Dowsing – More Than Just Searching For Water


DowsingDowsing, a type of divination, is a centuries-old practice of locating underground sources of water, mineral and petroleum deposits, and even lost objects.  Because there are no technologies used, modern science and most non-believers consider it a pseudoscience (a collection of beliefs and/or practices mistakenly being regarded as based in scientific practice).  Even the idea of roaming across the land, holding a forked stick or divining rods in front of you while searching for that hidden source of water, definitely raises eyebrows with the uninformed crowd.  It’s partially because what we call science is no more than a list of what the rich and powerful decide it to be.  Real scientific research has been hijacked by politicians and technology giants to help pave the way for their takeover of all information streams.  In the process, just like with so many other non-mainstream theories, they ridicule those involved in the practice of dowsing, calling them extremely lucky, mentally unstable, foolish, or sometimes all of the above.  And yet despite the “in-crowd” telling us that it’s a waster of time, it seems to be a legitimate and effective way to find water.  And it’s been in practice for centuries; documented as far back as at least 1518, when the technique was used to hunt for precious metals in Germany.

As it is with most metaphysical topics that are featured on The Gypsy Thread, this article isn’t meant to convince the reader of anything.  It’s a detailed look at the practice of dowsing and enough information to encourage the reader to do their own research if they wish to discover more.  If you’re looking for statistical proof or undeniable facts, then you might want to seek those figures elsewhere.  Chances are that if you are already that much of a skeptic, then you’ll be further disappointed.  But, if you have an open mind and a natural curiosity, then please read, comment, and share as much as you would like to.

What Exactly is Dowsing?

Dowsing is considered to be an art form by some, a natural gift by the elders, or a skill by others.  Other terms for dowsing are twitching, rhabdomancy, witching, divination, dousing, doodlebugging, radiesthesia, doodlebugging, or water witching. By definition, dowsing is a technique of searching for underground water, minerals, or anything hidden below the ground by observing and understanding the motions of a “pointer” or the changes in direction of a pendulum, supposedly based on unseen influences.  Notice that even the definition attempts to imply that the process is questionable by using terms such as supposedly and unseen.  It’s not surprising however and only goes to further to show how science and metaphysics are indeed two separate disciplines.

There are no gadgets associated with dowsing; no ground penetrating radar, no seismic imaging, or other electrically powered toys.  It’s done by old-fashioned human interaction with the land and energy.  When the subject of the hunt is encountered, the divining tool will react by being “pulled” down or towards it.  How exactly it works is anyone’s guess, but the fact that it does work should be enough to ensure it continues long into the future.  There are many different types of tools that the dowser can utilize along with different methods.

Tools of the Trade

There are many different types of divining tools; many more than will be highlighted in this section.  If you’d like to see all the tools available, then check out the complete catalogue on the The American Society of Dowser’s website.  The most common tools are the Y-shaped or forked stick and the set of two L-shaped rods.  The forked stick is simple and easy to find.  Look for a Y-shaped branch with forks that are of equal length.  The L-shaped rods are also fairly easy to construct.  Use two wires of equal length and diameter of any stiff, but bendable material.  Some of the most common choices are copper, brass, or steel.  The wires must be twenty inches long.  Bend each wire about one-quarter of the total length in a ninety degree angle to create your handles.  Some people cover the handle with heavy tape or other material to increase grip and limit any potential loss of control.  There are literally hundreds of commercially available fork and rods; it’s really up to the user to decide which one works best for them.

In addition to forks and rods, dowsing can be accomplished by using a pendulum or a bobber. The pendulum is a crystal or other charged stone which is attached to a chain or cord.  Practitioners focus on the movements of the free-hanging stone and ask questions. It’s said that the person receives intuitive guidance or energy, that in turn causes the pendulum to move in specific patterns, which are indicative of answers.  If you’d like to explore the techniques further, then you might pay a visit to to learn more.  The pendulum is considered the best-known and most used diving tool when it comes to searching for lost objects or decision-making.   The term “pendulum dowsing” is often used in reference to a search for something specific, while the term “pendulum divining” is most often used in reference to seeking information.


A bobber is a versatile tool which consists of a handle and a stiff length of wire with a small weight on the end.   It is similar to a dowsing rod and has been referred to as a dowsing wand or straight wand.   It is also held out in front of the user and the weighted end, bobs, when the target is located.  This method is often used by newer dowsers because it’s light and easy to use.

