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frequently called "water witching," is a method of divination for
discovering water, metals, and minerals, in or under ground. It is also
used to discover leys. It is distinguishable from a related divinatory
method radiesthesia because the latter method not only attempts to
discover inanimate but animate objects as well such as missing person, and
also is used in the detection of illnesses and prescribing their
treatment. Dowsing used for medical diagnosis is permitted in Europe and
Great Britain but prohibited in the United States. However, almost
everywhere the terms dowsing and radiesthesia
have became synonymous.
The origination dates back about 7000 years. It is known to have been
practiced among the Egyptians and Chinese. During the Middle Ages it was
use extensively in Europe to discover coal and water.
Martin Luther condemned the practice as witchcraft which was equated to
Devil-worship. Nevertheless, dowsing continued as a popular form of
divination until the 19th century when science cast a dim light on it by
proclaiming it invalid, "occult." In 1897, Sir William Barrett, of the
Royal College in Dublin, stated the "few subjects appear to be as unworthy
of serious notice and so utterly beneath scientific investigation as that
of the divining rod."
Dowsing as well as radiesthesia operate by the use of a rod, commonly a
"Y" shaped stick, formerly a branch of hazel. Frequently before beginning
the dowsing practice, the dowser "attunes" himself to the object being
sought. Included within this attuning method are techniques of
visualization or exposing the rod or pendulum to a location, personal
belonging, or type of material which is being sought.
The forked dowsing rod was traditionally made of a hazel branch because
the wood is known for its long reputed magical properties. Other woods
which are reputed to have magical properties include ash, rowan, and
willow. Also these are considered excellent for wands. However, rods have
been made of such metals as aluminum and copper. Some have even been
twisted coat hangers. Other dowsers preferred rods of whalebone but the
supply was extinguished with the whalebone agreement, then many turned to
plastic indicators. For dowsing in medical diagnosis many prefer small
pendulums on strings.
After this method of attuning has been completed the dowser holds the rod
by its handles, formerly the upper ends of the "Y" shaped hazel branch,
and proceeds looking for what is sought. If, for example, the person is
seeking water he searches thoroughly in a location pointing the branch or
rod downward. Presumably when the person comes across an underground
stream or reservoir of water the dowsing rod will turn in his hands,
sometimes with force.
For many years speculation was that such turning of the rod was caused by
an underground emanation or an occult force. However, now spawn by an
increased interest in dowsing during 20th century, some modern theorists
believe the turning of the rod may be caused by a response caused by the
person's sensitivity for the object for which he is seeking. This theory
does not, however, preclude the possibility of some sort of
electro-magnetic impulse which stimulates the muscles in the individual's
Within this past century dowsing has been applied in archaeological and
geological work. Some dowsers are so sensitive that they can predict the
depth at which the well or reservoir lies underground and the amount of
water or material that it is capable of supplying.
Sometimes the dowser does not even physically go to the location that he
is being questioned about. A map of the location is brought to the person.
The he sets up small pendulums over the maps which assists him in
answering the inquirer's questions. Such a procedure has became known as
teledowsing, with the theory behind it that there is the establishment a
telepathic link between the location and the map.
Dowsing is still viewed by some with skepticism, but there seems to be
sufficient evidence to show that the practice has some merits. Between
October 1925 and February 1930 Major C. A. Pogson served as the Official
Water Diviner for the Government of India. He traveled thousands of miles
finding wells and bores. All during these years he was consulted on every
matter relating to underground water.
Both the American and British societies for
dowsers encourage people to learn more about the science and to
participate in all of its areas. The addresses of both societies are as
follows: American Society of Dowsers, Inc., Danville, Vermont, 05828.
British Society of Dowsers, Sycamore College, Tamley Lane, Hastingleigh,
Ashford, Kent, TN25 5HW, England. A.G.H.
Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Encyclopedia of Witches
and Witchcraft. New York: Facts On File, 1989.
Shepard, Leslie A., ed. Encyclopedia of Occultism and
Parapsychology, 3rd ed. Detroit: Gale Research, Inc., 1991.
Joseph M. Allen, Instructor
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