What is Water-Witching?
This is a practice of folklore to use natural objects like a forked green twig to locate buried material, specifically water but this method is said to also be used to find metals and ore deposits, minerals/gems, etc, caverns, caves and buried pipes. In the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, it is knownthat some U.S. Marines used diving techniques in an effort to locate buried weapons and enemy tunnels. The success or failure of these attempts is not reported.
Using a “Y”-shape green twig about the diameter of a pencil, the dowser holds the twin handle under a tortuous load, and ‘scans’ the ground. Questions can be asked of the twig for a purported response in the form of movement, up or down, left or right. Some people can do this without the use of artificial aids such as twig or wire, but generally an object is used. Not everyone can do this successfully. It makes a difference in whether or not you believe the results to be possible, that makes or breaks any success of this divination.
Dowsing Is An Ancient Art
In a woodcut image on Wikipedia, it appears that divining was being used here to locate metal ore. The number of diviners and the number of holes would suggest widespread acceptance of this practice, or perseverance in the face of repeated failures, but the seeming lack of target material in the woodcut seems to suggest less-than-optimal results. Sometimes, these old woodcut images reveal things that aren’t reported in the texts describing them. I recall seeing a woodcut image of an alchemist’s shop. Alchemy, -whose main purpose was to turn base-metals into gold. In this particular woodcut of the Alchemist’s shop, in the back of the room in a glass case was a set of mass scales. This is unusual in Alchemy, as changes in mass were deemed unimportant, so, there was a hint of ‘truth’ in that particular image. At least, one of the tools for finding the REAL truth were present, hopefully, being used and appreciated.
The practice of dowsing has been around since ancient times and is still practiced, although scientifically it is reputed as having no merit or validity. Cited are the instances of incorrect results or,- how can a twig find a) water, b) metal or c) buried caverns/void space, using just the same inert tool? It is like using a wind-vane to correctly determine that yes, the wind is blowing. But using a wind-vane to determine what temperature the air is? It won’t work. Therefore by extrapolation, the notion of the divining rod’s ability to locate water, or metal, or cave, must be incorrect also, seems to be the dismissive scientific view.
How to Find Water via Water-Witch
Using a “Y” shaped twig usually of hazelwood or willow that is green and freshly-cut, the hands are placed upon the handles and an outward torque is applied to the fork. This imparts a ‘spring-load’ to the device, perhaps energizing it to its purpose.
I learned how to do this back in the 1980s, and to my surprise, there really does seem to be a ‘downward pull’ when passing over certain sections of ground being tested. While admittedly it is entirely possibly to cast a well in some regions and always hit water, it stands as a curious feature that several people testing the same ground can often experience the same results in the same very specific area. That particular ‘tug-tug-tug’ on the pointy-end of the twig is an acquired sense. It is similar to fishing for coveted trophy fish and having little nuisance whitefish (sunfish, bluegill, etc.) nibbling at the baited hook. You can feel this little vibration and the adept fisherman knows thatit is just a pesky mini-fry and not that sought-after lake trout. The sensation in the forked twig is very similar.
Those whom do not believe in divining often cite the diviner’s lack of training in geology and hydrology therefore; they know not how to locate water. It’s the old ‘trust me, -I’m a scientist’ mentality. On the other hand, there are diviners whom claim 100% success rates, claim to predict gallonage, artesian pressure and target depth and are too often proved wrong. They do believers more harm than the regular critics and disbelievers of the art. They retort that the drilling effort ‘collapsed the rivulet,’ or that ‘the stream diverted’ due to the weight of the drilling platform (having crushed the porous strata, whatever.)
The most oft claim when finding water has failed is that the water-well driller did not dig deep enough. Who knows? Perhaps the diviner was seeking water and was instead attuned to a natural coal deposit or some other unusual sub-strata mineral? While a 2-inch wide core sample from 400-feet deep would tell a geologist more reliably about the strata ground than a diviner with a quivering wet twig, sometimes, a water-witching finds water in places that geologists and well-diggers said that would not be any. For me, this is no more ‘proof’ in favor of, than a failure for a water-witching to find water is for the skeptics.
Can This Find Underground Tunnels?
I have used the bent-wire method myself and have not had much success with it. The method is to hold the short ends of a metal rod, preferably made of brass, side by side. By slowly passing these over ground being tested, any ‘void’ below your body will cause one or the other rod to swing to the side. As I said, I have not success with this, but my father has and used this method before to locate a misplaced drainpipe in the place where he used to work. The drainpipe had to be extracted from the cement floor, but the blueprints for the build were missing so the engineers were ‘guessing’ at the location. And they missed the pipe entirely.
Upon digging and tearing up the cement floor quite a bit, my dad offered to ‘witch’ the area with two braising rods. A braising rod is made of brass, covered with a hard powdered flux. Using a hammer, Dad pounded the flux off of the two rods and bent them similar to the image above, and using the side-by-side method, located the pipe. Every time one rod swung sideways over or under the other, it was a ‘hit’ and the position was marked on the floor. Dad traced the direction and length of the pipe with his boot on the dusty shop floor.
Of course, the engineers laughed at the notion and said that the site was way, way off from specs, but they did a test dig on the floor …just to be sure. And you know what? They FOUND the pipe! Exactly where dad indicated it would be, some 12-inches deep and 8 or 10 feet away from where the engineers were mistakenly digging!
While again, not proof-positive, a success like that is better than ‘random chance’ and it really makes one wonder.