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Crop circles raise their profile in yet another country, as Belgium hosts its first-ever circle-based gathering. ALLAN BROWN was there…

The first so-named ‘European Crop Circle Conference’ was held on 9th April in Affligem, Belgium. The event was put on by 'De Cirkel vzw’, a fledgling Belgian research organisation that has arisen as a response to the increase in Belgian crop circles, several of which have appeared in the last few years. Despite the long-standing Dutch crop circle scene, the phenomenon is not well-known or discussed in neighbouring Belgium and hopefully this conference will become a regular event in the yearly crop circle calendar, and serve to consolidate the various research efforts underway in this part of the world.

The day-long conference was held in a beautiful converted nunnery, De Kluizerij, which was set in an idyllic rural setting surrounded by trees, grazing sheep, an extensive vineyard and an orchard, which was just coming into bloom. The town, Affligem, also happened to be the name of a well-known brand of Belgian beer, so several attendees spent the morning erroneously following beer adverts and never actually getting any closer to the venue. Still, there are worse things to get lost over!

Unfortunately, numbers were quite low; this may have been due to all the talks being conducted in English, as well as the fact the the phenomenon is just not that recognised here. However, the day did have a truly international flavour, with speakers from Belgium, England, Germany, Holland and Finland. Its intimacy meant that lectures spilled seamlessly off the stage into the cafe/bar area and the dining room, and as there was ample time allocated between talks, this proved to be a very social and inclusive event. The food that was served in the dining room was organic, very wholesome and very tasty, and in fact the whole weekend felt like a spiritual retreat of sorts, as massages and other therapies were available, and there was time to relax and wander through the grounds.

The day began with a short talk by Romaine Kunst, who gave a personal account of his experiences with dowsing, energy work in the landscape and his overview as to how the geodetic/ley line hypothesis squares with the crop circle phenomenon. It was thus a rather subjective talk, but generated a lot of questions and set out the stall of one aspect of crop circle research.

Janet Ossebaard gave a very upbeat lecture, opening with a visual tour through crop circles past and present, which provided a context for much of what was to follow. Janet talked in some detail about her and other people's experiences with BOLs (balls of light), which have been repeatedly observed, filmed and photographed in and around crop circles. Janet expanded on her insights that the phenomenon is not occurring despite us, but along with us, and that our own consciousness is integrally involved in its evolution. Janet's enthusiasm is infectious, and to those who didn't get to see her talk here, they should make sure they catch her at one of the English conferences this summer.

Andreas Müller, who is certainly the 'researcher's researcher', gave a very informative and thoroughly researched talk on ‘Historical Crop Circles'. Andreas, through very diligent research and careful scholarship, has produced one of the most definitive databases in existence on crop circles past and present. Rather than being a modern 'Doug and Dave'-inspired phenomenon, Andreas demonstrates that crop circles have been around for a lot longer than we have hitherto believed. It is amazing how many historical documents appear to unequivocally describe what we now call crop circles, from as far back as the 16th century. Interestingly, they seem to have had the same slightly disconcerting air about them back then as they do now, no-one being quite sure what to make of them or quite into which pigeonhole to place them: fairies, demons, angels, sky maidens, disgruntled farm hands or sprightly whirlwinds?

Allan Brown, as the author of this review, has no choice but to remain modestly quiet about his own talk, suffice to say that the content of it will shortly be available in his upcoming book, written in partnership with John Michell and entitled ‘Crop Circles: A Divine Revelation?’. It deals ostensibly with our work on the 2002 Crooked Soley ‘DNA’ formation and looks likely to create a bit of a stir when it is published this summer.

Finally, Martin Keitel from Finland gave a rare English-based talk. Martin has produced several very accomplished videos/DVDs on the subject of crop circles, the latest of which, entitled ‘Cereal Worm Holes I & II’, were shown at the end of the day. They contain a series of interviews, personal testimony and a series of amazing animations in which he shows what it would look like if one were to witness a non-man-made crop circle appearing in a field. I found it a terribly evocative piece of work, and I shudder to think how much graft went into making it. Martin gave a talk, entitled, 'Cereal Worm Holes: Balancing the Polarities in Crop Circle Research'. Martin has embraced the dualities of the crop circle world and has tried to synthesise the 'genuine' and the 'man-made' into a unified phenomenon, in which all parties, beliefs and approaches are seen as worthwhile and valid. This approach, laudable to some, an anathema to others, has arisen in response to the long-running schism between the 'hoaxers' or 'artists' on the one hand, and 'believers' or 'croppies' on the other. How well these two schools actually marry is debatable, but Martin has made a bold attempt to give a platform to both sides of the debate and tries to view them as part of a whole, as opposed to a correct or incorrect interpretation. Clearly this duality extant in the crop circle phenomenon is uncomfortable to our linear, modern way of thinking, but I feel that in many respects a healthy schism is no bad thing and as long as we're not murdering one another, a split is as constructive as a union. But Martin spoke very well and gave a very illuminating and personal account of his own path into the crop circle phenomenon and I think it is these personal testimonies that are, at the end of the day, the most endearing aspect of the phenomenon. They seem to slide beneath the relentless obsession with objective reality, and give free reign to the actual human experience of looking at the occult, the hidden, the strange and the transcendental.

There was a good range of books, DVDs and magazines on crop circles and related subjects provided by ‘Frontier Magazine’, who sponsored the event, as well as the usual selection of crystals etc. Annemieke, a Dutch teacher and a wonderful doll maker, had made a selection of beautiful crop circle dolls, or "Puppies", filled with crop circle wheat, which were the highlight of the whole conference for me. Check her out!

I hope that this event will go from strength to strength, and certainly you could not hope to find friendlier hosts and a more idyllic location. On a personal note, I was astonished at how well everyone spoke, not only English and their native tongues, but several European languages, and conversations flowed seamlessly through Flemish, French, German, Dutch and English. A truly European conference and ideally placed in the crop circle calendar so as not to compete with the more established conferences. Lots of familiar faces were there, and I thoroughly recommend checking it out next year. I travelled there by Eurostar, and that covers all travel whilst in Belgium, so I took the opportunity to check out Brussels and peruse the wonderful second-hand bookshops that line the streets. I returned more laden than when I set out, and had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.


Images from the Belgium conference (Photos: JAN LOENDERS)
Images from the Belgium conference (Photos: JAN LOENDERS)


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