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Home diagnosis the old fashioned way Lee Barnes shares the science and mystery of the ancient art of dowsing.

Most folks have heard of "dowsing" or "water-witching" as an old time way to seek the location of underground water for well placement. Water-witches got the name due to the seemingly mystical tools (often witch hazel branches) and doodle-bug like, crisscrossing movements across the landscape while searching for water. In fact, they were using highly sensitive electromagnetic equipment--their bodies--to perceive the weak electromagnetic fields associated with flowing underground water. Dowsing techniques generally involve using simple tools (forked sticks, bent rods) and highly focused intent to solve practical problems such as finding water or locating underground pipes and electric lines. It is clear that successful dowsing involves a simple form of two-way communication between the conscious mind and subconscious mind, which is normally "aware" of changes in background electric and magnetic fields. Men and women have been using their "sixth" sense for basic survival throughout history; now we have simple techniques to regain our connections with our natural intuition.

Dowsing actually includes a range of holistic intuitive processes and energy resonations which I choose to call "applied intuition." Consider that we are normally five percent conscious awareness and 95 percent subconscious awareness. Your subconscious never sleeps; it is your primary guardian angel. We usually "talk" with our subconscious through feelings and dreams. To tap into one's applied intuition, all one has to do is set up a means of communication between mind and body, and this can be done with a movement of a simple stick--the tool is only an extension, an exaggerated movement of the body.

The key to successful dowsing is to create and focus attention on a clearly worded question from the conscious mind and for the subconscious mind/body to answer using a simple tool to indicate a yes or no answer to the specific question. The subconscious mind is programmed to move a tool up or down or right or left to answer yes/no or to point to the source of a mental target. Part of your mind remembers where you last had your "lost" car keys; just ask yourself for help finding them.

With extensive practice, one can learn "device-less" dowsing. Without any tools, one can recognize specific body feelings such as a tingling palm or blinking eye and use this feeling as an answer. Muscle testing resistance techniques that measure relative muscle tension and weaknesses when exposed to stress, reflexology, and various forms of clairvoyance, are all types of device-less dowsing. Programming the subconscious how to answer is the easy part, asking a completely clear question is the hard part.

Our subconscious understands words very literally and in context with other words: if we ask vague questions, we will only get vague answers. A classic example is, "Does my car need gas today?" Yes, but only if you plan to start it today. The engine will need oxygen, a gas, to burn gasoline. A better question would be "Does my car have enough gasoline for traveling today?" Likewise, when looking for a water well site, the dowser needs to seek "high quality, potable, year-round water sufficient for the needs of this family, etc." versus just seeking "water."

Dowsing is an easily taught skill that becomes an art form with repeated practice. One learns to perceive or bio-locate (locate with the body) changes in weak energy fields. Once one learns to dialog with the subconscious awareness of weak electromagnetic fields, it is easy to realize that one can ask any question of the subconscious and get a practical answer. Every physical material (flowing water, a metal or plastic pipe, an electric wire) has a characteristic resonance or frequency that the body can learn to recognize. Once one is taught the basic dowsing techniques, it is fairly easy to practice over a known pipe or electric wiring and then bio-locate the pipe or wiring behind the sheet rock. The body has weak electrical potential differences and is sensitive to weak electric fields around pipes, wiring, and even wooden studs.

Practical uses of dowsing include finding moving underground water and mineral ores, hidden pipes and wiring, wall studs, and the route of septic systems. The same intuition can be used to avoid unhealthy natural and man-made energy fields, allowing for safer house placement and location of stress-free sleeping areas.

Dowsing activities have been documented throughout human history: people using dowsing tools in 30,000 year old cave wall paintings in Spain and in 7000 year old cave paintings in Iraq; a 3000 year old Chinese woodcut shows workers using long rods to detect Feng Shui energies, and 3000 year old Egyptian writings describe the use of pendulums and divining techniques. The careful placement of houses and ceremonial sites in the British Isles in the late Neolithic and early Bronze age (3000 BC), were verified by modern dowsing surveys. Houses were placed to avoid areas where dowsers felt stress, while ceremonial sites were consistently located on high energy sites, which may have produced health benefits with short-term exposure. In the Bible, Moses apparently used a staff to final shallow springs, striking the crusted-over ground to release water from seasonal springs in certain mineral soils of the desert. The use of the classic Y-rod or "witching rod" is seen in woodcuts with miners searching for mineral ores in 1530 AD Germany.

