Dowsing for Answers
I may have been all of 10 years old the day I first saw Bill Finch dowse, asking questions while holding his pendulum over one of his dowsing charts. Bill and his wife Elizabeth wrote books on dowsing, among them The Pendulum and Possession and The Pendulum and Your Health.
They were published in the ‘70s; I read them at the time because Bill and Betty were friends of my mom’s. After spending the week at the annual ASD (American Society of Dowsers) convention, they would always stay an extra week at our house before heading back home in their RV to Sedona. Mom would have Bill dowsing every one of us, inside and out, for imbalances, nutritional deficiencies, etc. Mom had taught me to dowse a couple years before, but I wasn’t doing it a whole lot then. Watching Bill apply the tool to so many aspects of the human experience for well being was a real inspiration, and probably is a factor in my later work designing my own dowsing protocols.
The website for the British Society of Dowsers (BSD) defines dowsing thusly: “To dowse is to search, with the aid of simple handheld tools or instruments, for that which is otherwise hidden from view or knowledge.” My own definition is similar: ascertaining information that is otherwise unavailable with solely the five senses. But any of the thousands of dowsers in the world will have their own definition, make no mistake!
Dale Miller was 19, working construction, when he first saw dowsing in action. “I watched a union plumber use a pair of L-rods. I saw them swing out,” he recalls in a telephone interview from his home in North Carolina. “Then he called the backhoe over; it dug down three feet and there was the water line.” He laughs softly. “I was just blown away. I asked him what he was doing. ‘Can I try?’ ‘Yes,’ he said, so I did, and it worked.”
For Rachel of Burlington, Vermont, her father was her teacher. “I was about 10 or 11,” she recalls. “We were at camp and he wanted to find the septic system. So he picked up a forked stick and started to dowse for it. I got all excited, and asked him, ‘Can I do that?’ He handed me the branch and I found it right then and there.”
A Skill Through Generations
Dowsing is as mysterious and debated an exercise as there ever was. Yet that doesn’t stop thousands of people across the country — indeed, around the world — from employing it, practicing it and trying to explain it. There are many kinds of dowsers and dowsing tools we indulge in. This author favors a torsion pendulum, but since I lost my last one at the Southwest Dowsers Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona, last year, I’m relying on the old faithful: the gravity pendulum — basically, any weight hanging from a chain or string. The L-rods are fantastically useful, and let’s not forget the venerable Y-rod. “Back in the old days,” Rachel tells me, “they didn’t have rods. They just used sticks. Some of them thought it had to be an apple branch or a plum branch; they had their favorites.”
Dowsing does crop up when we start poking through the historic record. Thanks again to the BSD website for this nugget: “In 1556 Georgius Agricola published his work De Re Metallica which clearly shows dowsing activity in the woodcut therein. One dowser is shown cutting a branch from a tree, whilst two others are shown in the act of dowsing using forked twigs, whilst surrounded by miners digging.”
And this: “Many references to dowsing occur during the seventeenth century including reportage of the activities of Jacques Aymar who, starting as a successful water dowser, found in the 1690s he could also usefully employ his gift in searching for missing persons. 1693 saw the publication of La Verge de Jacob which gives many instances of the use of dowsing rods.”
Many international dowsing societies are listed on the BSD website. Here in America, the American Society of Dowsers was founded in 1961 in Danville, Vermont; the BSD in 1933. In Germany, dowsers have to be certified, just as an engineer would be. Stateside, many dowsers fight certification passionately, not wanting their “gift” subjected to man-made regulations, while others who seek to dowse professionally are asking for a certification process to authenticate their skills. “Even astrologers are certified in California,” one long-time dowser told me. “Why shouldn’t dowsers be able to get certification?”
The certification issue aside, it’s easy to dowse; it’s hard to be a reliably good dowser. “When $10,000 of someone else’s money is riding on your say-so, you feel that pressure,” comments Dale, whose vocation is an electrical contractor, but takes on dowsing jobs – water and otherwise – in his spare time. After his initial experience on the construction site, he contacted the American Society of Dowsers (ASD), became a member, and has been one ever since.
I ask him about his technique, and he explained that he has spent many years and many dollars reading about dowsing, and studying it with the masters and old-timers. “I learn their ways,” he says, “and practice them, and then use that knowledge to create my own techniques for my needs.” He credits the ASD publication, the 1990 Water Dowsers Manual, with providing a big reservoir of information for the beginning water dowser.
Dowsers, you will learn when you spend time with them, all have great stories. I asked Dale for a couple of his. When you hear someone’s a good dowser, you pay attention to what they have to say. I was curious about Dale’s success with finding lost objects because it’s one aspect of dowsing that I personally fail brilliantly at.
“The first lost object I found? Hmm, let me think a minute.” I can feel his smile growing over the phone as the memory fires through his synapses. “This was back in about ‘92,” he relates. “My Mom had called to say that someone had taken some of her jewelry from their house in Tioga, Pennsylvania. I asked her if she misplaced it. She said, ‘No.’” Dale got out his rods and checked it out. He found it in the center of the house, in the office, and got back on the phone to tell her. She looked and didn’t find it. He dowsed again, narrowing the location down even more, next to the hall closet. His mother checked a hidden wall compartment located near the hall closet. Dale never knew the hidden compartment existed, and the jewelry was inside! He laughs, now, thinking about it again. “I didn’t know it was there, but inside was the jewelry she had hidden before taking a trip.”
