Yesteryear’s Memories: The Water Witch

May 12, 2020

Before the city brought water pipes right into your home, before processing plants strained and settled and dumped chemicals into the water we drink, we usually went out behind the back door to the pump. Water wells were dug or drilled down to the water table to get the precious stuff we can’t live without. Even finding the water could be an ordeal. Often a local expert was consulted to find the best place to look for water as close to the surface as possible. The ‘water witch’ as he or she was usually called, used a forked stick or two pieces of metal and walked across the area. The twig or rods held loosely in the hands gave a subtle ‘pull’ or some movement to show the most likely spot. Some of these water witches or ‘dowsers’ as they were also referred to could even predict the depth that water would be found by careful maneuvers calculated to show how many feet down to go. How does it work? Is it really reliable or just luck? There are thousands of people who have watched or even done dowsing themselves who will swear by the divination method. Many plumbers back in the early days used dowsing methods to find a water supply pipe or a sewer line. Perhaps these people just got good at guessing by repeated trials, but it was certainly an interesting and oft-used practice.

Dowsing has also been employed to search for metals, gold, treasure, oil (sometimes called doodle bugging for oil), and even lost grave sites. Personally, I am doubtful, but I did hear about some buried treasure between Centralia and Mt. Vernon. Anybody have a stick?