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Monday, 21 April 2014

Water Witching, Science and Voodoo in Bib Overalls

By Dan Gogerty who blogs at Cast

Water witching, motherearthnews

So - water witching (dowsing) is in the news and my knee-jerk reaction was to notice that the buzz is centered in California, a land known for fads and fringe. Or maybe the drought has them desperate.

But then I read that wine company executives and respected farmers are hiring witchers (diviners) and some are paying $500 a session.

I’d want the witcher to find a reservoir of Guinness Stout for that price but I understand what the Big Dry has been doing to the Golden State. The lack of water is no joke - but does that mean we need to grab our divining rods?

And just when I’m getting smug about “voodoo followers,” I’m reminded that a fair few in my home area of central Iowa have the water divining faith.

“They might be using copper or wooden divining rods nowadays,” Dad tells me, “but I’ve seen locals use willow branches or even wire coat hangers. Many rural folks think of it as a proven practice.”

Most scientists scoff at the method - they’re just lucky, they say, or they often witch where water is bound to be present. Dad has no time for palm readers or Ouija boards, but he’s not quick to discount water divining.

“Experts in the old days held a forked willow branch in both hands and the single part of the stick would turn as they crossed over water. One old timer told me the force of the pull could be enough to rip the bark off the branch.”

A family friend from days past apparently had the knack. Wearing bib overalls and clenching a short cigar in his teeth, Milo could find tile lines, water pipes or promising locations for farm wells. He’d concentrate on the task like a man on a mission. “Well now,” he’d mutter, “let’s see. It’s leading me this way.”

Years ago, Dad and some of the other editors at John Deere’s Furrow Magazine had Milo do a test run. They knew of a buried water tank in a field and Milo “witched” his way until he found it. Not necessarily hard scientific proof but it gets you wondering.

When it comes to modern-day water witching, I suppose digital imaging and water sniffing drones will win out. But for my money, I’d take guys like Milo. The drones might find water but at the end of the day, they couldn’t tell a good story or share a cold beer with you.

[INVITATION: All elders, 50 and older, are welcome to submit stories for this blog. They can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, memoir, etc. Please read instructions for submitting.]

Posted by Ronni Bennett at 05:30 AM | Permalink | Email this post


Thanks for the story, brings back memories of 1952 when my dad hired a "water witch" man to find the place to dig a well in Arizona, just as you have written, he used a forked stick.
My mother said they dug so deep,
there were tiny fish with no eyes, strange.

I've done this myself, was shown how by an old local. We found our well that way. It is strange but it works.

My granddaddy was the community "water witcher" back in the day. (He was born in 1860) He dowsed with a forked branch of witch hazel and apparently was pretty good at it.

My uncle Clarence told a story of a well-digging (rather like a barn-raising) where the side of the well caved in and the pony of the relative they were digging the well for fell it.

They tied a rope around Clarence, who was about 8 or 9 years old (so 1900) and lowered him down to tie a saddle cinch and rope around the pony's middle and they pulled both pony and Uncle Clarence out, a little muddied but otherwise unharmed. :)

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