When the sun stands still, albeit briefly, that sense of something special happening behind the scenes can creep up on you. OK, you know it’s coming and what will happen next but, unlike some of the grimly commodified festivities of the social calendar, the half-forgotten celebrations of the old religion - or should that be the old philosophy - still carry a subtle sense of something sensational.
Bodmin Moor can be an unforgiving place even on a nice day, but at 04.00 in the morning it manages to become both sinister and inviting. A place where the old ways meet the new thinking, with no prisoners sought or taken. A good time to be with friends and colleagues - fellow travellers at the turning of the celestial tide.
Come the day, the dowsing and the dowsers are little more than a sideshow to the main event - but we do represent that continuity of an ageless way of understanding the steady turbulence of the energies beneath our feet interacting with those of ourselves. No doubt those from the ancient of days might have been perplexed at the diviners’ copper rods and sparkly crystal pendulums - but they would have understood their purpose. Like the solstice celebrations themselves, it is something that has transcended the ages, simply because it is still there to be felt, seen, experienced, enjoyed and, if you must, measured.
The three circles at the Hurlers, slightly off a dead straight alignment, and arguably a mirror of the heavens above, mark (or acknowledge) the large geological fault below them. The circle builders could have chosen anywhere on this vast open wilderness of moorland to site their calendar/temple/place of pilgrimage or hearth of healing. But no, they chose this one precise spot where the fault has abruptly disrupted the rock strata below - and, for good measure, interacts with all sorts of other, also essentially geological, earth energy features. Five thousand years ago, you couldn’t have picked up that sort of information by any other method than your own intuition, whatever name it bore at the time - any more than you can today.
What we are only just rediscovering is the interactive nature of that earth energy, as sensed by those of us gripped by gravity onto the surface of Gaia. As the energy courses through the circles, and the celestial bodies rotate on their axes as they rush through spacetime, the humble humans sense the changes and, if they so choose, react according to their culture and inclination.
I flagged up four of the major currents traversing the centre circle just prior to arrival of the first revellers. They all expanded by a broadly similar amount - partly due to my presence, and partly to the presence of others, even if I was the only one taking any notice at that point. The expansion continued throughout the singing, and the dancing, and the playing, and the photography, and the dowsing, and the socialising. Maybe it was not quite as grand as in some years past, but it was consistent and definitive for all that.
Inside the circle, but offset from the geometric centre, Stuart Dow was experiencing the more rapid and more dramatic enhancement of an earth energy manifestation - ‘the length of the eight petals of the Flower of Life went from four paces to ten paces as the morris was danced’. Even before a couple of coffees, I sense that Stuart, and his energy, rises even more quickly than I do. Everything about dowsing is an interaction - the dowser and the dowsed - the individual consciousness and the universal consciousness.
Just as the assembled multitude were drifting back for a 06.00 breakfast, a small herd of belted galloways trudged through the ring grunting noisily as they did so in their family groups. If, as panpsychists claim, everything in the universe is conscious
at some level (and we are certainly not at the top end!) then the cattle must be sensing the energies too - churned up, albeit with good intent, by those strange bipeds with their colourful uniforms of tattered coats, atmospherically choroidal way with sound, and peculiar little flags that temporarily acknowledge the rise and fall of the all-too-obvious.
The ancients may have shaken their heads at our new-fangled musical instruments, odd ways of dancing and nerdy fascination at measuring the pulse of the planet - but they would also have recognised the beat of the drum, the pitch and rhythm of the singing, and the significance of the day. Our societies may be light years apart, but the proto-pagan and the post-Christian celebrants actually still have much in common in this cosmos to celebrate.
(images c/o Stuart Dow - more on his Facebook page LeyLines/Alignments/Earth Energies)