Gathering along the Belinus Line

Gathering along the Belinus Line

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Belinus is the ley line, an energy line on the earth’s surface, that runs from the north to the south of Britain. This energy line is made up of the male and female currents, Bel and Elen. Our quest went from Gretna Green to Langholm; with the help of professional dowser Grahame Gardner and Dr. Jan Hogarth, we explored the development of human gathering places and sacred spaces along this section of the energy line.

Our small group of intrepid winter questers met up in Gretna Green to gather at the Lochmaben Stone for our crash course in dowsing. We bundled up against the rather cold and windy weather that lent a certain mystic atmosphere to the day. We passed out L-shaped dowsing rods, two each, made of brass, set aside any doubts or skepticism, and had unexpectedly good results for a group of raw beginners.

Grahame demonstrated some general dowsing techniques explaining how to focus your thoughts when dowsing for energy or water, to ask your rods questions, and to let them respond. We practiced trying to locate the energy line by asking for the center and then for the edges, walking back and forth across the area where Grahame’s rods responded. After few tries, each of us managed to get a locating response, so moved on to learning about the energy directions. Each line is made up of energy bands that flow in alternating directions. Because there is always an odd number of bands, the direction that more bands flow in, is the overall direction of the energy flow, and in our practice area the energy flowed directly towards the stone we were headed for.

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I found that my rods sometimes moved very confidently, and at others, they moved slowly in a halted and jerking response as though they were not impressed with my amateur focus and meandering thoughts wondering if the wind was affecting their movements. We were passed a small cardboard slip with an array of color blocks. We were to use these to see if we could find the color of the line’s energy. Most of the group agreed that the line responded to blue that day, while I confess that I never got the hang of figuring out the line’s color. At least I was much better at distinguishing the direction of flow in the energy bands.

We crossed the fields at Old Graitney farm to what was left of the stone circle here. Most of the stones have been removed or buried, but two remain. One is half buried, embedded in the fence line, and the other sits mostly above the ground a few meters away looking out at the Solway. The Lochmaben stone has been a gathering place throughout history. It is thought to have been a central site for Celtic worship of Mabon, a god of fertility. Armies have assembled, fought, and exchanged prisoners here. Even the energy line currents gather; we watched Grahame use his rod to follow the paths of the two nearby lines as they converge in a node at the stone then return to their paths.

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Jan is the group’s expert at finding energy vortexes; her dowsing rods spin in circles whenever she finds them. There is usually an energy vortex over the top of the stones, because of something termed “megalith energy bands.” Earth energy is absorbed into the stone creating seven bands or chakras that flow in opposite directions, five of which are above ground. We used our rods to find the fifth band and place our hands on it. By moving our feet farther away from the stone and slightly bending our knees, we can feel the energy of the fifth band. Grahame said that the energy pushes you off the rock, twisting you in the direction of the energy band. On this rock, I could feel the energy pulsing through my palms up my forearms to just below my elbow, but it did not push me away like it did for others. We tried again at the end of the day at another stone circle. There, I felt the twisting power pull one rock out from under my hands.

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The remnants of this stone circle is an ancient one, but as time passes and more people gather at the energy lines, newer structures are layered on top. Our second stop, Half Morton Church House in Chapelknowe was built in the late 18th century just to the North of the Lochmaben stone along the current. In the churchyard, are graves inscribed with reiver family names, border raiders with a long history of turmoil and war, at rest in their place of worship. However, in the fields behind church are the parallel lines of a neolithic cursus, long earthen banks that are some of the oldest monuments in the British Isles. They are easiest to see by aerial photography, but Grahame was able to dowse them from a distance.

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We also had a chance encounter with the current owner and resident of the church house. He was happy to talk to us and share the story of how he came to live there. He told us that after a very difficult time in his life, he experienced a calling to convert to Christianity, sell his business and relocate to this church. His story is the latest of people called to this spot throughout time as layer upon layer of gathering places have been built here from 3000 B.C. to the present.

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According to Grahame, the male energy current is usually aligned with elevated parts of the landscape while the female energy current is associated with the valleys and low areas of the landscape. The supposed location for the ruins of St. Bride’s Chapel, for the Celtic-British mother goddess, is unusual because it was located on the top of a hill along the feminine current. Unfortunately, here the elevation meant it was the windiest place in our excursion and far too windy to properly dowse; it was impossible to decide if any of the boulders in the field could have been the remains with the energy line running through it. While seeking shelter from the blowing wind, a few of us found a valley where there looked to be a spring, and we decided it could be St. Bride’s Well since our dowsing rods did find some energy there, which was an exciting and unexpected discovery.

