Looking for Answers Through the Art of Dowsing

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In his book, Principles of Dowsing, Dennis Wheatley says “dowsing can be simply defined as a skill to detect invisible targets.” And Raymond C. Willey, one of the founders of the American Society of Dowsers, described dowsing as an “exercise of a human faculty, which allows one to obtain information in a manner beyond the scope and power of the standard human physical senses of sight, sound, touch, etc.”

Most people associate the term ‘dowsing’ with searching for water. However, modern dowsing has come to have a much broader interpretation – conducting a search for almost anything that is hidden from our view or knowledge.

This wider understanding has fostered many forms of dowsing. The most traditional is the search for natural underground substances such as water, minerals and oil. Along the same vein, dowsers may conduct archeological searches to find concealed foundations of ancient buildings, or to reveal hidden dangers in places such as mine shafts and underground tunnels. Dowsers have also taken up searches for missing objects, people and pets.

Many dowsers adhere to the theory that there are lines of energy that run through the earth – some beneficial, others harmful. When dowsing for earth energies (geopathic stress lines), dowsers will use a divining tool to detect them and rearrange things in homes or workplaces to better balance or neutralize these forces when necessary.

Today, one of the more common types of dowsing is for health. This kind of search can be broken down into two sections, as described by Cassandra Eason in The Art of the Pendulum: “Dowsing for the root of illness by passing a divining tool over the body to find the area that needs treatment; and dowsing for a remedy – using the tool to find out which of a selection of potentially appropriate herbs or medicines might best alleviate the problem.”

Toronto area dowser Susan Collins would also add detecting, transforming and balancing many types of physical, emotional and spiritual energies.

“Dowsing enables the conscious mind to connect with the subconscious mind which itself is capable of detecting very subtle energy changes,” she says. “Our bodies have natural electromagnetic receptors, so with practice we can learn to feel [for example] water below the ground. It is perhaps similar to our ability to sort out different audio frequencies to identify different types of music. Dowsers use tools to amplify these subtle signals in their bodies. Learning to use your dowsing senses is like learning to use your ears to distinguish the different instruments and notes played by an orchestra.”


A Neolithic cave drawing discovered in Algeria, carbon dated to 6,000 BC, has been interpreted as showing a man with a forked stick in his hand. This would imply that dowsing has a very long history. Illustrations on pottery, paintings and statues reveal that the art of dowsing was practised in ancient Egypt and China. Many passages in the Bible allude to dowsing, and Greek historical records indicate dowsing was widely practised on the Island of Crete as early as 400 BC. It has also been suggested that Cleopatra used dowsers to find gold, and the Oracle of Delphi used a dowsing pendulum to answer the questions posed by nobility and military commanders.

References to dowsing continued to appear throughout the centuries. For example, in 1556 Georgius Agricola published his work De Re Metallica, which includes an illustration of two men who seem to be in the act of dowsing using forked twigs. The year 1693 saw the publication of La Verge de Jacob, which gives many instances of the use of dowsing rods. In the 1700s and 1800s in England, Germany and France, various books on mining and engineering referred extensively to dowsing: the Mining Dictionary (1747), Natural History of Cornwall (1758), The 1831 Quarterly Mining Review, and Lloyd Youngblood’s Dowsing: Ancient History.

By the 19th (and into the 20th) Century, dowsing for water to drill for wells was a common practice. A dowsing academy was established in Munich during the Second World War, and it was reported that American General George Patton employed dowsers to locate underground water supplies in arid regions.

Today there are dowsing societies and affiliated chapters worldwide. Dowsers continue to be employed and consulted by companies, governments and individuals to discover a vast array of things from oil to healing remedies. And while famous people such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein were all dowsers [Dennis Wheatley, Principles of Dowsing], it is generally believed anyone can learn to dowse. According to experienced dowsers, all that is required is an open mind, a sincere interest, and lots of practice.



While there are device-less dowsing techniques, most dowsers use tools as “indicators” or “communication” devices when they work. The three most common dowsing tools are: the Pendulum, L Rods, and Y Rod. The size, shape, and materials used to make these tools are varied, as are the methods in which a given dowser might use them.

The pendulum is perhaps one of the most popular of dowsing tools, and can be made from any type of material that can hang on a string or chain 3 to 4 inches long. The pendulum string is held between the thumb and forefinger. Once you have your pendulum, you need to determine what the response of the pendulum is going to be for you. It is different for every individual. The usual three responses are: yes, no, and don’t know (maybe). In answer to a question, the pendulum can either swing in a clockwise circle, an anti-clockwise circle, side to side, back and forth, or remain still.

