A pendulum is a rodlike instrument with a suspended weight used to tap into energy fields for purposes of Divination. The pendulum appears to read energy patterns emanating from beings and objects, and it communicates the information to the user by swinging back and forth or in circles.

Pendulums are one of the Tools used in DOWSING for the detection and measurement of radiations that come from mineral, plant, animal, or human sources. The weight can be any object—a metal plumb, a button, a coin, for example—that is hung from a rod by a thread, string, or wire.

The precursor of the pendulum is the divining rod or wand, used for magical and practical purposes by various peoples since ancient times and referred to in the Bible as Jacob’s Rod. Like the divining rod, the pendulum works on the principle that every organism is surrounded by various types of energy, some positive and some negative. Each living organism must develop a means by which it can sense these energies so that it can use the positive energies and avoid the negative. The pendulum serves as a tool that humans apparently can use to amplify the signals. It is not known exactly how this process takes place, but the user seems to be able to “tune in” intuitively or psychically to the frequency of whatever is being sought, including emotions. It is theorized that the nervous system and psychic sense are involved. Most persons are able to use a pendulum with success, but some individuals seem to have an innate gift for it.

Uses of the pendulum have been diverse throughout history, but the most common are the finding of water, minerals, and objects that are buried in the ground and the finding of lost objects, thieves, missing persons, and hidden treasure. Modern uses include medical diagnosis and treatment, geological prospecting, and military activities. In medical diagnosis the pendulum appears to pick up energies emanating from every cell, tissue, and organ. Negative energies are associated with disease, and positive energies with good health. In the military, the pendulum has proved useful. In the Vietnam War, U.S. Marines were trained in its use for finding underground mines, ammunition dumps, unexploded shells, and tunnels and to trace enemy movements. During World War II, British intelligence forces reportedly used a pendulum to divine Hitler’s next moves. The pendulum also has been used in archaeological digs, and in police work to locate missing persons, bodies, and criminals.

A pendulum must be activated before first use by the asking of yes and no questions. For example, the pendulum may respond to a yes question with clockwise circular motions and to a no question with counterclockwise circular motions. Pendulum users say that one should ask the pendulum whether or not one can use it. The pendulum will affirm or reject.

The pendulum has become the dowsing tool of choice, perhaps due to its small size and convenience. It can be kept in a pocket or pouch. Some pendulums are fancy and expensive, made out of sterling silver chains and carved crystals or precious stones. Others are less elegant and costly but are equally effective. Many users feel they get the best results from pendulums they make themselves, which is in keeping with magical lore that one should make one’s own magical tools.

There are different prescriptions for making pendulums. Here is one: The pendulum should be onion or pear shaped, symmetrical about its vertical axis and about 2.5 to three inches at the largest diameter. It can be solid or hollow with a screw top. Another form of pendulum is cylindrical with two conical ends and about three to five inches long. The weight should be about 50 grams. Dowsers who work primarily indoors with documents can have a lighter weight from 15 to 30 grams. Pendulums for outdoor work are heavier, weigh up to 150 grams. Hang the pendulum from a cord which may be of thread, an antitwist nylon, or a chain. The cord should be held between the thumb and forefinger of either hand with up to about eight inches of cord between the thumb and the pendulum. Most dowsers determine their own ideal length of cord according to their experience.

T. C. Lethbridge, British archaeologist who became intrigued by dowsing, conducted considerable research with the pendulum following his retirement to Devon in 1957. A neighbor, an old woman reputed to be a witch, advised him that the pendulum is far more accurate than the forked-stick divining rods also used by dowsers. In his experiments, Lethbridge discovered that a pendulum appears to have precise responses to various substances. The responses are determined by two rate factors: the length of the string suspending the weight, and the number of times the pendulum rotates. For example, he found that the response for silver is 22 circular rotations of a pendulum on a 22-inch string.

Lethbridge discovered that the pendulum was astonishingly accurate. By creating rate tables, he was able to find a wide range of objects and things successfully, including truffles. He also discovered that the pendulum was sensitive to emotions and thoughts. He put forth theories that the pendulum could sense death, time, and other, nonphysical dimensions. Lethbridge determined that a pendulum on a 40-inch string registers death. Beyond that length, objects seem to response at their normal rate plus 40, though the pendulum reacts not over them but off to one side. Lethbridge proposed that if 40 is death, then rates beyond 40 indicate a parallel dimension beyond death in which everything seems to continue to exist but not in the same position. Still another dimension appears to exist beyond the rate of 80. Lethbridge also determined that 40 is the rate for the concept of time. Between 40 and 80, time seems to exist in an eternal now and then begins to flow again between 80 and 120 when it stops again.

Lethbridge’s theories about time and dimensions beyond death remain highly controversial. His widow, Mina, said that excessive work with the pendulum depleted his vitality and contributed to his death of a heart attack.


  • 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. The Power of the Pendulum. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1976.
  • Nielsen, Greg, and Joseph Polansky. Pendulum Power. Wellingborough, Northamptonshire: Excalibur Books, 1984.

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

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