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Continuing northward, we arrived at the merging of the Black and White Esk. The point where the rivers converge is a traditional gathering place called the Handfasting Haugh. The handfasting celebration was for unmarried people to commit to living with a companion of their choice for one year. After that year was up, they could choose to separate and make a new choice or to continue for life.

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Here we were protected from the wind, so we spent a lot of time from the bank practicing dowsing the water’s energy and using the dowsing rods to ask questions which required a very different concentration to dowsing energy lines. While we wandered we wondered together just how the dowsing works. The dowsing rods require concentration so it seems safe to assume that they do not channel the earth’s energy on their own. We wondered if perhaps, people used to be able to recognize and interpret this energy without the use of dowsing rods. Does that mean our bodies can still speak to the earth in a way that our mind has forgotten? So in this way does our body register the energy of the lines and help our hands make micromovements to move the dowsing rods without conscious noticing to tell us what we already know or is it something more mystical and mysterious?

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In this place, even the cloudy sky seemed lighter and the gurgling of the two rivers down their paths lent a vibrant serenity to this secluded area, as though the positive energy of generations of companionship ceremonies had permeated the rocks and grown into the trees, grasses, and mosses. Or did that positive energy originate from the line, which drew people to this place for their ceremony?

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Snow started to fall as we made our way to Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Center. This center was built on the location of an ancient holy spring along the feminine current, Elen. The temple and its surrounding gardens are peaceful and calm. It is a perfect place to break for tea in the cafe and meditation in the temple. We compared the energy at the river here to the river energies of our last stop. I thought that both places felt serene, however, the Handfasting Haugh was a joyful serenity compared to this quiet serenity covered in a light dusting of snow.

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To finish, we backtracked a little to two nearby stone circles, where Grahame taught us how to check for permission before entering a stone circle, an important step because sometimes the energies held by the circle can have negative physiological effects. Around the circles are thin concentric circles of energy, and inside is a convergence of earth energy and water lines, Each circle has multiple water lines flowing inward to a water upwelling with one water line flowing outward

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The first circle, the Loupin’ Stanes, is smaller with only 12 stones, only two of which are vertical. The one energy line that intersects this circle goes directly out between those two stones in a straight line to the Girdle Stanes, a much larger circle, half submerged in the river, with 26 stones of the original 45 remaining. This straight path between the two close stone circles has lead to speculation that the two were oriented to lead from one to the other. If this is true, I think it is more likely that the Loupin’ Stanes points toward the Girdle Stanes following the direction of energy flow to where a second energy line crosses Elen directly in the center.

This circle was our final point of gathering, where we wandered about in the snowy dusk exploring with our dowsing rods. Here is where we experienced the earth’s energy move us through the rocks for a second time that day, and although, I could not feel any energy from the fifth band of the third rock that I tried, it was the perfect rock for laying down and resting on. We took turns with the earth’s energy soaking up through our backs instead of twisting us away.

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Our path followed Belinus and along that line we found the sacred and spiritual gathering places of the ancient, the modern, and the in-between, sometimes built adjacent and sometimes layered on top of each other. Throughout the world castles, temples, and monuments have been built along these energy paths as people gather there, and we are left to wonder how much was intentional and how much was instinctual. We know that people built their sacred spaces in these areas, but we do not know if building those had an effect in the opposite direction. Does building on the energy line affect the path of the lines as well, like the lines curl and bend around the node of the Lochmaben stone? Ultimately, we are left with the wonderful thought that there is always more to discover.

Blog written by Laura Schrader who is studying “Environment, Culture and Communication” at University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus in Dumfries .

Bespoke Land Art Quest for American Artists Patty and Rick Volner

Patty and Rick Volner have been visiting some of the most important sites around the world for land art including Michael Heizer’s Double Negative, Nevada and Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty in the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

Patty, an artist and art therapist herself, is passionate about Andy Goldsworthy’s work and had been following his Striding Arches project as it was being constructed, visiting the Arches at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. I had worked closely with Andy and the local community to develop Striding Arches for an area of Cairnhead Forest above Moniaive in Dumfries and Galloway. Its was Goldworthy’s work that inspired me to study sculpture and I had done my MA dissertation his ephemeral work so I am also a great admirer of what he does.

Patty had contacted me just as I was setting up Quests and Retreats to ask about visiting Striding Arches so I offered to curate a Quest for her and her husband to look at Striding Arches and then go onto the Crawick Multiverse by Charles Jencks, also land art but a very different approach.