L-rods are used mainly for finding water, minerals and oil veins, geopathic stress lines, and lost objects. They can be of any size, made of any hard material, (such as a pair of coat hangers), and can include handles on the short end. L-rods are usually made out of copper or brass and have plastic or copper sleeves (optional) over the short ends. When using an L-rod, hold it loosely in your hand with the top wire tilted slightly downward. When one L-Rod is used alone, it acts as a pointer or a swing rod. It can be requested to point towards a target or direction, or to swing sideways when encountering a specified energy field. When using two L-Rods, they are often programmed to point straight forward for the ready position, to cross for the “yes” response when over a target, and to swing outward for the “no” response.

The type of dowsing rod that most people are probably familiar with is the Y rod which is traditionally shaped like a forked stick that looks like the letter Y. They can be any size, but are typically around 12 to 24 inches in length, and can be made from wood, metal or plastic. The dowser holds the twig by the two branches of the Y, with the stem pointing forwards. Pointing upward at an angle of around 45 degrees is usually used for the ready position; while swinging down from this position to point at a target (such as a water vein). This may also be used for the “yes” response. The rod may also vibrate or twitch when a target is located. A swing up from the ready position is usually used to indicate the “no” response.


As mentioned earlier, most people who decide to dowse will begin with a detecting tool. Author and dowser, Richard Webster, suggests that “angle rods (L-rods) are probably the most useful tool to start with, as the movements they create are easy to see and interpret.”

Once you feel comfortable walking with your rods, the next step is to prepare for your search. Most experts recommend that you take a few moments to settle down, focus and centre yourself. It is also advised to keep the first session short (no longer than 30 minutes) as dowsing requires concentration which can be both mentally and physically tiring, and fatigue will negatively affect results. Webster describes a simple method to test your dowsing skills – finding water pipes leading into your home:

Think about locating the water pipe, but remain as relaxed as possible. Any tension will prevent the angle rods from moving.

Hold the angle rods loosely in your fists with the longer section of the wire pointing straight ahead. Your arms should be relaxed, and your hands approximately body width apart. The two rods should be parallel to each other.

Keep your eyes focused on the tips of the rods as you walk. The rods are likely to move slightly from side to side as you do this. The dowsing response (your rods will cross over each other, sometimes ending up parallel to each other in front of your body) should start shortly before you are directly over the item you are dowsing for.

Start walking slowly across the front of your property. The best results occur when you are confident of success, and maintain a feeling of positive expectancy while you are dowsing.

If the rods produce the dowsing response, make a mental note of the spot where this occurred. Keep on walking across the property, and then turn around and walk back again, this time about a yard away from where you walked before. The rods should produce the same response again when you are over the water pipe.

Collins says that although she dowses for people for a variety of reasons, there are some common elements in a dowsing session. “Once I have the client’s permission, I begin looking for the source of the problem by scanning the subtle physical, emotional, mental and spiritual energies around them. I also have a look at the earth and environmental energies affecting them, as well as their personal energies,” she says. “Once I’ve identified the source of the problem, I work with them to transform the energies to bring balance to their lives. I always try to give clients some tools for self help so that they can find their own strength to maintain their personal balance. I use a variety of dowsing tools and work through a series of Dowsing Triage checklists that I’ve developed in my practice.”


Dowsing has had its detractors. Nevertheless, it has been employed and endorsed enthusiastically by thousands of people for centuries. Collins shares these positive outcomes from her own practice:

A client whose house had been on the market for several months with no purchase offers contacted me to adjust the energies for her house. Within about 48 hours the house was sold.

One of my students was able to find her lost diamond ring after learning to dowse.

An elderly female client was able to discover her own strength and find her personal power.

If you are looking for answers, whether it involves a missing something, your health or even your happiness, dowsing may be able to help you find them.


• Susan Collins, Dowsing Teacher and Intuitive Consultant, Past President and 2006 Dowser of the Year (Canadian Society of Dowsers). https://www.dowser.ca

• Canadian Society of Dowsers is hosting their 23rd Annual Dowsing Convention on June 18, 19, and 20, 2010) www.canadiandowsers.org

• Eason, Cassandra, The Art of the Pendulum, Weiser Books, 2005

• Wheatley, Dennis, Principles of Dowsing, Harper Collins, 2000


Susannah Kent is a Toronto area Fitness and Healthy Lifestyle Instructor.

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