Rachel’s story is unusual; she didn’t dowse again until thirty years later. She was at Lyndon State College for her daughter’s student orientation and noted Vermont dowser Paul Sevigny was doing a dowsing demonstration. Her childhood experience at camp came rushing back to her, and she spoke to him. He told her she was a natural.
She came home from LSC with a set of L-rods she’d bought from Paul, and proceeded to dowse for the water and electrical lines in front of the house. Not long afterward they had landscaping done. The workmen for the utilities came over, and put orange paint on the grass to mark their lines. Rachel was delighted to see that they marked out exactly the lines she had found by dowsing. But she had found another one in a separate part of the yard. She asked the guy from the electric company if there was one there, he said, “No.”
“I had to leave the house for a while,” she told me, “and when I came back, there were little flags marking that one, too. It turned out to be the telephone line.” Rachel liked dowsing so much she started a group in Chittenden County, Vermont, in 1987. Like Dale, she contacted the American Society of Dowsers, and the chapter she started with a few friends is celebrating its 21st anniversary this year.
But Does It Work?
Is dowsing backed by science, you might wonder? The answer is usually a loud guffaw. Scientific studies of dowsing are few and far between. Most long-time dowsers shy away from tests. “Dowsing works best when there’s a true need,” an instructor told us in a basic dowsing class at the South West Dowsers Conference in Flagstaff, Arizona last October. “You start getting involved with having to prove yourself and you end up with bad dowsing. Skeptics and debunkers carry their energy around with them, and that will mess up your dowsing.”
George Weller is currently the President of the Board of ASD, and shared this story. “My wife, Tonie, and I had stopped to visit a friend on our way home after the annual convention one year. We got to our friend’s house, and ran into her landlady, Elizabeth, in the downstairs studio. She was very glad to see us as she was in desperate need of a dowser. Elizabeth’s mother had just died, and she needed to find the deed to the house her mother had signed over to her a couple of years before. Tonie didn’t hesitate, but went to get her dowsing rods in the car.
“Her rods led us to the other house on the property and up the stairs to the left, into a closet. Then the phone rang and Elizabeth went to answer it. I continued to search the closet, and was drawn to a shoebox on the shelf. It was full of old Christmas cards, but halfway down, I found an envelope with what appeared to be a lawyer’s return address. Elizabeth was talking on the phone with one of her relatives who had just arrived at the airport. I handed her the envelope, tears welled up into her eyes, and she quickly finished her conversation and hung up.
“Tonie and I had found the deed in less then 10 minutes from the time Tonie left to get her L-rods. It really makes you feel good when you can help out like that,” he finishes.
An online search for some hard science in dowsing revealed a Stanford University study, reported in the Journal of Scientific Exploration, March 27, 1995. Entitled “Water Dowsing in Arid Regions: Report on a ten year German Government Project,” this ten year project “ … involved over 2000 drillings in Sri Lanka, Zaire, Kenya, Namibia, Yemen and other countries and is thus the most ambitious experiment with water dowsing ever carried out.”
Commissioned to the German GTZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zussammenarbeit or German Association for Technical Cooperation), it was charged with exploring innovative water detection methods in arid regions. Motivated by both the high cost and modest success rate of purely conventional hydrogeological methods, the GTZ project teamed geological experts, experienced dowsers and a scientific group led by Professor Hans‑Dieter Betz, a physicist at the University of Munich, to monitor and evaluate the results.
According to the report, “The outcome was striking. An overall success rate of 96% (by dowsers) was achieved in 691 drillings in Sri Lanka. Based on geological experience in that area, a success rate of 30-50% would be expected from conventional techniques alone. But the overall success rate is not the only indication that the dowsing phenomenon is of considerable practical use. According to Betz, what is both puzzling but enormously useful, is that in hundreds of cases the dowsers were able to predict the depth of the water source and the yield of the well to within 10 to 20 percent. We carefully considered the statistics of these correlations, and they far exceeded lucky guesses.”
The Amazing (James) Randi isn’t impressed. The noted paranormal debunker has put up $1,000,000 to anyone who can perform his or her paranormal specialty (dowsing, seeing auras, spoon-bending, psychic surgery, remote viewing, etc.) under controlled conditions. He has yet to find a taker.
Back in North Carolina, Dale Miller echoes George Weller’s sentiment. “It just feels good to help,” he says.
A blogger posed this thought-provoking statement on the subject of dowsing: “I'm simply not certain why it is so important to people to debunk something as harmless as dowsing. Seriously, some of you act personally affronted that someone could dare to hold what you call an "unsupported, irrational, faith-over-science" belief.
Dowsing is a very interesting topic for conversation. Mention dowsing in a group, and you’ll get responses across the spectrum. People will scoff, many denounce it, some people have never heard of it. (“You’ve never heard of water witching?” I’ll ask them. Then they often nod vigorously.) Others use it for everything for ascertaining the day’s vitamins to the best hiking trails for the weekend. Personally, this author often takes the pendulum into the voting booth, dowsing for the person on the ballot best suited for the job in question.
Before we were dowsers, we were seekers, questers searching for answers, and found dowsing, which teaches us how to find those elusive answers. Or at least how to ask the right questions.
Marna Ehrech is the 4th term president of the Chittenden County Chapter of ASD and a life-long student of energy and healing. She teaches workshops on energy work and crystal technologies.
Learn more about the 2014 American Society of Dowsers Convention, June 4-9 in Lyndonville, VT.