Thursday, December 22, 2011

Dowsing, Water-witching and Object-Findin'.

A long time ago my father started managing the local water system. It was sort of a volunteer position, one had to go get certified to test the water according to the standards of DEQ, and that was pretty much it. The problem was that while there are miles of water-line running to every single house and lot in our rural edition... there was no information as to where the flying fuck any of those pipes were.

Someone trenching to run power to their house would often crunch their way right through the damned things, shutting down the system for days at a time. If someone wanted to tie into the system, or alternately needed to be cut off, they could spend weeks looking for the shutoff valve. My father usually wished there were a better way than simply blind-digging, and my grandmother offered sage wisdom:

"Dowse for it"

My Maternal line is rich in Ozark lore and "Mountain Magic" - most of it beaten into an unrecognizable form by the passage of time and influences, but a few nuggets were still there. "Get a couple of pieces of copper wire, like this (holding her hands about eighteen inches apart) and bend 'em into an L. You hold the short bit in each hand, and when they make a cross, that's the water."

So, my father got some copper wire, and made the L-shapes, and walked around like a bloody fool... until he crossed our own water lines, and the wires snapped into an X. As he walked forward the wires seemed locked to the spot, and disentangled from their X. As he backed up, they slid forward re-forming the X. 

Being utterly convinced of his success, he began searching for water-lines all over the community. And found them. Every time. Except sometimes it wasn't a water-line, but phone or power-cables buried under the ground. And sometimes it was pieces of metal.

We discovered that not only could he do it, so could I. But some of our neighbors could not. That's when I became pretty certain that it had nothing to do with magnetism - but rather had something to do with "woo".

Okay, so what now?

The dowsing tools, which can either be rods or a Y-shaped bit of wood, or even a pendulum, don't really matter. It's a physical tell, near as I can figure out. When someone lies to me (if it's important) I often feel a muscle twitch. My body is searching out what it needs, and gives a response upon finding it. Neither I, nor my father, know the water line is buried there - consciously. But you can bet hard cash our bodies know... somehow.

Start with a feature you know exists - a water, power or phone line. A buried piece of something important. Have someone hide things for you - then dowse for them. Learn to feel, and embrace, the "tell" - until it is second nature. At that point you may not even need the tools, using your hand in the manner of a New-Ager feeling crystaline energies. Envision that your hand is a magnet, and the thing you are looking for is it's mate. Feel the twitch, jerk, or pull of the two calling to each-other.

Now, and this is where it gets weird... you can do this over longer distances. I feel that this is where it crosses from a physical sensory mechanism to something far more esoteric. This is where it goes from "The electromagnetic field around my personage is sensitive to the disturbance" to "I'm a witch, and this is witch shit."

And I'm afraid that's the only advice and instruction I can offer - work with it, develop it, master it. Find a that you start tripping over silver dimes in the street. 


  1. Up until a few years ago it was common practice up in these parts (central NY) to get a dowser if you needed a well drilled. Often times the company doing the drilling would have someone on call for such a thing. Whether it be because the old-timers who knew what they were doing died out, or more people got caught faking it, the practice has all but died here.

  2. I have tried dowsing. It is crazy how effective it can be. Really cool, the experiences you've had with it. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Many thanks for the entry, Scylla!

  4. Are you familiar with Vance Randolph? He spent a good portion of his life living in the Missouri Ozarks and recording the local lore in rich detail. I highly recommend his books if you are interested in Ozark folklore.

    I like your more practical take on dowsing--in particular the view of just rolling up your sleeves, using what is at hand, and getting to work.

  5. I know they used dowsers in Texas up until at least the late '30s, because my great-grandmother and grandmother used to tell me about the "water witchers" who could come out and locate areas to find the best wells. For all I know, some of the old-timers may still. People in the area are all good Baptists who would be horrified of something they thought was "witchcraft," but for some reason divining was never seen that way.