The Language of Dragons
A Pilgrim’s Glossary
A Zoom talk by Sean Ferris to
The Tamar Dowsers, the Devon Dowsers and the Trencrom Dowsers
Somewhere between the late middle ages and the early twentieth century the practice of pilgrimage - following a time-honoured route across a special landscape - went into steep decline. Western society, in particular, has become focused on outcomes; reaching the goal is now all-important; how we reach it is just the bit in the middle.
However, today, the concept of the journey as a fundamental aspect of personal development is making a progressive comeback. The act and the process of processing are starting to matter again.
As the routes to Santiago de Compostella across southern France and northern Spain have shown, pilgrimage never quite went away. But from the early days of modern dowsing it has started to re-appear in a radical new - at least newly re-energised – guise. Tracking the serpentine is almost back on the radar.
Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller have etched their names, however unintentionally, on the grail of the grail quest, by rediscovering some of the ways of the ancient wayfarers - but, perhaps more importantly, they also chanced across whythose ancient routes were established in the first place. The pilgrim’s torch has passed to Gary Biltcliffe and Caroline Hoare to extend and to flesh out some of the other major paths around the UK - but here, local dowser and healer Sean Ferris, adds his own unique experience, and in so doing takes the whole undertaking one stage further.
While the new religion understood the significance of the ancient ways, it took until the late twentieth century, and long after the actuality of pilgrimage in Albion had all but disappeared, for the real purpose of the activity to be re-envisioned for a new era. The goal is just orientation, the real purpose of the journey is the interaction with the current itself.
All along the way, generations of pilgrims have left clues - some quite blatant and deliberate, other secretive to the point of encryption. Line walkers, and especially line communicators, have often been unwelcome in the period of materialist orthodoxy, and it has often paid to keep the way-markers at least half-hidden. But for those with eyes to see - or rather with senses to sense - the clues are still there. The portals of the open-minded are re-opening, and the physical reassurance provided by monuments, place names, local history and sensory clues are there to be found - just metaphysical tips of a non-physical iceberg.
Sean has tracked many of these remarkable lines across the westcountry and way beyond. But while the first new generation of flow followers (Miller, Broadhurst et al) was largely responsible for rediscovering their existence, and the next (Biltcliffe, Hoare et al) is spending much valuable effort establishing them in local landscape history, Ferris has followed his own itinerary into a different hinterland - re-uniting the earth-energy-defined pilgrimage routes with the legends and the myths of the geography in which they are hosted.
In this sense, his work is reminiscent of that of Barry Brailsford in Aotearoa and Andy Norfolk in Cornwall, but he extends that significance to the ‘Arthurian’ collective of olde England, and encompasses people and movements still active in the UK today.
Sean finds his earth energy currents in pairs, much as his own mentors have done, and he names the lines he finds after their perceived qualities - Arthur and Guinevere, Grail and Lance, Merlin and Vivienne. Are these existential essences? Sean encourages the line listener to find them for themselves, and to come to their own conclusions. This is every pilgrim’s journey, not his alone.
Sean makes the point that each of his lines have individual qualities that can be sensed - and may have been similarly sensed by others in times gone by. As a consequence, they seem to have energies that are more archetypal than categorical, and are often associated with mythical (and not so mythical) beasts – Dragons and Unicorns, Lions and Bears.
In the Q&A session at the end of Sean’s talk, it was mooted that questers might be picking up the landmarks and indicators that they sought - possibly seeing only the dragons on their own route, rather than everywhere. This is so often the Achilles heel of all earth energy dowsing - finding what you want to find, and struggling to remain independent of the plethora of incoming information. However, Sean pointed out that while this was indeed possible, his own interest had been spurred on by the recurrence of unicorn motifs and references when, prior to his journeying, he had virtually dismissed the unicorn as a ‘serious’ beast, even in mythical terms.
Sean has always had a laid back and deeply engaging presentational style. In fact the zoom format worked in his favour, portraying him as the worldly wise pilgrim chatting to you personally over the kitchen table, only needing a log fire and a couple of tame ravens to eliminate the presence of time altogether.
But this was also very much a talk about his own journey, from his educational years at Dartington College, through his travels around the UK and far beyond, and back to his westcountry roots. (He now lives in Totnes, in a house with a dragon sculpture under the eaves!). Moreover, it was a description of his own internal journey - a pilgrimage of the soul, and the development of a transcendent worldview. He is very open and accepting that life has not led him on a straight course, and he has had his share of downs as well as ups, but it seems that all of these experiences are gradually being gathered together into a more meaningful tapestry.
He illustrated his ethereal travelogue with images of some of the many places of significance along the routes he has taken, including a whole raft of well-known locations in the south west that can now be reinterpreted, yet again, in a subtly different context. It’s easy to become so familiar with a place that a refreshing new take on its significance can actually come as a real surprise, even to the long-standing diviner.
Rather like reading The Sun and the Serpent for the first time, this talk provokes the immediate urge to get out and find some of this stuff on the ground for yourself. But while that would be a good starting place - and every pilgrim has to take a first step from somewhere - and it would certainly be good fun, it’s not really the core of the quest. One of the key messages that we can all take away from this talk is that we are all on our own pilgrimages. We can certainly heed the guidance and take heart from those who have trodden the route - well, a route - before us, but we have to make this journey under our own steam.
As Sean points out, there are lots of milestones and subtle indicators to help you, if you can see them but you, yourself, have to do the virtual, perhaps even the physical, walking. In conveying this, I feel he is expressing his inner Buddhist.
While some dowsing fundamentalists may find aspects of Sean’s work to be insufficiently grounded, and at times SF is clearly flying a kite to see how the wind blows, when we live in times where the Court Jester has usurped the Crown of the ageing Monarch, it all seems positively down to earth!
Many thanks to Sean for taking his own first step into zoomland with this presentation - and for coping so well with such a large audience and an edgy internet connection.