Dowsing as a Walking Meditation
The Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way
A talk by Richard Dealler at North Hill Village Hall
Pilgrimage has been out of fashion in the UK for far too long. In India, Mexico, the Middle East and numerous other societies and communities, pilgrimages still flourish as a magnetic attraction in spectacular fashion – with a tide of humanity travelling mind-numbing distances, usually on foot or even on their knees, to pay homage to the zeitgeist of their culture. Even in Catholic Spain, around 150,000 people a year still travel the route to Santiago de Compostella. In Britain, the numbers that make it to Canterbury or Iona are rather modest by comparison.
Pilgrimage, like dowsing, healing and many other facets of the ‘old ways’ largely went out with the grubby bathwater after the Reformation. It was never quite outlawed, but it was certainly frowned upon by the authorities of the new order.
Richard Dealler has been a travelling man for much of his life. Yet it was his experience of making the journey across southern France and northern Spain that alerted him to the re-creational and re-vitalising potential of the act of pilgrimage. Indeed, he enjoyed the process so much, that he continued walking another 100km past the shrine of St James, all the way to the Atlantic coast. So taken was he with the concept that, on his return to England, he hatched the idea of establishing a similar path amongst the Mary and Michael matrix of dowsed energy lines, rediscovered by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst in the 1980’s – lines which, in turn, entwine themselves around John Michel’s St Michael ley.
He sounded out his friends and mentors, who all concurred that it would be a wonderful project – and, in a spirit of euphoria, he set to work. However, having an idea – even a really good one – is not the same as delivering an end result. Inevitably Richard struggled to secure the necessary finance until, in true pilgrim’s fashion, he approached the brink of failure before a private donor unexpectedly provided the wherewithal to unlock matched funding from Dartmoor National Park. Suddenly the show was (almost literally) on the road.
Richard embodies the essence of pilgrimage in a quite remarkable way. It is the walking, the meditation, the ‘being at one with nature’ that are true goals of the journey. The final destination, however significant, is just a means to an end. In that, he shares a philosophy with the Devon-based former Jain monk, Satish Kumar, who once walked from his home in his native India to the capitals of the all of the countries that possessed nuclear weapons, to petition their respective governments. Life is a process, not a destination. It is a dowser’s mantra too.
Kumar journeyed as a mendicant (taking no money with him and relying entirely on the generosity of people he had never met), but Richard is not suggesting this for his Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way! Rather, he is looking to learn from the route to Santiago de Compostella, where safe, if Spartan, official resting places keep down the cost of a pilgrimage, which might take several weeks. There, paths are way-marked by the iconic scallop shell design.
For Mary/Michael to emulate this long-established track, there is still much to translate from blueprint to factual footpath, but Richard has already produced two guides – and his writing style, like his approach to pilgrimage, is developing all the time. We have yet to see the bunkhouses and M&M B&Bs, but the concept is taking form almost as I write.
A great inspiration for Richard was the first group to attempt the trek on foot – a collective who called themselves Awakening Albion, and who went on to produce a travelogue (in 2008) of the experiences and insights of their journey.
Hamish Miller was fascinated that strangers would take up his work and re-interpret it in such innovative ways. He would have been so proud of the efforts of Richard and his colleagues in bringing the esoteric idea of walking long-distance energy lines into the reality of the mud, dust, gravel and tarmac of the landscape of the workaday world.
The Mary/Michael Pilgrims Way uses the framework of the Miller/Broadhurst energy dowsing – and hopefully it will eventually trace the whole distance from West Cornwall to East Norfolk. Along the way, it will visit many of the important and sacred sites of southern England. It is a true dowser’s spiritual journey, in that while it alights at many places that have been the haunts of the diviner and the sensitive since the dawn of time, these are just the gemstones on the virtual necklace. Like some 21st century walker’s mandala, or an ethereal rosary for the Internet age, the ends of the path drift out to sea, ready to be reworked and re-trodden ad infinitum.
Richard is a very modern pilgrim, yet there is something timeless about his approach. There is nothing quaint or retro-mediaeval about his style or his attitude. He may have a preference for low-tech, but he is still very much part of the digital era. His talk to the Tamar Dowsers was poetic, verging on the impressionist, yet it still gave a strong sense of what it is really like to cohabit, in motion, with the spirit of place.
Despite his initial nerves, this was a true storyteller’s performance, full of quiet personal passion and genuine commitment. The use of poetry, including some of his own, to describe the essence of pilgrimage was both delightful and intuitively appropriate. It was very well-received, and a quite different type of talk to round off an exceptional series of indoor events.
Many thanks to all those who have come together to make our 2012/13 season one of the most varied, and certainly the best-attended, clutch of TDs talks to date. We were grateful to Richard Dealler for both plucking up the courage, and for taking the time and trouble, to give us the benefit of his unique experiences.
Nigel Twinn Tamar Dowsers, March 2013
For more information on the Mary/Michael project and the associated walkers’ guides please go to – www.marymichaelpilgrimsway.org (donations welcome!)
The Sun and the Serpent by Hamish Miller and Paul Broadhurst and Awakening Albion by Jane Bottomley et al are both available from Penwith Press – www.penwithpress.co.uk