There has been much skepticism about “water witching” and Martin Luther, a major figure in the Protestant Reformation, once condemned the practice as witchcraft and termed it equal to devil worship. But, you know something? What we call dowsing can have its origination traced back to something like 7,000 years. All around Europe there was extensive use trying to discover coal and water during the Middle Ages.
It didn’t come to a screeching halt in the 19th century but there certainly were some setbacks in believibility when science called it “occult” and proclaimed the practice invalid. A big-wig in Ireland’s Royal College in Dublin issued quite a put-down. In 1897, Sir William Barrett stated, “…few subjects appear to be as unworthy of serious notice and so utterly beneath scientific investigation as that of the divining rod.”
There is a related activity called radiesthesia but it actually is aimed at different targets, so to speak. It is often used to help detect illness and come up with prescribed treatment. It has even been utilized in searching for animate objects, like a missing person, for example. The medical diagnosis aspect is allowed in Europe and Great Britain but outlawed in the U.S. Although, the concept varies quite a bit from more commonly known dowsing it has reached the point the two ideas are basically synonymous in many discussions.
Both of them use a forked divining rod. In the past, it was more or less traditional at one time for it to be made of a hazel branch because, for reasons beyond the norm, that wood has, or had, a reputation for having magical qualities. Supposedly, woods of ash, willow and rowan have also been considered to have whatever magic there is. On the other hand, some of the rods have been made out of aluminum and copper and some dowsers have used something as simple as twisted coat hangers. There are advocates for just about anything that has been successful in finding water.
Let me tell you about someone we met when we were traveling in Wisconsin and my wife, Carol, wanted to check on the European-style atmosphere of a Danish village shopping center called Windmill Square in Hayward. She didn’t count on the added bonus of meeting Clarice Tarkington of California.
“I’m a water-witch,” Clarice told her in the course of conversation, “but I guess it sounds better to call me a dowser. Even that’s questionable, because I heard of a geologist once who said, ‘Only a jackass would believe in dowsing.’ Sure would like to meet that worthy gentleman. I’d introduce him to some jackass friends of mine who’ve got the best sweet-water wells you could ever want.”
So, Carol claimed another first, the first dowser she’d ever met, and she questioned her new acquaintance about how you become one.
“Oh, some people think it’s an inherited thing; others think it can be learned. I just always seemed to have the knack, so I can’t really say. It’s just that some of us can take a forked twig or something and it’ll turn down in our hands when we get over underground water. Take me, now, my ‘divining rod’, if you want to call it that, is made out of whalebone. I’ve heard of other dowsers who use either dry or fresh-cut twigs from willow or peach trees; even knew one man who rigged up a wire coat hanger, and it worked just as well for him.”
“How does it work?” Carol wanted to know. “What do you do?"
Clarice didn’t make much to-do about it. “It’s really pretty simple as far as I’m concerned. I keep my elbows at my side, with my arms extended about chest high. I keep my hands with the palms up and the end of the ‘rod’ up, then I just walk out across wherever they’ve got in mind, and when the end of the ‘rod’ goes down, that’s it. I even heard of a dowser who had only one arm. He’d let his son hold the stick and he’d hold the boy’s wrists as they walked along; seemed to work just fine as long as they didn’t break contact. That’s another thing, only about one out of ten dowsers is a woman, so I’m kind of a rarity.”
Carol wondered if she had ever used her dowsing talents looking for oil or anything besides water.
“Well,” Clarice replied, “they call it doodlebugging when you’re looking for oil and I only tried it once. I got a ‘find’, but I told them I thought it was probably water. They drilled a hole anyway and sure enough, water it was. I don’t know how to switch over, or even if I could, so I reckon it’s best for me to just do what I do.”
It’s certainly not a formulaic vocation and that led to more research on our part, enough so we quickly discovered this is really an ancient practice that can possibly be dated as far back as 8,000 years ago. Wall murals of about that age were found in some North Africa caves, one of them showing a man with a forked stick. Who knows, he could have been dowsing. Some of the same kind of artwork has been found in Egypt and China. One observer opined that the biblical story of Moses and Aaron using a “rod” to find water could very well have been “dowsing” of its time.
No one knows for certain, that’s the essence of the mystic aura that surrounds this activity. There just isn’t any definitive proof one way or another. Skeptics express no doubts; they say point-blank it doesn’t work at all. However, renowned Albert Einstein said outright the process is authentic. He noted many scientists had the notion it was an ancient superstition along the lines of astrology, but he thought that was an unjustified opinion. The way he put it, “The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.”
As mentioned there was once a diverse view held by Martin Luther who called dowsing “the work of the devil,” which was a voiced opinion that didn’t measure up to the later Einstein observation.
Even NASA has done exploration for water from space, both on earth and other objects such as Mars and the moon, which could be called technological dowsing.
The mystic aspect continues and the comment by Clarice seems as reasonable as any other: “I just do what I do.”
I do have to tell you there is one aspect of this I can’t go along with. We’ve been told there are times when the dowser doesn’t actually go to the location in question and instead a map of that location is brought to the dowser. Then, we understand, the dowser uses some small pendulums over the maps and this is supposed to help provide answers. They call this process teledowsing and the theory behind it is there is some kind of telepathic link between the map and the location itself. That’s just a little far out for me and I just can’t seem to accept the process. I’m allowed to have my doubts because, like Clarice, “I just do what I do.”
Of course, one of the things I "do" is write books. My seventeen eBooks are shown at the right and a "click" on a cover will take you to a free sample "Look Inside." There'll be an eighteenth book as soon as we get the cover designed and get it published, so keep on the lookout for "A Backwater Eddy in the Stream of Time." I'll tell you about it when we get it ready.