Like my childhood misinterpretation of the church hymn “Bringing in the Cheese” for the longest I really did think it was “water wishing” (after all, you are wishing for water when you engage in this activity). But to be clear, the reference is definitely “witching” for in olden days, some believed this practice to be of the occult.
The practice is controversial to say the least. Old school farmers and those following almanacs wouldn’t think of digging for water without witching first. Fundamentalist preachers will tell you it’s called witching for a reason and to avoid it at all costs.
Popularized in Germany back in the 1500s, “dowsing” (as it’s also known) actually traces back thousands of years according to Egyptian hieroglyphics. In 1362 Pope John XXII forbade it, calling it sorcery. 1518 Martin Luther preached that it violated the first commandment (“Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”) And a Jesuit scientist named Gaspar Schott declared it satanic in 1659. (Keep in mind this was also around the time they were burning witches in Salam, so engaging in anything supernatural or unexplainable could get you killed.)
To other side of this controversial subject “divination” (of which dowsing is one branch) comes from the Latin word, “divinare” meaning “inspired by God.” By this definition, those capable of finding water this way are believed to have a God-given gift like that of a prophet or a mystic. Some Bible scholars believe Moses was a diviner, citing the Numbers 20:11 wherein “… Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank and their beasts also.” Leonardo Di Vinci was skilled in the art. Gen. George Patton had a willow tree flown to Morocco so that a dowser could use its branches to find water to replace the wells the German army had blown up. And though he couldn’t explain how or why it worked, Einstein too, believed there was something to it.
So while you ponder whether you’re a believer or not, let me tell you how it works…
You take a Y-shaped branch. (I’ve been told willow or peach are best; some use metal rods, known as “divining rods”. Personally, I’m a peachy kinda girl; I like branches.)You hold said branch on the ends of the “Y”, fists up. (Some do it fists down; but I found fists up to be more convincing, as it’s harder to fake it when your branch turns downward cause fists bending backwards are most unnatural and uncomfortable.) You start with the stem of your “Y” pointing straight up. Slowly you walk over the targeted area (in my case looking for water, though dowsing has also been used for finding metals, and even human remains). When the stem of your branch starts to twitch, you’re getting near. If you’re lucky, the entire branch will take a nose dive, assumedly when picking up the vibration of the water (stream) below the earth’s surface. It is mysterious to say the least, fascinating to observe, and some will tell you it’s a bunch of bunk. I, on the other hand, believe in it and will be calling on my water witching friend to come back when my well digger is ready to drill, to have him repeat what I watched him do a few months back. (For the record, the journalist in me yes, wanted a second diviner’s opinion. I called on another gentleman, whose branch turned downward in the very same spot as the first. One had a peach branch; one had a willow. )
But here’s where things got interesting…
After confirming to the second gentlemen that he had indeed landed on the same spot as the first, he turns to me and hands me his branch. Personally, I have always believed this art to be doable only by those who have the gift…like psychics or those who can wish warts away (another subject for another blog). But this too, divides the sheep from the goats…Opinions are split on just who can witch for water.
I take the branch in my hands sincerely hoping to prove that I am right in that only those with this gift can master the art, because I haven’t a clue what I’m doing and it’s very awkward when your fists bend backwards. (Keep in mind, I also know where they’ve spotted water, so I’m hardly a valid scientific experiment here.)
But I will tell you this.
I was holding this branch with all my might (fists up; “Y” stem, straight up)…and when approaching the zone, I could not stop the stem from turning down. As God is my witness, there was something tugging on the stick.
It did not take this to make me a believer. I believed in dowsing going in, as I do many other metaphysical things, proof for which isn’t always available. Years of producing a metaphysical talk show like Beyond Reason has convinced me there is a lot more to life than meets the eye.
But when it came to dowsing, it was no longer “seeing is believing” for me. In my experience, “feeling was believing” (but of course, nothing is for certain til we actually start to drill).
The proof, as they say, will be in the pudding. In a couple of weeks we’ll know for sure.
Of course I’m hoping I’m right. (Not just to prove it so, but also because it's rather costly when you drill and miss.) But I promise to report back either way, even if I’m wrong.
Here’s to life in the country. One thing’s for certain, it’s never boring.