Dowsing tools and techniques are as diverse as the diviners. The tools are generally inter-changeable but like most tools, some are best for specific uses. The classic tools are all simple ones that can be moved by slight muscular movements, often unrealized by the practitioner or observers. Dowsers search by walking across properties with the extended tool, which dips when the dowser's muscles are temporarily weakened by strong electromagnetic fields above metal ores or flowing water. The body can also be trained to dip a rod to answer yes to a question.

The most basic dowsing tool is a long stick, also known as a rod, wand, or scepter. Another dowsing tool is the pendulum, a simple weighted object on a short string or chain, such as a mason's plumb bob. Pendulums are often used to ask informational questions of the body, such as nutrient or food supplement needs. "Do I need more iron today?" or "How many vitamins should I take today?" Pendulums are sometimes used to locate underground flowing water. The water seeker learns to change the pattern of the pendulum's movement, such as turning in a circular motion from an initial rocking back and forth motion when one walks over the "target" water. Pendulums are especially useful when working over simple graphic pie-charts with numerous categories from which the subconscious mind to selects specific answers.

The Y-rod is often used in dowsing. It is a Y-shaped, forked branch of any springy wood such as witch hazel, willow, peach, or it may be made, in these modern times, of flexible plastic tubing or spring wire. The Y-rod is worked by slightly flexing it to create a static tension and having the body relax its grip when sensing whatever the mind is focused on. People are often amazed at the abrupt movement of the rods, including slaps in the face or lower anatomy. Y-rods can also be used to point or answer yes or no type questions.

A final common dowsing tool is the L-rod that was first seen in use in the early 1940s. Relatively lightweight metal rods (coat hangers, welding rods, etc.) are bent into a simple L-shape that can be gently held in the hands in a pistol grip. Often the L-rods are constructed with a free rotating "sleeve" on the short handle, this allows the L-rod to easily swing back-and-forth. These movements can be used to either point toward something sought or in a trained movement to answer yes/no type questions. Many modern dowsers use an L-rod to locate underground pipes or flowing water by loosely holding the rods in a search position (like holding a toy pistol) and walking across the search area with the intent to move the rod parallel to the unseen underground pipe length or water flow. They then return to the initial search position after passing over or through the perceived subtle electric energy field. Different folks use different techniques; it only matters that the movements are consistently used by each dowser, with the tools and the targets being sensed, changing.

Dowsing techniques can be used to find geo-pathic (earth-unhealthy) stress areas that have a-detrimental effect on the body. I have sensed these stress areas as being slightly uncomfortable, often noticing a distinct tightening in my chest. Many folks intuit these energies with various body sensations including tingling and even muscle shaking. Geo-pathic energies are created by both natural sources (underground water, geological faults, mineral deposits, etc.) and man-made sources (electrical transformers, microwave towers, etc.) Animals are often good indicators of these energies. Cats and hornets seem to prefer these energies as high preference sleeping spots or nest sites, while dogs, sheep, and cattle avoid these areas if they have a choice. Some observers have seen babies crawl away from geo-pathic areas to the ends of their crib and out of bed.

Exposure to high magnetic fields (ten to twenty times the earths current magnetic field) for short time periods, such as a few days is uncomfortable to humans. Exposure to weak magnetic fields over long time periods (months to years) has been observed to have detrimental effects. High electrical fields from various sources (light dimmers, electric heaters, electric transformers) appear to create overlapping stress zones, which can be detected by dowsing. These unhealthy subtle energies are often dowsed as narrow (inches to feet wide) energy lines which crisscross through bedrooms or as irregular edged areas. These linear geo-pathic lines have a vertical effect so that multiple stores are affected. In Europe since the 1930s, studies with dowsers have documented people with health problems such as disrupted sleep, insomnia, muscle aches, depression, immune system depression, and the reduction of the body's resistance to some cancers. Once someone is shown by dowsing or muscle testing how these energies affect their own electromagnetic bio-fields, one can systematically locate the exact areas where stress is perceived.