I met Patty and Rick in Moniaive where they were staying and then we headed up to the Byre at Striding Arches and I shared my knowledge and story about the projects development. From the Byre you can see the Bail hill Arch looking majestic on the top of the hill and framing the sky. It was a joy to talk with two people who admired Andy’s work and also were so interested in the surrounding landscape, the changes, the law, the forestry, the wildlife. We had some wonderful conversations before travelling back down the valley and making the decision to visit another Arch Andy had created in the river at Drumlandrig Castle, without double one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland.

I love serendipity when something remarkable happens…..Patty had a calling to go to follow the Arches and as we headed to see the Drumlandrig Arch who should we meet but Andy Goldsworthy himself out for a walk with his family….You couldn’t write it. Andy generously spoke about the Arch with us and Patty thanked him for giving his work to the world. It was a beautiful moment.

Afterwards we visited Charles Jenck’s Crawick Multiverse and talked through the different approaches to landart. The Multiverse is a landscape created from an open cast mine and illustrates current scientific theory.

“Dear Jan,

We thoroughly enjoyed our day with you seeing the local Land Art in southwest Scotland. It has long been a dream to visit the Striding Arches and it was a stroke of luck that we hooked up with you. Not only were we able to cover more ground that we would have on our own but coupled with your knowledge, experience and artistic connections our day was absolute genius! I am still floating on “cloud 9” after the excitement of finally seeing a couple of the Arches in their permanent home.  Dealing with the disappointment of realizing we were not going to make the climb to the Arch on the hill, forced to switch gears and look to another direction with out you we would not have known about the Arch in the Stream…..then low and behold as we approached the Arch in the Stream who do we meet but Andy Goldsworthy himself, what a thrill. Unplanned and unexpected a complete joy, thank you for introducing us! Walking the Multiverse with you was so interesting we are so glad you introduced us to Charles Jenck’s work. You gave us an experience we will cherish forever.

From the center of our hearts, we thank you,

~patty&rick”

What is fantastic about Dumfries and Galloway the region has such a breadth of internationally significant land art to see, to engage with, to discuss…..If you are interested in a landart Quest please get in touch there is so much to see.

If you are interested in a Bespoke Quest related to art, history, literature, mythology, spirituality with landscape, please talk to us we can create something magical for you….

Hartfell Spa – A Quest for the Mind, Body and Spirit

By: Nadiah Rosli

The signboard that greeted our group under clear blue skies in Moffat on May 7th located just a few metres before the Annandale Water Hall set the tone and pace for our quest. Akin to the winds that carried the word, ‘Hartfell Spa’ on the isolated road, we echoed each other’s names against the backdrop of this Border landscape. This exercise wasn’t merely a genial induction held between 9 individuals. Instead, it marked an immediate space of inclusivity and attentiveness to each other and our surroundings. Place names like our own, after all, are imbued with meaning, stories and memories. Indeed, this was a fitting introduction to the retreat guided by Environmental Artist, Jan Hogarth and Folklore Expert and Scottish Ethnologist, Dougie Strang to find the healing water of Hartfell Spa.

Dougie Strang, folklore expert and performers shares with us the secrets of Hartfell Dougie Strang, folklore expert and performers shares with us the secrets of Hartfell, the folklore of the landscape and reminded us of our ancient relationship to nature.

Dougie Strang, folklore expert shares with us the secrets of Hartfell's landscape

Dougie Strang, folklore expert shares with us the secrets of Hartfell’s landscape

What’s in a Name?

River Annan – In Irish mythology, Anu (or Ana) is the name of a goddess or great mother.

As we began our walk towards Hartfell, the highest hill in Dumfriesshire, we were informed that the gradation of space is not only defined by height. Culture and nature too, have stitched their enigmatic cloak across the landscape. Through Dougie’s engaging stories, together we unearthed Hartfell’s contours that have been carved by history, mythology and imagination throughout the centuries. The junction of 3 rivers (Clyde, Tweed and Annan) can be found on these hills which were also the abode of Neolithic dwellers, the Frisians and Celts. Perhaps, its most famous resident is the sixth century figure, the Wizard Merlin, who was believed to have spent his last years of exile in the wild forests of these Southern slopes.

We climbed higher on a grassy track and were asked to converge at the spring in silence. It was not just in sight that we approached the waters as all of our senses were magnified and the path demarcated our own zones of intimacy. Each step towards the Spa was connecting us to our presence at the hills while disconnecting us from the hustle and bustle of our lives. From ancient seers to the sickly, those who made their journey to the Spa were most likely guided by both external and internal compasses. We too, were pilgrims that day; our bearings shifting to what each of us were seeking for in the sojourn.

