Thursday, February 26, 2009


There is a practice, handed down from generation to generation in rural areas. It's used by city workers round about here to locate old pipes that never made it into the city diagrams.

This practice is much-maligned in some circles, and much heralded in others.

I'm talking about dowsing.

There is a lot of controversy over this particular subject even amongst those who believe it works. Some say that it is the body getting in tune with Mother Earth and communicating with the conscious mind through the medium of the pendulum or rods.

Others say it's an outside force pointing the rods and the dowser in the right direction.

A lot of people say it doesn't even exist.

Some of ya'll will believe, and some won't. It's up to you to make up your mind which group you fall into, and how you feel about it.

The man who's opinion I always respected most on the subject had little to say about it, really.

When asked, grandpa would say "We can do it, some folks can't. I don't know what it is, I don't know how it works, but then, I don't know much about how that dag gum teevee does it either, so that's all right."

Grandpa witched hundreds of wells, with scary accuracy. He could tell you where to drill a well, how deep you'd have to go, and how many gallons per hour the well would support. When people went missing, he was right there looking for them, too.

When Elizabeth Smart went missing, Grandpa called to offer his assistance. Shortly after that call was made, he came to the Old Homestead, bearing his rods.

After a short discussion with Farmmom, a hair brush that we both shared was stripped of a few hairs, those hairs were tied onto the rods, and we trooped outside.

I'd seen grandpa witch a well, and I'd seen Farmmom check the path of a water line, so I had an idea what was going on.

Grandpa told me "Stand here, hold the rods like this, loose, let 'em sag a bit, thats right, and close your eyes. Think about finding the person the hairs belong to."

He and Farmmom then walked in circles around me, and I tried to think about finding things.

One rod swung back and forth, following, near as I could tell, one set of footsteps, impeded by my shoulder as the person would walk behind me. The other rod swung immediately around and began bumping me on the shoulder.

After a while, grandpa told me to open my eyes. I was sure that I'd failed the test, and wasn't a dowser, given the wacky behavior of the rods.

Grandpa pursed his lips for a moment and then said "I've never seen anything like this."

Slightly dissapointed, I asked "So I'm not a water witch, then?"

"Weeeel, no, I think you are."

Remember I mentioned that they used hairs from a brush that Farmmom and I both used? Apparently, one rod had followed Farmmom like "a puppy on a string" in grandpa's words, and the other had never followed anyone, just flipped around and started bumping on my shoulder.

They got hairs from both of us.

The relevant authorities in Salt Lake declined Grandpa's help, something that bothered him until she was found. But he'd planned on dropping everything and taking Farmmom and I to help look for her.

After that, I spent some time experimenting with this strange talent, finding quarters tossed into the yard, things like that. Farmmom told me that she had to use copper rods, while her grandfather, grandpa's dad, had used a forked stick exclusively. She told me of how Great Grandpa would forget to wear gloves, and wind up with bloody hands from the stick twisting in his hands, pulling him this way and that.

It's a family tradition, she told me. Not everyone in the family can do it, but there's usually at least one in every generation.

"Never take money for finding a well," Grandpa told me. "It ain't something we learned to do, it's just something we can do." He got a thoughtful look in his eye, "When I was a kid, my dad told me we were just helpin' out the neighbors. When I got older, I figured that since I really didn't have nothin' to do with it, it wasn't right for me to charge folks."

The man would spend hours tromping through fields, finding a pocket of water and asking the rods about it. He did it right up till he physically couldn't do the tromping through the fields. And he never accepted a dime for it.

I've never witched a well. I've never been asked to, but I'm a dowser. It's one more piece of the heritage I inherited from my grandfather.

I believe, do you?


Well Seasoned Fool said...

My father could; I can't. In our family the ability seems to skip a generation. My father's fee was a fifth of Cutty Sark after the well was proven if the recipient was so inclined. He didn't always find water but when he found a spot he was never wrong.

Crucis said...

When I was small, I remember my father brought in a dowser to look for a pocket watch. He used a "Y" cutting from a willow tree. Dad and I followed him all over the farm watching the willow stick bob up 'n down. Didn't find the watch.

I tried it several times after the dowser left and never could make it work.

klaas said...

As a physicist i'm very interested in dowsing.
A waterline is a line of iron-oxide, which can pick up electrical charges from air etc..
This is what you feel.
To understand other phenomena of dowsing you have to understand the anomalous phenomena.
What is an anomaly???

Chip said...

Years ago I used to work for an underground ( sewer, water lines that kind of stuff) company. We had a sophisticated piece of equipment to locate lines underground. It didn't work near as well as as one of our foreman who dowsed the lines without fail every time.

Peter said...

Oh, yes, I'm a believer! I've seen dowsers at work in South Africa, and their accuracy was uncanny - they were right more often than the scientific instruments designed to do the same thing.

I've never tried it myself, but I'd like to. Perhaps next time I get out your way, you can initiate me?

Farmgirl said...

Sure, Peter, no problem!

Castr8r said...

Our family are "Dowsers", too. I can do it with coat hangers (iron wire), copper wire, and green forked branches. I'm not able to tell how deep or how much water is there, but Dad could tell how deep with uncanny accuracy. He was jealous of his half sister, Mayme, who used a green forked branch exclusively, and could tell you how deep and how much. One of my brothers is good at dowsing, one doesn't do it, and I don't know if my sisters can do it or not.

You, young missy, should cultivate this skill, and get some help from Farmmom and any other that is willing to help you out.

BTW, I sure enjoy readin' yer writin'; you bring back many memories of my early years on the farm. Thanks!

Old NFO said...

I can't, but I believe... Seen it done quite a few times.

Zdogk9 said...

Can find under ground utilities no problem. Never tried a well since pretty much any place you sink a sand point here you'll get potable water. I worked with a guy who introduced it to me who was unfailing and fast at finding under ground piping. It came in handy when we were mapping utilities.

misbeHaven said...

I believe. When my parents bought their place, they brought in a dowser (she called herself a "water witch") to tell them where to dig the well. She used copper rods. She told my folks where to dig, how deep, and how much water was there (flow rate), and she was spot on.

Aaron T. said...

This is one of those weird things about some people that make my scientist brain perk up and take notice. Anyone know if there have ever been some good double blind studies on this phenomena in a controlled environment? Would be really interesting to see the results if such a study has been done. Hmm, Scifinder beckons. . .

Weer'd Beard said...

My Boss moonlights as a ghost hunter. They using dowsing rods to find unmarked graves in old cemetaries.

Ever heard of that?

Rebbie Macintyre said...

Yes, I believe it! Dowsing has a fascinating history and too many documented successes to be a "psychic" phenomenon. During research for my book, I joined American Society of Dowsers. The newsletter articles are contributed by not only people who dowse for their own interests, but also many scientists who have discovered the link between what they feel in those rods and what science tells them is there.

phlegmfatale said...

Love the dowsing post, FG! There are many true things in this world which can not be measured or explained. Fascinating, and now I know who to call next time I want to drop a well someplace!