Dowsing of new house sites prior to determining the final foundation construction is highly suggested for any property to avoid these magnetic fields, or at least attempt to design around them. In many cases, new house sites can be moved a few feet prior to determining final foundations so that these geo-pathic zones are now not in bedrooms or to position them in such a way that they run or fall in between walls or lesser used areas. With existing houses, the easiest solution is to move the bed or workspace to avoid detected geo-pathic lines. Various techniques have been historically used to mitigate, deflect, or transform these detrimental energies with various levels of success. Careful placement of certain crystals, mirrors, azure blue objects, and prayer has been shown to reduce or reroute these stress line. However, this does not guarantee that the geo-pathic energies will not reappear.

With a little practice, one can learn to use dowsing to find all sorts of things. Children are natural dowsers, as they are eager to find things. People best learn dowsing by working with an experienced dowser or taking classes at regional workshops. One can self-teach by learning to detect moving water through a known pipe or learning to sense the movement of water in a stream from the above bridge. Teachers often have students first learn to dowse the easily perceived electrical energies associated with moving water, then have the students use their developing skills to sense weaker energies from underground electric cables or metal rebar.

We all live in complex, interacting electromagnetic fields that can affect our health and happiness. Basic dowsing skills can be used to obtain a better understanding of our bodies relationship with the energies all around us. Dowsing also helps to find those missing car keys. Take time to develop clearer questions, and let the answers flow from your subconscious.

Do-It-Yourself Dowsing

Beginning dowsers can practice their intuitive skills by detecting moving water in pipes and geo-pathic energies around the home. The dowsing too of choice would be a simple "L-rod," basically a L-shaped, bent metal coat hanger with a short, 4-6 inch long handle and 10-18 inch long pointer. One can add a "sleeve" to the handle end using a plastic straw to allow the rods to move more easily.

How To Do it

1. Hold the rods lightly in your grip and practice moving the rods in circles, turning left and right. This helps trains muscles to move the rods with unique control.

2. Hold the rods like toy pistols. Move the rods to either cross over each other or open out or some sort of distinct movement when over the target. The body senses the subtle electromagnetic fields around the moving water, and the subconscious moves the rods to a distinct position to indicate the hidden pipe.

Where To Try It

1. Practice dowsing for water flowing through a garden water hose, known culvert, or even by walking over a moving stream from a bridge. Once the body learns to recognize the distinct electromagnetic "signature" by practicing over a known pipe or power cord, it can then locate these same energies over hidden or buried pipes and cords.

2. Work with a friend and dowse each other's biofieid (aura) and notice how your friend's biofieid changes when they move over the dowseable targets.

3. Seek man-made geo-pathic fields around electrical devices such as fuse boxes and dimmer switches. The body can also recognize weak natural "earth energies" from water flow, fault lines, and different rock types, which often dowse as narrow to several feet wide hands which pass through bedrooms.

4. Cats are often good indicators of geopathic fields, since they seem to prefer these energy fields. Dogs avoid these areas. So if your cat has a favorite place to lie down (other than the warmest lap), try looking there first.

5. Learn to notice your own body feelings in and out of the fields. People often complain of tightness in the chest, weak knees, etc. when affected by these electromagnetic fields.

Lee Barnes (PhD in Environmental Horticulture) teaches and practices dowsing techniques around Waynesville in the western North Carolina mountains. He uses these techniques for environmentally sensitive land analysis and design as Land Stewardship Consulting. He can be contacted at or 828-452-5716. For more dowsing information, see the Appalachian Dowsers web page,
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Title Annotation:strong roots
Author:Barnes, Lee
Publication:New Life Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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