Dowsing is a process that has been used to find underground water and minerals for centuries. The Tassili Caves in Northern Africa show an 8,000-year-old cave painting of a man with a forked stick looking for water. This is the first known depiction of a dowsing rod being used to find water.
I have personally seen dowsing rods used to find sewer and water lines running under roadways with relative accuracy. Are they 100% accurate? No. But they are within a few feet of the water and sewer lines every time. So, what makes a dowsing rod work? What are they made of? Continue reading to learn more about this fascinating, and somewhat controversial topic.
What Are Dowsing Rods?
Dowsing rods refer to a rod, forked stick, or pendulum like device used to locate minerals, underground water, or other lost or hidden substance. This practice has been used for hundreds of years. The first account of water dowsing was noted in 1568. As the story is written, St. Teresa of Spain was offered a site for a convent to which there was no water source. Enter Friar Antonio with is dowsing twig. He pointed to a spot after dowsing the area and water “gushed forth, excellent for drinking, copious for washing, and it never ran dry.” (Source)
Dowsing rods can be made from wood or metal, or even contain electrical instruments in boxes. Scientists claim dowsing is nothing more than ideomotor movements of the user. This means micromovements of the person holding the dowsing rods that the user is completely unaware of. Science has yet to prove that dowsing works in any capacity, but many farmers and rural communities swear by the practice for finding water sources.
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How Are Dowsing Rods Supposed to Work?
The first step in using dowsing rods properly is to hold them properly. If holding 2 rods, they should be L shaped, held about 9 inches apart so they do not touch or cross, and held away from the body. If you are using a forked stick, it should be held arm’s length from the body and held lightly so it free floats in the hand. Getting a feel for holding a dowsing rod properly is the first step in using the rods properly.
Keep the rods or stick steady as you walk, careful not to tilt the item(s) up or downward as you move. This can cause unintentional movements from your body or arms, giving false readings. A Y-shaped dowsing rod should be pointed upward at a 45-degree angle. L-shaped rods should be held from the bottom of the L and top should point forward.
The rods should be held lightly but with enough grip that they do not slide or roll in the hands. If you are using L-shaped rods, the rods may cross over one another over a certain spot. This is a good indication that water is underneath you. If you are using a Y-shaped rod, the butt end of the stick will rotate downward or even feel like it is being pulled downward slightly. (Source)
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Can Dowsing Rods Find Deep Water?
Dowsing rods can find deep water, according to some believers. One farmer states that once the Y-shaped dowsing rod has found water, he could use a willow stick to determine the depth of the water. He would take a 3-foot willow stick and hold it by the smaller end. He would let the stick bob up and down until it stopped and began to swing side to side instead of up and down. He claimed the more times it bobbed up and down before swinging side to side, the deeper the water was located. This farmer can accurately predict the depth of underground water sources 95% of the time using this method. (Source)
How Accurate Are Dowsing Rods?
The accuracy of dowsing rods is also up for debate. A study conducted by the German government in the 1990s yielded some interesting results. This 10-year study sent researchers along with dowsers and geologists to arid regions such as Yemen, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. In Sri Lanaka alone, of the 691 wells drilled under the dowser’s supervision, 96% of the time water was found.
Skeptics will argue that if you dig deep enough in any location you will find water. When it came to the accuracy of depth, the numbers were much lower. The dowser’s depth predictions and volume predictions were accurate only 10 to 20% of the time. (Source)
However, if we revisit the previous section, the man on his farm was able to predict the depth of water sources on his, and neighboring properties accurately 95% of the time.
How to Use Dowsing Rods to Find Water Pipe Direction
According to NPR, most major water companies in the United Kingdom use dowsing rods to find underground pipes. When confronted, most companies have the same answer: the practice is free and is not their only means of locating water pipes. (Source) As a rule, dowsing should never be the one and only way to find any utility, especially in an emergency. Dowsing has not been scientifically proven effective but has been shown to work for numerous people.
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Water pipes are often found with dowsing rods, just like you can find underground water sources. Some attribute this to the body’s natural senses, meaning the body can inadvertently identify underground water and other mineral sources without the person really knowing. The dowsing rod is thus an extension of the body and can help you see where the pipes or water source may be.
While not 100% accurate, I have personally seen utility companies use dowsing rods to find underground water and sewer lines, and they are within a few feet of the lines. This further proves the point, however, that you should not rely exclusively on dowsing rods to find these lines, especially if they are planning to be dug up. It could be very costly to dig up a street and find the water or sewer line 4 feet to the left of the dig site!
How to Make Dowsing Rods
One of the best materials to make your own dowsing rods for water is copper. Copper is a naturally conductive metal and is easy to work with. Some people make them with 2 different sizes of copper tubing, so the handles are slightly larger than the dowsing rod tubing, allowing the rods to swing freely. Begin with 60 inches of 1/8 inch copper tubing, and 2 4-inch lengths of ¼ inch copper tubing.
