New Hampshire Glossary: Dowser

A dowser is a person who is able to locate water, and sometimes precious metals. On a few documented occasions, dowsers have located wanted criminals and missing objects. Dowsing is accomplished through an intuitive search process.

In some cases devices made of natural wood, or sometimes of metal (called a dowsing rod or wand) is used to facilitate the discovery. When the dowser walks with the device in his or her hands, they feel a tug, pull, drop, tingling, or other sensation when the desired element is beneath them or nearby. A weighted pendulum is also used in a somewhat different manner such as holding it over a map, but to bring about the same outcome of discovery.

Before the Victorian era dowsers and their abilities were sometimes considered practitioners of the art of witchcraft or magic, so the wand or rod they used was called a “witching wand,” or a “divining wand.”  Sometimes the wand was crafted from wood of the witch hazel tree. I have seen modern day rods made of metal.

Dowsing is said to have been mentioned in texts prior to 1518 when reportedly it can be found in the writings of Martin Luther (when he condemns its use), and it may have been used earlier on continents other than Europe.

My thanks to Kurious Kitty’s Kurio Kabinet for the inspiration, and for this poem:

Robert Frost Poem, “Two Tramps in Mud Time
The water for which we may have to look
In summertime with a witching wand,
In every wheelrut’s now a brook,
In every print of a hoof a pond.
Be glad of water, but don’t forget
The lurking frost in the earth beneath
That will steal forth after the sun is set
And show on the water its crystal teeth.


*Additional Reading*

American Society of Dowsers

Wikipedia: Dowsing (With Photograph)

The Divining Rod, A History of Water Witching

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