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Divination - Dowsing

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Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, malign 'earth vibrations' and many other objects and materials without the use of a scientific apparatus.  Dowsing is a pseudoscience, and there is no scientific evidence that it is any more effective than random chance.  Dowsers often achieve good results because random chance has a high probability of finding water in favourable terrain.

Dowsing is also known as divining (especially in reference to interpretation of results), doodle bugging (particularly in the United States, in searching for petroleum or when searching specifically for water, water finding, water witching (in the United States) or water dowsing.

A Y-shaped twig or rod, or two L-shaped ones -- individually called a dowsing rod, divining rod (Latin: virgula divina or baculus divinatorius), 'vining rod', or 'witching rod' -- are sometimes used during dowsing, although some dowsers use other equipment or no equipment at all.  Dowsing remains popular among believers in Forteana (Charles Hoy Fort was an American writer and researcher who specialised in anomalous phenomena) or radiesthesia (describes an ability to detect a range of subtle energy and electromagnetic radiation emitted by a person, animal, object or geographical feature).

The motion of dowsing rods (used by most modern-day dowsers) is now generally attributed to the ideomotor response, a psychological phenomenon wherein a subject makes motions unconsciously. . In less complex terms, dowsing rods only move due to accidental or involuntary movements of the user.  Most modern-day dowsers use two 'dowsing rods' and/or a pendulum to practice their art, but previous to this a forked 'twig' was used by 'field dowsers', the preferred wood being Hazelwood, although apple, beech and alder were also used quite extensively.  Dowsing rods are now usually made of copper (although metal coat hangers are reputedly just as effective) and formed into an 'L' shape; they are traditionally known as 'Wishing Rods'.

When in use, one rod is held lightly in each hand, pointing away from the dowser.  Whatever he or she is searching for has been 'located' when the two rods cross of their own accord.  Various theories have been put forward as to what causes the rods to move, electromagnetic or other geological forces, ESP and other paranormal explanations, etc.  However, the explanation given by the psychologist William B. Carpenter in 1852 is the one that seems to be accepted by most skeptics.

Carpenter tells us it is 'ideomotor action' which causes the rods to move, i.e. the 'influence of suggestion in modifying and directing muscular movement, independently of volition'.  Despite this, many people are far more interested in whether dowsing actually works rather than why the rods move.  When in use, one rod is held lightly in each hand, pointing away from the dowser.  Whatever he or she is searching for has been 'located' when the two rods cross of their own accord.

When using a pendulum (normally used to dowse over a map) most practitioners weight the line with a crystal, or heavy weight.  The most important thing to consider when using this method appears to be the length of the line on which the pendulum swings.  The mystery is how can diviners simply dowse over a map to find people or objects when the focus of the search can be a vast distance away, tending to suggest to the layman (you and I) that some sort of psychic activity must be involved in the process?  Tom Lethbridge, a 'Master Dowser', discusses his own experiments into lengths of pendulums along with his own theories as to how dowsing works in his book The Power of The Pendulum.

Dowsing as practiced today may have originated in Germany during the 15th century CE when it was used in attempts to find metals, but its true origins are unknown.  However, it is generally accepted that images of 'forked rods' were used in some of the artwork by the ancient Egyptians, as is also the case with the ancient Chinese kings, and dowsing is known to have been used in Europe in the Middle Ages to find coal deposits.  Since then people have dowsed for almost everything, from lost or stolen items to missing animals and people.

In the late 1960s during the Vietnam War, some US Marines used dowsing to attempt to locate weapons and tunnels.  In 1986, when 31 soldiers were taken by an avalanche during a NATO operation in Vassdalen, Norway, the Norwegian army attempted to locate soldiers buried in the avalanche using dowsing as a search method -- 16 soldiers died.

Some dowsers are reported to be extremely accurate in their methods, although the consensus of the scientific community has yet to be given as to whether they support or refute the practice.  Some earn money by advising mining and oil companies on the suitability of a location prior to their test drilling/core sample, while others have successfully assisted the police on numerous occasions.

The British Society of Dowsers (BSD) is the UKs national organisation for dowsers and dowsing.  Formed in 1933, it is the second-oldest dowsing society in the world -- there are now large societies of dowsers in America and Europe, the members of which practice their art daily throughout the world.

The BSD exists to encourage the study and knowledge of dowsing in all its forms amongst members and the public.  Membership of the Society is open to anyone interested in dowsing, regardless of ability.  Dowsing can be used in health and well-being, home and garden, for water divining, archaeological searches, earth mysteries including energy lines and much, much more.  Its a great tool for enhancing your intuition and decision-making abilities.

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