Dowsing is a method used to find underground sources of water, precious metals, or gems. Practitioners often use a Y-shaped or L-shaped Dowsing Rod, although some rely on a Dowsing pendulum, and some use no equipment at all. It is a form of divination, not based on any known scientific laws.

Various forms of Dowsing have been with us throughout the ages. The present practice may have originated in 15th century Germany, and was used to find underground metals. As German miners came to England, they brought the practice with them. By the middle ages, Dowsing was seen as Satanic. By the late 1960s, the US Army used Dowsing rods to search for tunnels and weapons.

Some dowsers use divining rods, L-shaped brass rods. Others prefer Y-shaped rods of wood (coat hangers work, too!).

Pendulum Dowsing uses a simple pendulum for divination. This is usually a length of chain with a crystal or other weight at the end. Before asking a question, the user determines the ground rules. For example, they decide what should direction will indicate “yes” and which will indicate” no”. Alternatively, these words may be written on a cloth placed under the pendulum. The practitioner will hold the pendulum as steadily as possible. As questions are posed, the pendulum will swing in the direction of an answer. This form of divination has been used for medical diagnosis.

Nobody knows why the pendulum, or the Dowsing rod, moves. Some believe that the rods and pendulums simply amplify the movements of the hands. Detractors claim that the answer comes from the dowser’s expectations; supporters argue that dowser’s are highly sensitive to their environment, and may even be experiencing paranormal powers operating through their hands.

Numerous scientific studies have been conducted on dowsing, and to date, no special skills have been identified. Many dowsers are unable to replicate their skills under laboratory conditions. However, some dowsers were very successful. One study was able to conclude that dowsers are able to respond to an electromagnetic field of 60 Hz – but only if the head and kidney area remained unshielded.

A dowser, from an 18th century French book about superstitions. Courtesy Wikipedia.