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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 .

A Legend in a Landscape

Ascending Hartfell with Queensberry hill in the distance.

Ascending Hartfell with Queensberry hill in the distance.

This quest was a return trip for some, like our fearless leaders: Justin K Prim, an upcoming Merlin scholar, and Jan Hogarth, a landscape artist. For others, it was our first time hearing the legends and standing in the places where they are believed to have occurred. When I met Jan that morning, she welcomed me with her message: the story is rooted in the landscape, so it takes on new meaning when we explore the legends while in the landscape.

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Illustration by Alan Lee

The story was of Merlin. This was not the wand-waving Merlin supporting the legendary King Arthur that I had grown up with. This landscape told the story of a tribal leader’s bard named Myrddin. He may be credited with shamanic or druidic magic in some sources or hailed as a prophet in others, but this Merlin felt much more corporeal than the magician caricature presented in many modern retellings of the legends. His was the story of a simple man fleeing into the wild forests in the hills of Southern Scotland, ‘driven mad with grief’ or maybe PTSD, and seeking sanctuary from his trauma and the enemies pursuing him. As with any legend it was a quest of imagination, but I think it was easier to picture this man running from his suffering with the grasses of the hills beneath our boots and the breeze on our faces.

Our quest group met up in Moffat, the spa town that blossomed due to the healing waters of the well we were seeking: the spring on Hartfell Ridge. Together we crossed the hills that are divided up into farm plots for sheep and deer to graze. Our first real pause was by a row of evergreens. There Justin read his first selection to us. He shared some poetry that tells the story of Merlin wandering in the forests, searching for food, struggling to survive, and running from the King of Strathclyde.

It’s not difficult to imagine the rolling green hills covered in forests.

However, it is jarring to remember that even these green and brown hills covered in growth and life are so fundamentally different now because of human impact. The forests in Merlin’s time, just before 600 C.E., would have blanketed the entire area apart from the very tops of the hills, according to the poems around a century old. One of our scientific questers tells us that this is because the ground at the top of the hills would have been too wet and boggy for trees to be supported. Now the hills are adorned primarily by long grasses, although seedling trees remind us that it may change yet again.

Justin recites....

Justin recites Myrddin poetry from the Black Book of Carmarthen.

Our journey to the top of the hill is punctuated by these pauses. We stop to catch our breath. We stop to drink water or take off a sweatshirt, but mostly we pause to listen and discuss. Justin reads to us, telling the story of Merlin’s journey over the same ground. Our discussions have an emphasis on this man, but also an emphasis on humanity in general. We talk about how climate change is changing these hills. We discuss the accuracy of these stories that were only written down at least 500 years after the stories were to have taken place. How much were they changed by the people who passed them on? How much came from the monk scholars who finally recorded these stories?

Laura contemplating the landscape view at lunch

Laura contemplating the landscape view at lunch

We ate our lunch sitting on the hill above the valley where the water rushes up out of the earth and turns into a river. Together we pondered the allure of nature, whether truly wild or a manicured nature like this one. Nature is a solace for us, a place to go in a time of struggle. We could all share stories of being hurt or shocked by life and finding refuge in the arms of mother earth, just like Merlin did when he fled in grief.

Nature holds wisdom for people to seek out in times of struggle.

A guru lives isolated on the mountainside. The Buddha found Enlightenment while meditating under a tree. It is a common thread wound through society. A troubled person can leave man-made order behind and seek the life of nature. The seeker returns to their with a sense of peace or new meaning. Merlin was seeking solace for his pain. Today we were seeking Merlin.

We made our way down the hill and into that valley. Following the path of many pilgrims looking for the healing waters of a chalybeate well, naturally rich in iron and calcium to heal their various maladies. Here we listen to the end of Merlin’s story. He has wandered for 50 years in these woods, tormented by poor mental health and paranoid of being taken prisoner. He was known as a prophet having visions primarily of death and war. Was it predicting the future or were they flashbacks? Poor, tortured Merlin drinks from the Hartfell Well and is miraculously cured.

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Jan Hogarth talking about the healing spring from the chalybeate well.

Stream above Hartfell spring

Stream above Hartfell spring

The story says, his mind returns to him then and despite being offered places in court, Merlin resolves to remain in the environment that has sheltered him for the past 50 years. There is nothing for him in the castles of civilization anymore. Maybe that is the true message that we search for in nature, how to give up the conveniences of modern life and live immersed in the natural world. If it is, we haven’t reached that point yet. Instead we return after drinking from the spring together.

Our story in the landscape ends where Merlin’s began. We make a short drive over to Longtown, just over the border of England. Hidden away in more fields is the remains of a fort. All that is left are the hills, built up as embankments to add an extra layer of protection for the fort defenders. The defensive nature of the structure is easy to see, and through the trees to the north, you can just make out the hills we had climbed earlier in the day with a river connecting the two landscapes.

Entering the woods close to the fort at the site of the battle of Arfderydd.

Entering the woods close to the fort at the site of the battle of Arfderydd.

Merlin Academics believe that this was the location of the Battle of Arfderydd. We look to the south with the Cumbrian hills in the distance and imagine the armies of the King of Strathclyde spread out across the fields between us in 573 C.E. Here the bard, Myrddin or Merlin, watched his Lord Gwenddoleu die with many of his closest comrades. It was from here that he fled after the long and bloody battle and after three days of mourning for his fallen.

Fort at the site of the Battle of Arfderydd.

Fort at the site of the Battle of Arfderydd where Lord Gwenddoleu and Myrddin resided.

We imagine even more. Could his madness be from more than just grief or PTSD? Could it be survivor’s guilt? If Myrddin were a shaman rather than a bard, could it have been his duty to raise the druidic mist to protect the army during battle? If that failed could guilt over not protecting those who died have caused him to go mad? We can let our imaginations run free here, at the place where Merlin’s journey into the hills began.

People have a connection to the land they live on, whether it’s a land mostly untouched by human hands or if it’s built up into towns, cities, or skyscrapers. The land we live on shapes our lives, and I think most people would agree that the natural landscape invigorates us. On this quest we came together to travel over the hills. Through our imaginations we could travel even further, through time and into legend, each of us returning with something special and a day to remember.

Battle of Arfderydd, the root cause of Merlin's madness?

Battle of Arfderydd, the root cause of Merlin’s madness?

Laura Schrader is from the United States and is studying for an MLit in Environment, Culture and Communication at the University of Glasgow’s Crichton Campus in Dumfries. A big thanks to artist Katie Anderson for the stunning images.