reached out to the extent of their outstretched arms. Those who were ‘under the weather’ for some reason had smaller and, in some cases, irregular auras. While the minutiae of these findings were not the purpose of the experiment, it was interesting and illuminating to note that auras vary from person to person and that they can provide specific indicators of the physical, mental, emotional or spiritual health of the subject.
Our last session involved the use of various small twigs, each marked with the name of the host tree in Ogham (the runic alphabet, which was in use in what we now call Britain, before the arrival of either the Romans or the Anglo-Saxons). The aura of a chosen subject was measured, as before, by a number of other participants - to establish a baseline. The subject then selected a twig from a large mixed pile and sat holding it for a short period. Their aura was then re-measured by the others. While there may have been an expectation, given the set-up of the task, of some modification of the aura, it surprised most of us to find just how large that change could be - and that it could have either a positive or a negative effect on the sitter. Different woods seemed to have different effects on different individuals, which Nick explained as the interplay of the energy of the person with that of the wood. There seemed a lot to take in here, but suffice to say, we were all talking intensely with one another by question time.
This may have been just a taster session, but it was an intriguing introduction to the outlook of Paganism - and how that view could be compared with the activity of the dowser. Nick and his colleagues regard the world around them essentially as a network of natural energies, with which they can work. Many dowsers, from a wide range of creeds and denominations, are doing much the same. The lyrics may change over time, but the song remains the same.
Such is the media-mangled image of the Pagan that at times it seems hardly to have moved on since the Roman invasion. Indeed, many of the large audience attending this talk might have wondered quite what to expect. What they got was a thoughtful, professional presentation by an experienced landscape gardener with a practical, but very personal, approach to the natural world.
Many thanks to Nick - and to his partner Jo - for providing us with a stimulating, and quite different afternoon of dowsing at North Hill. Thanks, too, to all those who have organized the Hall and provided the refreshments over this highly successful Winter Season.