To Dowse Or Not To Dowse - The Twitching Hazel

To Dowse Or Not To Dowse – The Twitching Hazel

by Robert Veitch

Is dowsing just a load of mumbo-jumbo or a gift possessed by only a few? Robert Veitch weighs up some of the evidence.

Buried in your mind might be a dowsing memory, possibly involving a broadminded but generally sceptical reporter from regional television interviewing a dowser in a field. After a while the dowsing rod(s) would twitch, a hole would be dug and water found. The excited reporter would do their final piece to camera, positively affected by the experience. But what really happens?

To dowse is to search with hand held devices for things that are hidden. Most people might think dowsers only search for water, but they also look for ores, oil, and archaeological remains.

The tools of the dowser are simple enough. Rods are the most common tool, being V or L shaped. Wands are also used, as are pendulums. V-shaped rods might be plastic or metal, although a quivering hazel twig might spring to mind most readily. L-shaped rods are used in pairs, with the short side of the L held loosely in the clenched palm of each hand.

A dowser will walk slowly across the land, visualising what is being searched for. Dowsers claim the rods respond to electromagnetic signals in the earth with twitching movements, which can be subtle or violent.

The British Society of Dowsers is a registered charity set up in 1933. They run training courses where dowsing can be learnt, educating gifted students to a professional level. Training helps eliminate bogus twitches by teaching which signals to avoid and which signals to accept. Some people never take to dowsing while others seem to have an innate ability to be successful.

Science, on the other hand, has found no evidence to support the claims of dowsing and regards it as pseudoscience. Scientific studies found the success rate of dowsers to be no better than chance. A scientist would tell you that nobody would innately possess ‘the gift’ of being able to dowse.

Science explains dowsing two ways; firstly through the state of unstable equilibrium and secondly through ideomotors. An unstable equilibrium is where something is barely stable and very susceptible to the tiniest movement. It’s possible to balance one ball on top of another, but the tiniest movement will see the top ball fall as the equilibrium is disturbed. Ideomotors are imperceptible unconscious movements made by the human body that an individual is unaware of. Put the two together and science says the rods are moving because of the actions of the individual holding them.

Dowsers most commonly search for water, but a hydrogeologist would say in any climate with moderate rainfall water will be found if a hole is dug deep enough.

Mumbo jumbo or ‘a gift’ for those that possess it… until you’ve tried dowsing you’ll never know for sure.

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