“The use of pendulum or rods to find water or minerals”
“the use of apparently paranormal powers to make discoveries”
Hamish Miller, The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing.
A few days ago some friends and I set out into nearby Wales to meet a man called Peter Taylor to spend a day being introduced to the ancient art of dowsing for water. Peter has been a professional dowser for some decades, working to locate water, oil and gas and even gold here in the UK and around the world as well as working with earth energies and tackling problems of geopathic stress. He is a respected and award-winning member of the British Society of Dowsers and advises their local group in North Wales.
Beginning indoors at the Rhydymwyn Valley visitor centre, Peter took us through the basics of using various dowsing tools, pendulums; copper and other metal L-shaped rods and y-shaped “sticks” made, not out of the traditional hazel, but what looked like pieces of plastic curtain track. There was also a w-shaped apparatus which was very sensitive and I’m not sure any of us quite got the hang of it. The important lesson here was to try different tools to see which worked best for the individual. I had previously only used a pendulum and was happy that the L shaped rods of various sizes seemed natural and easy to use. Whichever tool you use the idea is the same – the tool is held gently at rest but in a way so that it is able to move. You then form a question in your mind or hold the idea of what you wish to physically locate and the tool moves to give a yes/no answer to the question or when the correct physical location is reached.
Firstly we were shown how to use the tools to test whether we were “positive” enough to be able to dowse – and to assess just how high our positivity was. Everyone uses their own metaphors or constructs and I liken this positivity to being in the right frame of mind to receive whatever information it is one tunes into when dowsing. I was originally introduced to dowsing as part of my first reiki course when it was explained as a way of finding out what you know when you don’t know you know it. In other words, our minds and connections to our bodies are so complex that there is information hidden away that we can’t always directly access and need to use a tool to help us divine it. So dowsing can be viewed as a reasonably explicable method of allowing our subconscious to express information through body micro movements that are converted by the tool used into large enough movements to be sensed by the conscious mind. In other words, we already know or perceive the answer to our question but the dowsing tool enables us to make it explicit.
Peter then talked us through some of the basics of the incredibly complex issues around finding information about underground water. It’s certainly not just a question of “here be water” – which is what I had thought having only really met water divining before in Arthur Ransome’s classic novel “Pigeon Post” where the children want to camp up high on the fell but the springs have dried up in the drought. They try dowsing with hazel rods and one of the group manages to find a spot which, when dug out, forms a beautiful natural well perfect for their needs. Modern water dowsing needs to determine the quality of the water, where and at what rate it’s flowing, how far down it is, what’s between the water and the surface and more besides. If a dowser is not accurate enough, a lot of expensive drilling can be wasted to no effect. Peter says that if you can learn to dowse for water, you can dowse for anything, and I can see that it’s a rigorous discipline.
Slightly fazed by all the technicalities we headed outside to try some practical dowsing. The Rhydymwyn Valley Works Site is now a nature reserve but was used during the war to produce mustard gas shells and also hosted the initial phases of the atom bomb research before it was moved to the US. Buildings that now house colonies of bats are being reclaimed by plants and other wildlife while the spooky network of underground tunnels are sealed off and can only be glimpsed from outside. It’s a fascinating place well worth a visit but we were there to see if we could dowse for the underground water courses. Running through it is the river Alyn, a tributary of the Dee, which is a river of many guises as the mining works around Loggerheads and beyond create many caves and sinkholes where its waters become lost underground. At Rhydymwyn it mostly flows through a culvert sometimes open and sometimes covered.
Peter encouraging one of our group dowsing with L-rods and water samples
So, how did we do? Did we find water? Yes, we did. Hamish Miller says that anyone can dowse, Peter thinks about 9 out of 10 can. Out of the five of us, all ended up getting reactions to at least some of the underground water flows although some managed it quicker than others. Peter demonstrated this by taking us to sites where he knew the underground water profile and leaving us to individually try and locate the flows, “reaction” lines either side of the flows, directions, depths and rates of flow. We each used our tool of choice and marked out our findings with a set of coloured flags and all achieved at least some accurate pinpointing of location – although working out what it was we had located was more problematic. It was easy to confuse water flow with edge of culvert or reaction line. It was relatively easy to divine direction of flow and some of us got at least some accurate readings of flow volume. After we’d had an initial go divining the Alyn underground Peter took us to look at the river where it was visible and then back to the underground site. Remarkably I found it much easier to get accurate information having seen the river in the flesh, so to speak. Apparently the more you know about the subject you’re trying to dowse for, the more easily you can do it and the more accurate your responses.
After a break for lunch we moved to Loggerheads to follow the Alyn as it flowed in the valley and then disappeared completely, leaving the stream bed dry, into sinkholes and old mine works. Along the edge of the dry river bed there are therefore several places where there are considerable underground flows and, because the cavities are largely man-made, the flow of the water isn’t always predictable from the surface. The volumes of flow were much larger than we’d encountered on the Rhydymwyn site and Peter thought it would be a good learning experience to see how this affected the performance of the rods. To be honest, I think we did less well here than we had in the morning. There was water all around in some places and perhaps this made the dowsing more difficult for us rank amateurs. We were also becoming tired and, increasingly, it was difficult to stay “positive” or in the correct frame of mind. It was good fun though, and we provided interest for the other walkers!
So what did we learn from the day? I took away several very useful things for my own practice of dowsing. Firstly, knowledge of your subject is important. I personally believe that I am dowsing when I do reflexology in that the energetic representation of the body’s parts and organs on the feet are sensed as reflexes in various ways – in this case my tools are my fingers and my mind. Knowing more about reflexology and being a more experienced reflexologist therefore helps me to “dowse” the reflexes to assess what might need to be done in the treatment session. Secondly, the importance of being “positive”, or in the right frame of mind was reinforced. I think there are different ways of doing reflexology but the way I work is definitely enhanced by the ability to tap in to the information in my clients’ reflexes and this requires quiet, stillness and the right frame of mind to form the connection. And lastly Peter confirms what I have learned elsewhere – the importance of ethical practice. The BSD code of ethics is a very good example.
My friends too came away with a very positive attitude to their first ever taste of dowsing. They all agreed there was definitely “something to it” and felt that their experiences of feeling the dowsing tools move to relay information were real and in many cases accurate. Accuracy can only be improved by practice and Peter advises at least 3 days to have a good stab at learning water dowsing. They continue to mull over the experience and agree it was a thoroughly interesting way to spend a day.
And lastly – so how does dowsing work? The importance of being “positive”, or being in the right state of mind, is paramount. In this way we can tap into our subconscious and information that may have previously been hidden. This might be construed as being an ancient sense that Man used in his early days to connect with the landscape and find water – or anything else he needed to find. But what if the information cannot possibly have been there in any explicable way beforehand? What if someone could use dowsing to, for example, predict the lottery results or stock market movements? Would that be a tapping in to knowledge that is somehow already there? Many believe that there is an extra dimension to dowsing and similar work, call it what you will – energy, spirit, collective unconscious. By stilling our chattering everyday mind, becoming open and paying real attention to what is in, around and about us in the universe there is an infinite source of information that can be accessed. I experience and am grateful for it in my therapy work and it is there for everyone else. Just remember to be ethical in your approach, as in all of life.
The Definitive Wee Book on Dowsing, a journey beyond our five senses – Hamish Miller. One of the covetable and tactile Wooden Books series, watch out, they’re addictive (but fortunately not expensive).
Spiritual Dowsing – Sig Lonegren. Some good stuff in here too.
The Sun and the Serpent – Paul Broadhurst and Hamish Miller. The story of tracing the Michael and Mary earth energy lines across the UK.