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I learned to dowse nearly forty years ago from a dowser named Herb, whom my father hired to locate where to drill a well. Herb’s dowsing rod was a modern version of the traditional forked stick – two white nylon rods duct-taped together at one end. He told the well driller exactly where to drill, how deep the water source was, and how many gallons per minute they’d find, and he was right.

In addition to finding underground water for wells, Herb also dowsed for something he called geopathic stress, places where energies in the landscape have a negative effect on human health. He was particularly interested in places where two or more underground streams intersected. As he explained it, spending a lot of time over such spots, like sleeping or working at a desk, could cause all kinds of problems – sleep disturbances, weakened immunity, arthritis, cancer, and more. Fortunately, he said, this kind of problem could be addressed in surprisingly simple ways, and he told me stories of people he’d helped.

As far as I was concerned, Herb was a magician. I was utterly enchanted, so he handed me a rod and showed me how to dowse. It turned out I had a knack for it. I was hooked, not only on dowsing, but on the very real and practical benefits of working with subtle energies in the landscape. A whole new world opened up to me, beyond what could be apprehended by the physical senses.

Although I didn’t realize it until years later, this encounter was my introduction to geomancy, a form of earth healing with variants in traditional cultures around the world. Geomancy takes into account that there is more to the world than we can perceive with our five senses. Just as with mind/body medicine, geomancy addresses not only the physical causes of distress or imbalance in a home or a landscape, but the energetic ones, as well.

The physical environment is interlaced with and supported by a sort of energetic scaffolding of currents, grids and vortices, like the meridians and chakras within our own bodies. These lines and grids can be distorted by psychic and noetic residues that accumulate in the landscape. Activities in the physical world leave an imprint in the subtle world. Historical events, especially traumatic or strongly emotional ones, can have a big impact and create static place memory that can keep a place energetically stuck in the past, endlessly recirculating patterns that inhibit health and evolution. And, of course, there are ghosts and other non-physical beings, human and otherwise, whose presence can have all kinds of effects, for good or ill.

A few years ago I began apprenticing with a master geomancer, Patrick, a third-generation practitioner of spiritual and psychic healing. For the past 25 years, he has traveled the world tending to unbalanced and traumatized places. What Patrick accomplishes through his practice of geomancy is magical—crop yields increasing manyfold, dry springs and sandy creek beds suddenly flowing with water, debt-ridden businesses starting to thrive, long-standing illnesses and conflicts resolving. Using various tools, including dowsing, in collaboration with spiritual, angelic and other non-physical partners, he works miracles that defy science and logic.

A geomancer is part wizard, part custodian, part mediator, and part Greenpeace activist, practicing in the in-between places where the material, subtle and spiritual worlds meet and mingle with the light of consciousness. Geomancy, essentially, is about clearing, blessing and enhancing the energy in our homes and landscapes to bring about greater harmony and wholeness. Even more, it is about cultivating a conscious, loving relationship with the collective intelligence of the living Earth. To me, geomancy is applied Incarnational Spirituality.

Our relationship with place – home and community – is one of our most important and primary relationships. In these scary times, facing the horrors of climate change, mass extinctions, and endemic pollution, it’s hard not to feel as if our relationship with Earth is irreparably broken. Unfortunately, a lot of environmental activism is fueled by fear and anger. Scientific predictions are grim, suggesting that much of the damage is irreversible, which adds a layer of hopelessness to the anxiety and shame many of us already struggle with. The irony is that such emotions are toxins in the subtle worlds, where they can create even more imbalance. Many people believe Earth would be better off without humans at all. How can we have come to a point of such estrangement from the world that gave birth to us? How do we deal with the overwhelming consequences?

That’s where the real magic of geomancy comes in. We do not have to deal with this alone. In fact, no matter what knowledge and skills we may bring to the task, far greater transformation is possible when we join forces with helpers in the unseen realms. In truth, a geomancer is mostly just a general contractor, the boots on the ground for the non-physical members of the team, sizing up what might be needed, and then calling in the right healers or contractors, so to speak, especially for the heavy lifting.

Traditional and contemporary cultures around the world have held great reverence and love for the spirit of place. The Romans called Spirit of Place the Genius Loci, Loci being the place or location, and Genius referring to the spirit that governed or tended to it. While today we think of genius as meaning intelligence or talent, originally it meant a protective spirit, the guardian angel of a person or an area. Any one of us can call upon the Genius Loci of our own places—our homes, our neighborhood, the woods and lakes and landscapes around us, and ask them for help.

While I get anxious about my abilities as a geomancer, and often am drained by the challenge of mediating between such different energies, I am awed, humbled and uplifted by this work. I am constantly learning to expand my sense of what is possible, to trust and believe more and more in the reality of this partnership and the help that is there for the asking.

This is not easy in the world we live in. In the face of hard science and front page headlines, it’s hard to trust that there is more hope for healing the world than we are led to believe. Even those of us who read blogs like this, who are members of organizations like Lorian, often have quiet doubts, if not about the reality of numinous helpers, then with our worthiness to take our place alongside them and accomplish necessary miracles. It takes courage to defy the disenchantment of our world. I keep stumbling upon all the limits I’ve placed on what seems possible, and discovering just how bereft of magic I feel.

But geomancy gives me evidence of what I long for most. It re-enchants the world. It opens my heart to wonder. It gives me healing tools that seem just this side of magic. Mostly, it gives me glimpses of the luminous presence of Love in all its emanations and incarnations, waiting under the heavy layers of despair to help us heal the Earth.

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Have you ever gone somewhere, to some place, where for no logical reason you just hated it, it just felt bad to you? Or the opposite, you felt you belonged in a place that was a complete surprise to you, you loved it inexplicably?

For whatever reason, there are places on earth that either feel very off-putting to us or very nurturing. Everything has energy, some of it fast moving (corn, hummingbirds) and some of it slow (redwoods, rocks). You have your won energy and I mine, and though similar, they are all different – think of the extremes between a talkative, impulse person and a quiet, thoughtful one.  As a result of these subtle differences we will each pick up the energies of the world around us differently – some love the hum and thrum of the city, others the silence and solitude of nature.

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