Be sure to straighten the copper tubing so all bends and curves are flattened out, while leaving the tubing open. Rolling the copper tube on a flat surface, such as a board or table is an effective way to straighten the curves out. Copper is quite a pliable metal, so you can carefully adjust the copper to the desired straightness.
Cut the smaller tubing to 30-inch lengths. Make a bend about 24.5 inches in, at about 90 degrees. Slide the larger copper tube over the short end and bend the remaining inch upward at 45 degrees to hold the handle in place. Repeat for the second rod, and you have yourself some homemade copper dowsing rods!
This process can also be done with brass or steel, even a wire coat hanger. Just ensure the metal is straightened out, and that you attach handles for comfort and to keep the wires steady. Brass and copper are the best options because they do not rust and can be used for an extended period.
Another option is the Y-shaped rod, typically made from a tree branch. Hazel and witch hazel branches are the most used in the United States and Europe, but Willow and Peach branches work well too because they are light wight and porous. Look for one that is already fallen and naturally forked. If one is not available, look for a natural Y-shape on a tree that you can cut.
Where to Buy Good Dowsing Rods
Dowsing rods are sold at many retailers. Amazon, Walmart, Etsy, and even metal detecting and prospecting retailers often sell dowsing rods. These are almost all made of copper, and range in price from about $10 to $40. When searching for dowsing rods, they may be listed under “paranormal” or “spirit hunting” devices, as many believe these have ties to the supernatural and can also lead to interactions with spirits.
Be sure when searching for dowsing rods at retailers that they are made of 100% copper. Copper is one of the best materials for dowsing rods. If you cannot find any that you feel good about, consider making your own. They are quite a straightforward design, and there are many tutorials online to help you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Dowsing Rods Find Gold?
Many prospectors claim dowsing rods work very well for finding gold. The rods are typically made from copper, as described above. The theory behind this practice is that you feel the vibration within the rods from the materials in the earth. Metals vibrate at a higher frequency than water, but the experience of the dowser and the rod material have a profound influence on the success of the dowsing process.
Those who have a good understanding of the geology, hydrology, and geophysical aspects of the area they are dowsing seem to have the best results. You can read more about dowsing for gold here https://all-about-dowsing.com/dowsing-for-gold/how-to-make-a-dowsing-rod-for-gold-dowsing/
What is the Difference Between Dowsing Rods and Divining Rods?
Dowsing rods, as we have described in depth above, are typically Y-shaped or L-shaped, and can help users find water, minerals, or even lost items underground. The term “divining rod” is sometimes used to describe the Y-shaped, or forked rods, is sometimes frowned upon by those in the dowsing world because of its ties to divination.
Divination is the practice of finding the significance of events by future telling using psychological, natural, or other techniques. This can include, but is not limited to, the Ouija board, tarot cards, horoscopes, and astrology. Throughout history, this has cast a negative shadow onto the practice. In 1518, Martin Luther listed the use of divining rods as an act breaking the first commandment of the Church as dowsing was in league with witchcraft. (Source)
Are Dowsing Rods a Myth?
Dowsing rods are a source of contention among the scientific community and the people who use them. Some farmers, especially in rural areas, swear by these practices. It costs thousands of dollars to drill for a well, and sometimes you are simply guessing whether the water will be there or not. As the United States Geological Survey states, it would be difficult to dig nearly anywhere on earth and not find water, it is all a matter of depth. (Source)
With the cost of exploratory drilling for wells, however, many rely on the practice of dowsing to find water, rather than paying the cost of drilling hole after hole and not finding water. Most scientific tests have shown that dowsing rods do not work in controlled testing. However, one scientific paper describing the physics of the dowsing rods states that scientists have yet to create a reliable test for dowsing.
Should dowsing be the only method used to find utilities underground? No. Does that mean it does or does not work? No. Dowsing works well for those who understand the process and believe in the process. Dowsing, much like anything else, takes some time to get used to. You cannot simply walk outside with a pair of dowsing rods and find a pile of gold or a hidden underground aquifer. You need to practice and learn the subtle intricacies involved.
If you can feel the proper vibrations and miniscule changes of the dowsing rod, you may have success at finding water, gold, or your lost car keys!
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- Main image credit – Pollard Water, link https://www.pollardwater.com/
- St. Teresa of Spain Dowsing Rod Story: https://archive.org/details/bookoffoundation00tereuoft/page/116/mode/1up?view=theater&q=water
- How Dowsing Rods Work: https://www.wikihow.com/Use-Dowsing-or-Divining-Rods
- Dowsing Rods Finding Deep Water: https://www.hobbyfarms.com/water-dowsing-works-dont-know-why/
- German Dowsing Rod Study: https://www.farmersalmanac.com/water-witching-dowsing-22011
- NPR UK Water Companies Using Dowsing Rods: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/11/21/565746002/u-k-water-companies-sometimes-use-dowsing-rods-to-find-pipes
- Martin Luther Denounces Dowsing: https://www.westcoastplacer.com/deep-dive-into-dowsing/
- USGS Information of Dowsing: https://www.usgs.gov/special-topics/water-science-school/science/water-dowsing#overview