a workshop with Elen Sentier & Fiona Dove
On 30th June 1921, Alfred Watkins was at Blackwardine, looking at a map with no particular object in mind when he noticed an alignment that passed over some hilltops and various ancient sites. All of a sudden he had a flash of insight, seeing the features he was so familiar with in the local landscape become linked into a whole system. Allen Watkins in a biography of his father describes how his father’s mind was “...flooded with a rush of images forming one coherent plan. The scales fell from his eyes and he saw that over many long years of prehistory trackways were in straight lines marked out by experts on a sighting system. The whole plan of the Old Straight Track stood suddenly revealed“.
On 3rd July 2011 we began following in his tracks.
We began quite a way from where he did; Blackwardine is up near Leominster, we are south and west of Hereford. Blackwardine is the site of a Romano-British settlement known as Black Caer Dun. A golden bracelet and ring have been found there as well as many human remains. An 1885 account notes “broken pieces of pottery were thickly scattered about and in one part of the railway cutting near the surface some 40 or 50 yards (46 m) of charred material 18 inches thick were observed”. The place was excavated the same year Watkins first developed his theory.
We are near an even older site, an Iron Age Hillfort at Eaton Camp, but there is a lot of Roman archaeology all around us; we’re in the process of excavating the Camp at present.
Watkins vision is, to me, a sight of the web of Wyrd, of Elen’s Sarns, the Earth energy lines that connect all life on this planet.
We began the day by beginning to explore dowsing with the aid of a sink-plug, brass plumb-bog, wrung-out tea-bag, and some nicely balanced inert plastic pendulums loaned by my husband who is a radionics practitioner. We did have a couple of crystals around too and one persona had his pentacle on a chain, but the point of the exercise was to convince folk that it’s not the pendulum that does the work but yourself. The pendulum is just a read-out device that amplifies the infinitely small muscle-movements in your hand and arm as your body responds to the earth-energy it knows very well.
Our ancestors were far more aware of this than we mostly are today. We are conditioned that, unless we have some “evidence” for a thing of a type acceptable to the powers that be, “magic” is all my-eye-and-Harry-Potter, a figment of our imagination. Unfortunately the acceptable tools are about as much use to find earth-energy as it would be to try to measure electricity with a hammer! You have to climb out of the box.
We climbed out of the box.
The participants had fun getting the hang of their pendulums and, after a few games with tea-bags and plugs, settled for the nicely balanced plastic pendulums. We talked about race-horse stables, oil, water and gas companies, even computer firms, and miners, all use dowsing to tell them where to dig and drill. None of these are the sort of folk who one would class as fluffy bunnies … perhaps if this was more widely known people would have less scepticism for dowsing. I have been asked to find gas and water pipes, electrical wires for a computer firm, and several farmer friends have called in firms to dig them a bore-hole. The firms first ask a dowser to survey the land to find if there is a spring and, if so, how deep, what the water pressure and quality are; all easy-peasy for a good dowser.
So, with the concept of dowsing now happily ensconced in their heads, the participants set off on the treasure hunt we had organised for them. They had to find a coin, a crystal, an electricity cable and a very strong ley line that runs through my house. This is always harder, there is the possibility of failure, feeling stupid, performing with your colleagues looking on … all the stuff to set the seeds of scepticism germinating like mad. Mind you, scepticism is a good thing or Otherworld will certainly send you down the shop for a tin of striped paint or a box of tappet clearances!
They did very well, only getting really confused when they were standing on top of the thing they were hunting. This is usual at first, the whateveritis is radiating like mad in all directions, it takes practice to sort out the very strong signals. They used the rods to find the direction to go in the garden, and then to triangulate onto the particular spot.
After all this everyone was well up for lunch! After some excellent local sausages, a pasta bake, some salad from my garden and a piece of fruit, everyone was reinforced for the afternoon’s work.
We went up to Arthur’s Stone, a Neolithic chambered tomb just up the road from me. This is a marvellous site, on a crossroads of ancient paths that go for many, many miles in each direction. The north/south line indeed goes south all the way down to Dunkery Beacon on my native Exmoor, and then on down to Dartmoor. I’ve not followed it north, I must get to doing that. Our ancestors certainly got about. We shouldn’t think of them as the Victorians did as having lives that were “nasty, brutish and short”; our hunter-gatherer forebears probably needed to work, as a group, only about 15 hours a week to have a very good life. This left them a lot of time to think, talk, make art, explore, develop a real understanding of the Earth and to make strong connections with her. How many of us can say that of our “modern” lives? I really feel we are going backward, devolving rather than evolving!
At the Stone, the participants had some time to explore on their own. They found the spiral at the centre of the place just like that, and without any tools, without needing the pendulums and rods we’d brought with us. Then they began to look outwards. The Stone is very high, some 268 meters – that’s about 850+ feet in old money. We had a wonderful view of Hay Bluff to the West, the Sugarloaf and the Skyrrid to the south. The north is blocked by hedges now but would have been open when the place was used. They could see as well as sense how the pattern of threads, pathways span out from the Stone. And into the Stone too.
Each point, like Arthur’s Stone, is a plexus, a place where the threads meet. This is quite like the nervous system in our own bodies. In vertebrates, a plexus is an area where nerves branch and rejoin. The electrical signals do not mix; rather, the fibres travel together with their electrical signals separate. The brachial plexus is an example. It is made up of the spinal nerves which enter the upper limb. Almost a hundred such plexuses have been described in the human body, but the four primary nerve plexuses are the cervical plexus, brachial plexus, lumbar plexus, and the sacral plexus. Mother Earth has rather more plexi in her body than we do in ours!
Which came first? One of the participants voiced the general question; which came first the paths or the people walking the paths? Ummm! A real chicken-and-egg question. Or perhaps like light … light is both waves and particles! As an awenydd (British native shaman) I’ve always found that the universe works on the and/and principle, not the either/or that most humans seem to gravitate to. We talked about this, felt into it, felt into the threads themselves; and/and worked for us.
I brewed up some tea while we sat and talked. Fiona told about the dragon energies. In the British tradition dragons are very strong and have much to do with the earth-energies and the thread-lines. Most people have seen, or seen pictures of, the White/Horse of Uffington … not a horse, but a dragon! Rhiannon is Horse-Lady in the British tradition and one that Fiona works with a lot – I hope she’ll tell some of it here. We also talked about Elen of the Ways, my own guardian. She is the Lady of the pathways, within the Earth and within our bodies, what the eastern traditions call the nadis, the spiritual nervous system that connects the chakras. Elen’s Ways connect the caers in her story, the Silver Spinng Wheels of Arianrhod, her sister goddess. In Wales the paths are symbolised out in the land as Sarn Elens. The lines connect the spirit-centres in the Earth too, as they connect the chakras within our own bodies.
We also talked about how the walking and singing of these lines helps the energy to flow through them; how doing this helps the Earth, helps the wasteland that we have made of the Earth in the 21st century. En-chanting is a form of singing the lines; not as well known as the song-lines of Australia but just as vital and something we can all learn to do.
This one-day workshop is an introduction; we go far deeper on Walking with Dragons, a 5-day residential workshop on Exmoor. We will also be doing an introduction and longer follow-up workshop on the British chakra system – Spinning Towers – with the help of Arianrhod and Elen of the Ways. All of this thread-work is so vital to knowing and working with our lovely Mother Earth.