It’s time for the A to Z Challenge! Hello and welcome to my main blog. My name is Rose Anderson and I’m a novelist. Join me and nearly 2000 bloggers and authors as we blog the alphabet throughout the month of April. It’s not as easy as you might think. There’s a reason Q and Z are worth 10 points in Scrabble!
For me, this year’s alphabet will be about history and historical science– things that tickle my fancy or capture my imagination. I hope you will find them interesting too.
Keep the topic rolling! If you’ve enjoyed the today’s offering and have comments or questions, add them at the end of the post in the comment section. And…if you enjoy romances with unique twists, a good deal of steam, facts, and characters full of personality and depth, scroll down for a free chapter sampler. I love to make the impossible sound plausible. Suffice to say, I have an unusual mind.
My husband works in the environmental field and many years ago when he was still a ranger, he cleared invasive brush from the side of a gravelly hill where trees were in fierce competition for sunlight, water, and soil nutrients. The faster-growing invasive species always have an edge on the slower-growing native oaks.
So that week he uncovered a massive old oak tree possibly 300-400 years old. On his way home from work one day, he met two old men. I should say one old and one very old –a father and son. Before he died, the father wanted to show his son where the old family farmstead had been. He described an enormous oak tree at the cabin site. On a hunch, my husband took them to the recently cleared hillside. Sure enough this was the man’s ancestral farm site. Previously hidden, it was all there for my husband to see– a scraggly remnant lilac where the outhouse had been, a rubble of field stone foundation where the cabin had stood, and the giant oak tree that guarded the pioneer cemetery where the five children were buried. (As I’m a story collector I have a few poignant stories from that old man regarding the cemetery, the children, and the tree. These I’ll save for another day.)
In the weeks that followed, this small pioneer cemetery would be marked out by a grave witcher — a person who dowses for graves. When she came to work she brought two metal L-shaped rods, one held in each hand. With these in hand, she crisscrossed the area below the tree until she found all five little graves from more than 100 years ago.
I’m not one to believe things out of hand. I’m one of those skeptical “show me” people. Knowing this about me, my husband came home and immediately dug around in the closet until he found two wire coat hangers which he cut and bent until he had two L-shaped rods. I asked him what he was doing but all he said was, “come outside, you’re not going to believe this”. He had me hold the wires just so and walk back and firth across the lawn while he told me what had transpired by the huge tree. Of course I was skeptical. I mean, how could someone find graves with wires in their hands? I told him so. I also said I doubted there were more graves under our lawn so why was I walking back and forth with coat hanger wires in my hands? He said we were going to find water. Now I was aware of dowsing for water. I couldn’t imagine how it worked, but I knew people successfully found well sites that way.
So we crisscrossed the yard with me holding the wire L’s loosely in my hands. Nothing happened. Just as one more skeptical comment formed in the back of my throat, my wires crossed. I kept walking slowly forward and the wires uncrossed. I walked backwards and the wires crossed again. I did this several times and looked at him in amazement. I asked him if there was water under the ground there and he pointed to the well head less than a yard away and said, “what do you think?”. He had purposely walked me around the yard talking to me the entire time figuring I’d be concentrating on my skepticism and be blind to the well pipe sticking out of the ground. He was right. And because I’d been distracted long enough to suspend my disbelief until it worked, I discovered I had a knack for dowsing.
This hobby of mine would send me to lectures, classes, and membership in the American Society of Dowsers. With it I’ve found friends’ lost glasses, misplaced car keys and jewelry, graves, coins, and water, and each time I’m no less in awe than when I walked over my own well in the lawn that day.
Witching, dowsing, doodlebugging, and divining
Dowsing with it’s many names is an ancient practice used to find water for wells, graves, mineral deposits and oil, buried treasures, archaeological sites and artifacts, and missing people. It’s an old practice too, the origins lost to time. Caves of North Africa were discovered with ancient wall murals estimated to be at least 8,000 years old. The painting shows a man with a forked stick possibly dowsing for water. The Bible has a passage mentioning Moses and Aaron using a rod to locate water. In written history, European dowsers in the Middle Ages dowsed to find coal deposits. More recently, the British army used dowsers to remove landmines on the Falkland Islands. The term witching appears to be attributed to Martin Luther who said such divination was “the work of the devil”.
Various Dowsing Methods
Traditional dowsers use a small Y-shaped willow, peach, or hazel branch. The branch is held parallel to the ground by the top of the Y. When the dowser passes over whatever the intended target is, the end of the branch will draw down and point to the spot. I have one of these but just can’t seem to work with it.
Some people dowse with a pendulum which is basically a small weight(plumb) on a string. String in hand, the plumb finds the target area when the pendulum begins to move in a circle or back and forth. Some people do this over a map or chart of answers (like a Ouija board, I guess) I can do this but I always feel like I’m subconsciously moving it so I don’t take it seriously. Some people swear by it.
As mentioned in the story above, two L-shaped metal rods, one in each hand held parallel to the ground and each other. When the dowser passes over the target the rods either swing apart or cross. For some dowsers they spin full circle. I have a few sets of these and all are copper rods in copper sleeves (copper pipe). The rods move freely in the hand-held sleeves so there’s no chance of subconscious influence. I did say I was a skeptic. lol Some people dowse with a single rod with a bobber on the end.
Odds and Ends
Since the beginning people have dowsed will all manner of tools such as scissors, pliers, long willow whips, and crowbars. An old wives-tale has dowsing the gender of an unborn baby by using the mother’s wedding band on a string as a pendulum. The only time I tried this I predicted a boy, and I was right.
How does it work?
The short answer? No one knows. No kidding. Back then I was a far more skeptical person then than I am now. Age tends to slap you out of your absolutes. And, some slaps are more resounding than others. Let’s just say there’s always room to be amazed. Life is extraordinary and answers aren’t always handy. It doesn’t mean answers don’t exist.
“I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time.”
This link has interesting info on various studies done on dowsing
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