Pictures from ancient Egypt and China tend to support the belief that dowsing has been used throughout the world, probably for millennia. It has been used for finding water, metals and other objects, using forked sticks, L rods and pendulums. Other uses include detecting different forms of energy, healing and seeking answers to questions or trying to ascertain the future.
Suspicion of dowsing by the church increased in the 16th century in Europe and it became discredited as the work of the devil and was made illegal in England under the Witchcraft Act of 1562.
The historical records of Greece refer to dowsing and the art was widely practiced on the Island of Crete, as early as 400 BC. Researchers have uncovered evidence that the Pytheon Oracle of Delphi used a pendulum to answer the questions posed by her clients, kings, queens, nobility and military commanders who traveled great distances to confer with her.
In this regard, E.S. Cumbie in his fine book entitled, “The Psychometric Pendulum and the Pendulum Board” has this to say about dowsing and the ancient priesthood. “In ancient times, the priesthood felt that the layman did not have the belief, knowledge or training to contact the cosmic mind for enlightenment. So the poor people were forced to rely upon the priests to gain the guidance they sought from a higher source and the priests used dowsing devices to make this contact.”
For example, in Ezra 3:63 of the Old Testament, it is written: “The governor told the people not to partake of the most holy food until the priest contacted Urim and Thummim”. In Samuel 28:6 it says, “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer either in dreams by the prophets or by Urim & Thummim”. Cumbie is convinced that the words Urim & Thummim referred to dowsing devices which could have supplied crucial information and sometimes refused to do so because the priestly dowser held the wrong attitudes or phrased their questions in an incorrect manner.
The blind Greek poet Homer refers to dowsing as Rhabdomancy, which means Divining Rod in Greek. That same word is still used today in the Italian language to denote dowsing. In his monumental work “The Oddesy” Homer also called the dowsing rod the Caduceus, which was passed from Apollo (or Hermes) to Asclepious, the ancient Greek God of healing. This mystical, legendary staff with its entwined serpents has become the universal symbol of healing, used by medical societies around the planet.
Back in the 1400’s, dowsing as we think of it today, was called “Virgula Devine” in Latin which meant dowsing with the rod shape. In Germany, during this period of time, dowsing devices were used extensively by miners seeking mineral ore, who referred to the forked stick as “Deuter” – an umbrella word in German – meaning “to show”, “to indicate”, “to point out”, “to auger”, “to strike”.
According to Christopher Bird, author of the classic book, “The Divining Hand“, the words ‘Dowsing Rod’ came from the famous English Philosopher John Locke whose noble writings inspired the framers of the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the United States.
In his essay, Locke wrote that by the use of the dowsing rod, one could devise or discover water and precious minerals (such as gold & silver and mineral ore) Locke has appropriated his phrase from the long dead English west country language of Cornwall – where in Cornish Dewsys meant “Goddess”, and “Rhod” meant tree branch, and from which he “coined” the phrase – Dowsing Rod.
In the 1700’s and 1800’s in England, Germany and France various books on mining and engineering referred extensively to dowsing, including the “1747 Mining Dictionary” and again in Bordlase’s 1758 “Natural History of Cornwall”, and also “The 1831 Mining Review”.
Because the ancient art was widely used by miners in Germany for hundreds of years to locate water and ore deposits, today in that country libraries and museums of natural history, science, mining and engineering, private collections of art and sculptures have displays of woodcarvings, paintings and drawings, porcelain creations, coins, etc … featuring dowsers holding forked sticks.
Interestingly, London, England’s 1912 edition of “Mining Magazine” published the first translation of a Latin Opus into English. It was called “On Metals” in praise of dowsing which had been first published 356 years earlier. The translators were a professional American mining engineer and his wife. The engineer later gained fame and won notoriety as the 31st President of the U.S. — Herbert Clark Hoover.
As Chris Bird notes, “God knows, had President Hoover been an expert dowser himself, he might have predicted, and therefore, prevented the great stock market crash of 1929.”
Collectively, in some of the world’s finest libraries (e.g. The Library of Congress, The Widener Library of Harvard, The Sterling Library of Yale) you can find approximately 3,500 specialized books on the ancient art and the list grows steadily all the time.
First the question — what is dowsing? Well, for those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, let me say that you won’t find anything of value in current dictionaries or encyclopedias. Those comments, prepared by orthodox scholars, are incomplete and inaccurate, giving only a few descriptions, generally summarizing all with the cryptic comment, that dowsing is simply “folklore”.
Dowsing is an intuitional science, a combination of mental, emotional and intuitive faculties. In essence, a pendulum or other dowsing tool can be used as a ‘binary system’ to seek answers to questions once a reliable ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ can be obtained. Practice is needed to get in the right frame of mind to dowse effectively. A childlike curiosity often seems to produce the best results, where one’s mind is not producing the answer it thinks should occur, and thus pre-empting it. Once you have a consistent Yes and No, any question which can be answered Yes or No can be tried: sometimes the only limit is our imagination…
Dowsing rods are usually L shaped and made out of metal. Rudimentary rods can be made by dismantling and re-fashioning metal coat-hangers. The rods are held parallel to each other in the ‘search’ position whilst holding in mind what you are looking for. When you find it, the rods usually cross…
An issue which might arise is to ask why dowsers sometimes get differing results. This is a mystery, but could be attributable to differing sensitivities or mental distractions. When several dowsers independently of each other get similar results, it is highly affirming. As Hamish Miller used to say, the first 3 rules of dowsing are Practice, Practice and Practice…
Dowsing is an art that takes ‘a minute to learn, a lifetime to master…’