Dowsing History

When any type of non-mainstream practice is reviewed by modern science, it’s usually done so with a healthy dose of skepticism and often regarded as folklore or mythology.  Dowsing is treated no different than witchcraft, earth magick, or astral projection by those groups.  It’s seen as a pseudoscience or worse; their definition basically says that there is no scientific proof that it works, but that science is afraid to come right out and call it fake because the results are significant.  It can’t be proven but it can’t be disproven either.

With that being said, modern “science” would rather us believe that all discoveries made through dowsing techniques be labelled as dumb luck.  Ironically, modern science can make the claim that it’s been around for 2,500 years, while dowsing can be traced back 8,000 years.  The first evidence of dowsing comes from a crude cave drawing found in the Tassili Caves in Northern Africa (photo to the right) where more than 15,000 images exist showing the evolution of life in the area.  The particular drawing referenced to the left, depicts a man, wearing a white head covering and holding a forked stick in front of his body in an obvious act of dowsing. He is being followed closely by another person, who is likely an apprentice or recorder of his activities.  Skeptics may try to argue that the picture represents something altogether different, aside for the fact that no other activity known to mankind is performed in the fashion shown by the drawing.  Further research has identified images all across the world including ancient Egypt and Greece.  Even the Christian Bible makes reference to Moses using his staff to find water int he desert.

The commonly accepted history of dowsing doesn’t take into account the multiple ancient references, but instead relies on written accounts of the mining industry in Germany.  Miners used divining techniques to search for hidden metals, but when religious leaders discovered the practice, it was quickly outlawed as being associated with occultism.  The practice did however continue although quietly throughout the next few centuries.  In the early 1960’s the practice was used to search for hidden underground tunnels during the Vietnam War as well as to search for water in the badlands of South Dakota.  Search and rescue teams in Europe would also use the technique to find people trapped due to avalanches.  The lack of empirical data is likely due to the fact that dowsers weren’t reporting their successes to any agency or body of leaders; they simply used their skills when called upon by their fellow human being in times of need.

How To Dowse Using A Forked Stick

This method is one of many, but for a better understanding of the topic,  it’s being used as an example.  First, so read your hands and grab both ends of the Y in an underhanded grip.  The dowsing rod should be held at a right angle to your body, pointed ahead of you.  Don’t squeeze it overly tight; it’s not made of gold or anything.  Now concentrate on what it is you’re trying to find.  The key, at least from several experts on the subject, is to simply relax and suppress all inhibitions or skepticism and let your brain focus on what it is your are seeking.  It’s all about tuning into the energies of the world around you.

Start to walk slowly in the area you are using as a search field.  Plan your route to avoid walking over places you’ve already covered.  It will be slow going and possibly frustrating at first (especially if you are the type that expects immediate results).  If you are successful, as you approach a water source, you should feel your dowsing rod start to be pulled towards the ground.  If you hit a large cache, the pulling will be so strong that it may feel like the rod is being wrenched from your hands, so don’t go too loose on the grip.

At this point, you’ll likely stand there in amazement.  You’ll  also want to know how it works.  Many sites will claim that they know and you’ll be forced to read more than you bargained for and will likely understand very little of it.  The quick answer to the question of how it works is simple.  No one knows.  Just like many other forms of earth-based magick, it’s a mystery that many try to prove, but none are successful.

Further Study – Advanced Dowsing Techniques

One advanced application of divining is known as map dowsing.  It’s considered an advanced technique for several reasons.  First, there are more map dowsing techniques than could possibly be analyzed or tested.  Second, those who practice map dowsing do so from a remote location most often.  They use a map of a geographic location, or if divining facts about a person, they will use a map or drawing of that person.  Experienced practitioners use pendulums and grid lines to help them reach a conclusion or answer.

Additionally, there are dowsers who use their abilities for spiritual healing and wellness.  In combination with psychic healing techniques these gifted users help to clear emotional blockages and find areas where self-healing can occur.  Some experts have also been called on to help find missing persons, test the functionality of organs and systems in the human body, and to engage with others on rare or difficult topics.


Does it really work?  If you are asking this question at this point, then you may want to do more research.  As stated above, there is no process than anyone can replicate in a controlled study to prove dowsing works without a doubt.  But then again there is no process to show that it doesn’t work either.  Nature provides us with many gifts that we can’t explain, but we accept.  Birds seem to be able to migrate thousands of miles but return to the same places each year without any compass.  A audible hum has existed in the area around Taos, New Mexico for two decades; it started in 1993 but no one knows how or why.  The center of the earth is as hot as the sun, but never melts.  And with a little practice, a human being can find water with simple tools and determination.

Additional Reading

Nine Nasty Myths, Falsehoods, and Outright Government Lies

What is Magick, You Ask?


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