Dowsing and Chaga

Dowsing and Chaga (Two of my favorite things not many folks know about.)

The snow is almost all gone here in Northern Vermont and it’s the perfect time to get out in the woods and forage, when everything wonderful is starting to come up: Fiddleheads, Ramps (or Wild Onions), Cow Slips, highly nutritious and free edible greens. The best part about getting in the woods right now, opposed to a few weeks from now is zero bugs! What I went out in the woods to find was a different kind of edible; I was searching for the medicinal fungus, Chaga. It grows on birch trees throughout northern America, Russia and parts of Europe. It makes an amazing maple-birch tasting tea and it’s good for anything that ails you.

But enough about that, my real story here is about how my husband helped me locate it with L-Rods. Assuming you know nothing about dowsing or dowsing tools, an L-Rod is one of the four common tools of the dowsers. They are shaped just like an L and made of bent wire. When held in the hands, they can swing to point you in a direction of something you are looking for. They can also swing in a way to give you ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers. They are most commonly used to find water, but we decided to try locating the Chaga mushroom with them.

Just in case you have no idea what dowsing is, I’ll describe that too. Dowsing is the ancient art of finding water with a stick. Yep, finding water with a ‘stick’ but more modernly, the dowsers use L-rods, Y-rods and other tools like pendulums. Dowsers also try to locate more things than just water these days, such as missing objects, people, gold, and even answers to questions.

chaga300So, on this particular beautiful sunny day, my family, which consists of my husband, 11 year-old son and 5 month-old baby girl, decided to go on a Chaga hunt bringing with us our dowsing tools, the L-rods. We drove to the nearby state forest and put the baby in her front pack carrier, and started exploring the barely-used paths of the wildlife management area. I imagined us to look like a pretty cute family; everyone except me has wild red hair. (I’m the odd ball in this pack of gingers, the boys who pack enough gear to survive days in the wild, for a 2 hour walk in the woods.) I started with the rods since I’m the one that is a Chaga fanatic.

First I took out the L-Rods and programmed them by asking for a ‘yes’ response, where my rods swung wide open and a ‘no’ response where my rods crossed together. Then I asked if there was an easy to find available Chaga within an easy walk and got a solid ‘yes’. Now where is it? To test the rods, my son and I stood back-to-back, each holding one and asked to be pointed to the easiest available source of Chaga. We couldn’t see each other and we were kind of testing out the accuracy of our dowsing. Both rods pointed north. I desired to go east just because I saw lots of birch trees where Chaga might be, so we had our direction but I trekked the other way. There was birch everywhere, and after a few minutes I spotted it. The blackness of this mushroom is starkly noticeable against the gray branches of the trees. We moved off the path through brambles, getting caught on raspberry bushes and I got a wolf spider in my hair. Eek!

When we arrived at the Chaga, it was about 20 feet above us. Without one of us having super strength and accuracy with throwing an axe, it wasn’t coming down. So we gave up and moved on, again asking the L-Rods to point us in the direction of the easiest, most available source of Chaga. Again, the L-Rods pointed north. This time we headed north and arrived at a cross of a few dusty old logging roads we could take. I gave my husband the L- Rod. He’s more easy-going than I, more unattached to the outcome. “You try”. Anthony took the L-Rods and they pointed to the Northeast path. “It’s beautiful this way”, he said. “You can take this path for miles into the deep woods”.

Did I mention there were signs of moose, fresh signs at that, this whole time in the woods? There were tracks, fresh droppings. I had a real fear of encountering moose while toting an infant around. I’ll quell the suspense; no we didn’t encounter a moose that day!

We followed Anthony for about 5 minutes; he was asking silent questions and not sharing his communications with the L-Rods with the rest of us. Then he veered off into the woods with no explanation. My son, baby girl and I waited, and waited and waited, for about 5 minutes, but we were hot so it felt longer. Finally I yelled “We’re ready to go”.

“Not yet, one minute… I found it,” he yelled back! The L-Rods had veered in this direction and he followed them into the woods. I’m talking random spot, no path, and no indication of big birches or Chaga. We followed his voice deep into the woods. This time there were no raspberry bushes. It was an easy walk through moss and newly sprouting shoots. When we found him, there it was, about chest level to my son. A humongous growth of Chaga mushroom. It was beautiful.

I’m not sure what excited me more, that we found this rare mushroom? Or that we did it with the L-Rods? I mean, really, if the L-Rods hadn’t pointed in this direction, he wouldn’t have just walked off into this random spot in the woods to find ‘the easiest, most available Chaga’. We harvested it, sustainably of course, leaving some on the tree to ensure re-growth.

The L-rods have won a place in our survival packs for our many seasonal foraging trips. Who knows, they may come in handy if we ever get lost!

Jax Willey
Bookstore Operator of ASD
(American Society of Dowsers)