November 13, 2014 | by Mark McDonald
‘Witching’ After Halloween

Ancient Dowsing Technique Still Has Believers

‘Man About Texas’ Series

By Russell Graves
Special to sportsandoutdoors.guru

CHILDRESS — “Hold these two wires like this,” I tell my 14-year-old daughter as she listens intently.

This Texas water well was drilled only after the landowner used two wires to “find” the water source. The age-old, controversial method is called dowsing, divining or witching. (photo by the author)

This Texas water well was drilled only after the landowner used two wires to “find” the water source. The age-old, controversial method is called dowsing, divining or witching. (photo by the author)

Minutes earlier, I had been in the house rummaging through our collection of clothes hangers. Most of them are plastic and a few are wooden, but I finally found a couple of metal hangers salvaged from the local cleaners. With wire cutters I trimmed the hanger and formed two 90-degree pieces, each with a short “handle” and a 90-degree bend to form the dowsing rods.

A rod held loosely in either hand, I walked down our county road, searching for water. At first, the rods pointed straight ahead but soon, the ends bent toward each other and crossed to form an X. Still walking, the rods slowly turn back out.

Aha. With the help of my dowsing rods, I’d just “witched” the water line that I was looking for.

I first learned about witching when I was probably 14 or 15. I used to shoot my bow into hay bales and when the arrows would go through the bales, they’d bury up in the tall grass of our pasture. One day when I was looking for my arrows, my dad took a couple of brazing rods from his welding truck, bent them into 90-degree angles, and began walking in the grass.

“Let me show you something,” he said, motioning me over with his head.

British farmer George Casely posed for England’s Ministry of Information in 1942. The original caption read: “Casely has the power of divining and has sunk a well in several of his pastures.” (Wikipedia photo)

British farmer George Casely posed for England’s Ministry of Information in 1942. The original caption read: “Casely has the power of divining and has sunk a well in several of his pastures.” (Wikipedia photo)

I followed him as he walked along and when the rods crossed, he reached down into the foot-high Bermuda grass and picked up a camouflaged, aluminum arrow. A few steps later, he did it again and then again until all of my stray arrows were collected.

Thirty years later, I have my wife and kids outside showing them the same trick. They are all a bit skeptical after I showed them where the water line should be, convinced I was the one moving the rods. But after letting each of them try, they too would see how the rods would magically move on their own, over the same spot.

With my spade, I dug down a couple of feet and found the white plastic pipe that supplies water to our house. Mission accomplished.

I was not surprised as, over the years I’ve used the technique to find arrows or other metallic objects. While some people are skeptical, I’d always try to alleviate the skepticism by putting the rods in empty soda bottles where it was impossible for your hands to manipulate their motion. Sure enough, when you pass over water or a metallic object, the rods move.

Why? I don’t know.

This depiction of a dowser was found in 18th century European literature. (Wikipedia)

This depiction of a dowser was found in 18th century European literature. (Wikipedia)

Turns out, I don’t think anyone knows for sure. Skeptics say it doesn’t work and subconsciously, the user is manipulating the rods or tree branch (some use tree branches as a divining, or dowsing rod). It’s also called a pseudo-science since no one can actually prove its validity.

I am a believer, however.

A couple of days after showing my family how witching works, local well driller Brent Whitaker shows up to drill a water well at my house. Before he gets the drilling rig in place, he pulls out his brass dowsing rods and decides where he wants to drill. I ask him about the practice and he tells me that he can’t tell how deep or how much water is in the spot, but based on his experience he knows that there is water.

Since I know that witching works, I can’t wait to see how much water he finds.

Questions or comments? Contact Russell at russell@russellgraves.com or visit his website at www.russellgraves.com

{Editor’s note: Our man about Texas really knows how to start a coffee shop conversation.

#4 dowser

Dowsing or witching requires a forked stick or two rods held loosely in the hands. Nobody can say for sure how the technique finds water, ores and other materials on or below the land surface. (Wikipedia)

Records show the practice of dowsing, divining or witching was used in northern Africa to find ore, precious metals or water, dating back 6,000-8,000 years. Critics, meanwhile, insist that two rods or a forked stick have no power of their own to locate subterranean objects or materials, but merely amplify slight movements of the hands, directed by the witcher’s subconscious mind to influence the outcome.

In Texas, where water is precious and residents search for the best and cheapest supply of groundwater, many communities large and small have a local water witcher. And no wonder. Drilling a well costs money. Homeowners are understandably reluctant to gamble on a dry hole, so they turn to the local water dowser for direction.

“Successful” water dowsing can be explained in many areas where underground water is so prevalent close to the surface it would be hard to drill a well and not find water. In a region of adequate rainfall and favorable geology, it is difficult not to drill and find water. But what about the Texas Rolling Plains, gripped by withering drought for years?

The editor, a trained skeptic, views dowsing like a Thermos. He’s glad when it works — he just can’t tell you how.}

 

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