Plus ça change - plus c’est la même chose. Everything changes yet, on some level, it always stays the same. It’s an old (French) adage that sums up much of our dowsing activities very succinctly.
Looking back though the archives, I found that it was over a decade since our first visit to the ruined mediaeval manor house at Penhallam close to the permeable border between north Cornwall and north Devon. Since that time, some things have changed profoundly, whilst others are preserved, as if in aspic. The footings of the moated old house remain intact, nicely tidied up and made accessible by our friends at English Heritage. The path into the site now winds through quietly rejuvenating woodland, such that the first glimpse of the building itself is one of the remanence of a fortified fairytale castle in a forgotten forest clearing - quite unexpected and tending towards the storybook magical. In fact, the house never needed its largely cosmetic battlement defences, and the tree cover surrounding it is a relatively recent addition.
The most significant change was to ourselves. In 2002, we were a bunch of mainly newish dowsers, investigating sites like this in our formative years. In 2013, with well over 100 varied events under our belts, we were approaching it with much greater maturity and a stronger platform of experience - yet, as ever, the exciting and the unexpected were lying in wait for us.
Like most sites of this type, the robbed-out ruins cocooned in neatly tended grass are just the latest in a string of uses of the site. Dowsing indicated that the current remains were preceded by another structure, built mainly of masonry. Before that again, a wooden building or buildings occupied the space - and so on, back to at least the early Bronze Age. Such places seem invariably to be crossed, or even determined, by the presence of leys. Here, two surprisingly strong (well, I was surprised!) energy leys still stride through the ruins. One enters through the original main entrance - albeit slightly at an angle to the current building line. Another crosses it almost at a right angle, passing through the site of the altar of the former chapel.
The crossing point itself appears to lie just outside the chapel wall, lying incongruously in the entrance passageway. This implied that the latest incarnation of Penhallam was built by those who no longer worked instinctively with the embedded energy lines. For some reason, I was inspired to ask for the boundary of the chapel’s consecration and realised that I was in a still-sacred Christian space. As the building fell out of use and was progressively demolished, it seems no one thought to decommission the chapel element energetically - so, active it remains.
In addition to the usual energies of a religious site, there were some very tight spirals present, as if wound up into the confined space available. These were next to a spot that dowsed as having once hosted a burial that predated the stone buildings - although there were no longer any bones in the ground to be found.
We worked our way around the site, individually and in small groups, examining the former uses and formats of the various rooms. As very British Dowsers, we spent a while working out the operational use of the toilets. The presence of a former upper story added to the possible uses of each area of floorspace and, while the interpretation board gave us a steer, we found that our own findings sometimes differed. We followed in the tracks of former inhabitants, which led us to discover the locations of demolished staircases. Here Paul’s aurometer pointed straight up to the sky, which was both amusing and educational!
In the (rather modestly sized) great hall, I traced the outline of the main dining table - with a separate ‘top table’ on a raised podium for those of highest status. Knowing that one of the energy leys traversed the seating space, I looked for any energetic indication that might have determined this part of the house to be The Hall. Dowsing indicated that those present during that last incarnation of the building were not aware of the underlying energies, but that they nevertheless had a profound affect on the diners as they discussed the important matters of the day. What I was led to find there was a very significant aspect in the study of earth energies. While dowsing in Guernsey recently, my wife, Ros, and I had found an infinity shape (∞) in the ether of certain passage graves on the island. This shape was difficult to trace as it kept moving. In fact it was rotating on a fixed axis – a bit like the movement of a propeller. Under the Penhallam feasting table, I found this hugely energetic feature again - but this time, and assisted by a prompt from who-knows-where, I realised that there was not one, but two lemniscates (to use the original greek name), one ‘within’ the other, rotating in alternate directions. While this resonates with the concept of the natural balance of life and all reality, it is still far too early in the investigation of the phenomenon to draw too many conclusions. However, it opens up yet another area of research - in a field burgeoning with more questions than answers.
The impeccably behaved canine member of the party barked and became agitated just once - as she found herself at the junction of the two energy leys - but returned to impassive inscrutability thereafter.
I felt that if we could have fitted her up with a couple of rods somehow, she would have shown us something interesting, beyond the sensitivity of the human spectrum.
There is something for everyone at Penhallam - and we vowed not to leave it another decade before we returned. The earth energies were much stronger than I had remembered - or had anticipated - and for the historically-minded there was a seemingly bottomless pot of fascinating features to study. For good measure, we came across a potential new member for the TDs, and even managed to befriend - and carry out a bit of impromptu dowsing training for - a young French couple, who were only looking for their self-catering cottage.
As a joint event between the Tamar and Devon Dowsing groups, this was an excellent opportunity for the cross-fertilisation of ideas and methods - and we resolved to undertake further collaborative ventures in the years ahead.
Many thanks to those of both groups for attending this most enjoyable event – and, of course, to English Heritage for preserving the past for us to consider in the comfort of a mild and dry Cornish autumn afternoon.