Pilgrims on our way to find the water

Pilgrims on our way to find the water

The Hartfell Quest was a delightful opportunity to journey into a sacred place through moments of solitude and conviviality, via interwoven paths of myth, folklore and language. An invitation to explore the landscape through sight, smell, sound, touch and taste enlivened the quest and heightened the stories heard as we walked. This confluence of the senses proved to be an enriching way to commune with the landscape and the other folk on the journey at a beautiful level of depth, glimpsing lives lived through experience, cultural values and memory – Jon Randall, Quest participant

Hartfell Spa

Hartfell Spa

Drinking the water from a victorian spa drinking jug

Drinking the water from a victorian spa drinking jug

The waters of Hartfell Spa which are rich with iron salts and minerals are famous for its healing and prophetic properties. It seems Hartfell water cures nearly everything according to a gentleman’s description in a Victorian travel book talking about Moffat’s medicinal waters: “I have likewise known many instances of its particular good effects in coughs proceeding from phlegm, spitting of blood, and sweatings; in stomach eruptions attended with headaches, giddiness, heartburn, vomiting, indigestion, flatulency, and habitual costiveness; in gouty complaints, affecting the stomach and the bowels;in obstructions and diseases peculiar to the female sex. It has likewise been used externally with great advantage, in teterous eruptions, and obstinate ulcers. Such is the strength of Hartfell water that it must be used sparingly”

We followed the gully and stream that brought us to the Spa and the quest culminated in the drinking of the water. One by one we entered through a small arch that led into a stone cellar. The wooden fence creaked as we had to bend low into the vaults. It is thought that Hartfell is an entry into the other world and this gesture at the Spa was somehow symbolic of the intersection between the tangible and intangible, the physical and the spirit. Soon, the rising wind was our receptive company and it could be appreciated why the Spa was a main source of spiritual wellbeing and inspiration for so many before us.

Jan Hogarth explaining the history of the Spa. Hartfell spa was discovered in 1748 by a John Williamson, whose memorial can be found in the old Moffat cemetery. It was considered into Victorian times and in some cases, even today as having healing powers.

“I thoroughly enjoyed our quest. I am still processing my experience. I enjoyed connecting with the land, the ever changing terrain and energy, the views and character of the water that flowed through the valley and trickled off the hills. Witnessing and sensing nature from so many perspectives, ancient nature, newness of saplings, the here and now in an instant of flowing water, nature’s embrace as I experienced the comfort and warmth of sitting in the grass. The engagement of the animals; the deer, the birds, the sheep and the poppy and penny too!

What stood out for me is despite being in love with nature I tripped myself up by believing I was more connected than I truly was. The moment of realisation came in the well, when silly me drank out of the muddy puddles on the well floor. Only when I turned around to leave did I spot the well the natural spring water!

Susie sharing her stories

Susie sharing her stories

Happy to report that even the muddy water up at Hartfell Spa is clean and pure – I suffered no ill-effects.” Susie Jamieson, Quest participant

After having lunch nearby the Spa, we headed down with a partner and exchanged stories of connection to nature, place and life. Later on the grass and heather, we shared our personal reflections. The Hartfell Spa was a conduit for these experiences as it was markedly a pensive occasion, fueled and nurtured by the 3-hour walk to the Spa.

“I enjoyed the relaxing company and a chance to talk about experiences and memories rather than the usual “what do you do” stuff. I also thought the mother of the rivers formation was awesome.” – Phoebe Marshall, Quest participant

The retreat concluded at the Annandale Water Hall with afternoon tea. These treats weren’t the only things that nourished us at the end of the journey. With our spirits refreshed, the encounters and connections we experienced – with fellow Quest participants, the landscape, folklore and stories of Hartfell will continue to be signatures that rest on us as we return to our daily routines.

The famous scones

The famous scones

“Cosmic speculation in good company, beautiful surroundings, rounded off by excellent scones!” – Will Marshall, Quest participant.

Nadiah is a postgraduate student of Environment, Culture and Communication at University of Glasgow, with a wide experience of conservation, including working as a Marine Communications Officer with WWF-Malaysia, an Environmental journalist with the Malaysian News Agency and a Programme Development Coordinator with APE Malaysia, a social enterprise working on improving captive wildlife welfare in the South East Asian region.

For more information about the Hartfell Quest and for opportunities to join the next one contact jan@wide-open.net or tel. 07801232229