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Dowsing, frequently called water witching or doodlebugging (USA), is a method of divination for discovering water, metals, and minerals, in or under ground that appears to have arisen in the context of Renaissance magic in Germany and has remained popular since. Dowsers, sometimes known as diviners, also use a forked branch of a tree, bent pieces of metal or plastic wire, or a small pendulum.

Some people use no pointing device at all as other claim to be able to find water or minerals by dowsing a map.
Dowsing is distinguishable from a related divinatory method called radiesthesia because the latter method not only attempts to discover inanimate but animate objects as well such as missing person, and also is used in the detection of illnesses and prescribing their treatment.

However, almost everywhere the terms dowsing and radiesthesia have became synonymous.
As with dowsing, there is also the phenomena of teleradiesthesia or superpendulism. This is the phenomena where the sensitive person does not go to the actual location of the sought after object, but a map of the location is brought to him
There is no accepted scientific rationale behind the concept and no scientific evidence that it works.

Dowsing Tools

Dowsing Tools

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History of Dowsing

History of Dowsing

The origination of dowsing dates back about 7000 years. It is known to have been practiced among the Egyptians and ...
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How to Dowse

How to Dowse

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The Uses of Dowsing

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Dowsing is a form of Divination for locating lost and missing persons and animals and for detecting hidden objects and substances, such as water, oil, coal, minerals, cables, and pipes. Dowsing also is used in the mapping of archaeological sites. Many people dowse as a way of checking their intuition about decisions and choices for virtually any purpose.

No one knows exactly how or why dowsing works. The tool responds to the user. For example, if a dowser is looking for underground water with rods, the rods will signal where the water is by moving up and down or back and forth. A pendulum will begin to whirl. Along with the signals from the tool, the dowser may also get intuitive visual impressions.

Dowsers do not necessarily need to go on location to search for things. Many dowse maps in a type of remote viewing. Dowsing is at least 7,000 years old; its exact origins are unknown. Rods of wood or metal (even coat hangars) are used as well as pendula.

Ancient Egyptian art portrays dowsers with forked rods and headdresses with antennae. Ancient Chinese kings used dowsing rods. The Kalahari bushmen of Africa have long used dowsing to find sources of water. During the Middle Ages, dowsing was used widely in Europe and Great Britain to locate underground water and coal deposits. It was associated with the supernatural, which gave rise to the terms water witching and wizard’s rod. Among the first books on the subject were The Diviners by Gaspard Peucer, published in 1553, and De Re Metallica by Agricola, published in 1556 in Germany.

Dowsing was transplanted to America by the early colonists. Dowsing was widely used until the 19th century when scientists dismissed it as superstition. In the 20th century, dowsing made a comeback as an intuitive skill. It is used in archaeological digs, the search for gas, oil, minerals, and buried cables, and in medicine. During wartime, dowsers helped locate mines, unexploded shells, and buried mortars for the military. Dowsers also have contributed research toward the understanding of mysterious earth energies, such as l eys. Individuals dowse for personal matters and divination.

Further Reading :

  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Breakthrough Intuition: How to Achieve a Life of Abundance by Listening to the Voice Within. New York: Berkley Books, 2001.
  • Lethbridge, T. C. Ghost and Divining-Rod. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1963.
  • Wilson, Colin. Mysteries. New York: Perigee Books/G.P. Putnams’ Sons, 1978.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written byRosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.


Also called water witching, dowsing is the act of using a tool to find a hidden substance. The typical tool used is a dowsing rod, also called a divining rod, which can be either a forked piece of wood or an L-shaped piece of metal. The most common substance found through dowsing is an underground source of water, but people use dowsing to find many other materials as well. These include minerals, lost money, lost pets, missing persons, and shipwrecks. Dowsing is performed in one of two ways. In the most common way, called field dowsing, the dowser walks through a field or other area where the hidden object might be. With very steady hands, the dowser holds the dowsing rod (which, in cases where oil is being sought, is often called a doodlebug instead) roughly waist-high in front of the body. When the rod twitches or moves in some other fashion, seemingly of its own accord, this is taken to mean that the object of the search is directly below. In the second, less common way, called map dowsing, the dowser holds a dowsing rod or a dowsing pendulum over various parts of a map and notes the spot where the rod or pendulum appears to jerk, twitch, or move on its own.

Various theories have been put forth in an attempt to explain how dowsing might actually conform to known physical laws, but each has serious flaws. No one knows why dowsers sometimes make amazing discoveries. Sceptics, however, point to controlled studies that suggest the success rate of dowsers is no better than chance. In fact, sceptic James Randi has offered a monetary reward to any dowser who can prove that he or she has a success rate significantly better than chance. No one has yet claimed the prize.


  • James Randi


The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning

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