Do you know what the word dowser means? Well, before there was plumbing, it was a commonly used word. Dowsing, or "water witching" as some like to call it, is a way of finding underground water without going through the process of digging a well. One of the few places that this is still done is in West Virginia. Certain people there have the inherited talent, or power, of finding water in this way.
Since not everyone has this power, those who do usually use it as a hobby for friends. They say that they hardly get paid, and the most that someone ever gets is tewnty dollars. Even though there are many sceptics, including professional well drillers, dowsers still go about their buisness, confident in their ability, no matter what anyone says.
The actual process of water witching includes a V-shaped tool and a steady hand, along of course with the inherited "power." Some dowsers use V-rods or metal angle irons because they are smoother to hold and won't hurt your hand if they get pulled down suddenly. Once, in an emergency, a German sausage was recorded to have been used. However, the most common and classic tool is a forked stick made of peach, willow, or dogwood.
Once someone with this power has any one of the tools mentioned above, they are ready to go water witching. They hold the stick on the two ends with their palms facing upward and start walking steadily. It helps to concentrate, but since this is a natural power, no thinking is required. When the dowser is standing above water, the end of the stick will vibrate and then fall forward and point downward if there really is water underground. You know that the dowser isn't doing this themselves because you can see their hands the whole time, wich don't move a bit. In the book The Beginner's Handbook of Dowsing, the author talks about this method of dowsing and people's special powers. Many agree with him on the fact that even though this isn't scientific, it still works a great deal of the time.
Dowsing has a history of dating back to Biblical times because of its importance. When there was no plumbing around, people still needed water but didn't just want to dig anywhere and everywhere. French archaeologists have even discovered 8,000-year-old African cave paintings that depict a dowser surrounded by onlookers. More recently, dowsing was made popular in 1640 by a French Baron and his wife. They published a book on the subject but died in jail while awaiting trial for scorcery. The practice continued though and came to America as part of the cultural lore of English settlers.
Nowadays, there is hardly a need for these talented people except in places like West Virginia where wells are still used in some places. Soon, everyone will probably have easy access to plumbing, but you never know when this sort of talent may come in handy.
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