Dowsing, sometimes called divining or water witching, refers to the practice of detecting hidden or buried water, metals, gemstones, or other such objects without the use of scientific apparatus. Dowsers generally make use of a Y- or L-shaped twig or rod to assist with detection, however some dowsers use other equipment or no equipment at all.

Dowsing is widely practiced despite a lack of scientific evidence for its efficacy.

History of dowsing:

Dowsing has existed in various forms for thousands of years. The original may have been for divination purposes — to divine the will of the gods, to foretell the future and divine guilt in trials. Dowsing as practiced today probably originated in Germany during the 15th century, when it was used to find metals. The technique spread to England with German miners who came to England to work in the coal mines. During the Middle Ages dowsing was associated with the Devil. In 1659 dowsing was declared Satanic by the Jesuit Gaspar Schott. In 1701 the Inquisition stopped using the dowsing rod in trials. In the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, U.S. Marines may have used dowsing to attempt to locate weapons and tunnels. An extensive book on the history of dowsing was published by Christopher Bird in 1979 under the title of The Divining Hand. James Randi’s 1982 book Flim-Flam! devotes 19 pages to comprehensive double-blind tests done in Italy which yielded chance results. Randi‘s offer of one million dollars to any dowser who can perform statistically above chance, remains unclaimed.

Dowsing equipment:

Traditionally, the most common divining rod was a Y-shaped branch from a tree or bush. Some dowsers prefer branches from particular trees; hazel twigs in Europe and witch-hazel in the United States were commonly chosen. Some dowsers prefer the branches to be freshly cut.

Many dowsers today use a pair of simple L-shaped metal rods; some even use bent wire coat hangers. One rod is held in each hand, with the short part of the L held upright, and the long part pointing forward. Some dowsers claim best success with rods made of particular metals, such as brass.

Pendulums such as a crystal or a metal weight suspended on a chain are sometimes used in divination and dowsing, particularly in remote or "map dowsing". In one approach, the user first determines which direction (left-right, up-down) will indicate "yes" and which "no," before proceeding to ask the pendulum specific questions. In another form of divination, the pendulum is used with a pad or cloth that has "yes" and "no" written on it, and perhaps other words, written in a circle in the latter case. The person holding the pendulum aims to hold it as steadily as possible over the center. An interviewer may pose questions to the person holding the pendulum, and it swings by minute unconscious bodily movement in the direction of the answer. In the practice of radiesthesia, a pendulum is used for medical diagnosis.

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Author's Bio: 

This definition is part of a series that covers the topic of Dowsing. The Official Guide to Dowsing is Chris Barr.

Chris Barr is a Feng Shui and Dowsing Expert, national speaker and consultant and the founder of and the creator of The Palm Beach Feng Shui System®, the most complete Feng Shui and Dowsing consultation program for homeowners and entrepreneurs.

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