A History of Dowsing

Dowsing, historically referred to as Rhabdomancy, has been practised for thousands of years throughout a number of countries. So where does it originate from and how has it evolved to today's modern practice?

Our concept of dowsing today comprises of searching for hidden objects (like water, iron, oil or precious artefacts) with the use of equipment, be it a twig from a tree or specially designed pendulum that have been proposed by people attempting to take a 'scientific' approach to the ancient art. Yet no matter how many historical accounts or dowsing devices we can find from Ancient Egypt or other cultures, dowsing is thought to originate from a much earlier time; if you think about it, the idea of having 'intuition' as to the whereabouts of an object or person, you are applying a dowsing-type ideology, which has probably been used long before dowsing equipment was created.Ancient Egypt

Artefacts from the time of the Egyptian Pharoahs suggest that dowsing in its modernly recognisable form originates from the use of split reeds, and from China, where Emporer Kwang Sung was thought to have engaged in the art.

In 1556 Georgius Agricola published De Re Metallica, a book whose illustrations showed dowsers looking for veins of metal using a forked stick that Agricola referred to as a Virgula Furcate. In Seventeenth Century France, dowsing became popular, with Baron and Baroness de Beausoleil establishing a mineral mining company using dowsing to search for new potential mines. However, the art remained mystical, and was condemned by the Catholic Church as it was believed that the Devil controlled the movement of pendulums, leading them to hidden objects. The de Beausoleils ended their lives in the Bastille after revealing their use of alchemy.

Dowsing enjoyed a revival under the Victorians, perhaps owing to their interest in the occult and unknown. It is thought to have been popularised by German miners who arrived in Cornwall and located veins of tin which resulted in the creation of mines. The most famous of Victorian dowsers, John Mullins, was an English mason, who took up dowsing on a near full-time basis more than two decades after the estate on which he worked was visited by a dowser in 1859. He supported the use of a forked hazel twig, taking payment from customers only if he was successful and on many occassions he was, finding wells to improve water supplies. Mullins insisted on making pendulums from the local environment in which he was working, and the success of the business resulted in it later being taken over by his sons.


Dowsing Today

Accounts show that dowsing was used in the World Wars, but of all people, it was the scientific community's Albert Einstein who praised the potential of dowsing. He acknowledged that the art was regarded on the same mystical level as astrology, but explained it as a way of using the human nervous system to detect factors that were "unknown to us at this time".

Precisely a century after John Mullin's 1859 experience with dowsing in Wiltshire, England, Californian dowser Verne Cameron offered to locate the US Navy's fleet of submarines, which he achieved along with finding many Russian submarines as well. But Cameron's success embedded itself throughout his career: the South Californian city of Elsinore in which the dowser lived was waterless, buying nearly all its water supply from Los Angeles. Cameron helped locate one of the region's largest wells under the dried-up bed of a lake.

Staying in the US, the government's Department Office of Environmental Management has spent significant amounts of taxpayers' money on researching, and trying to justify the use of, dowsing in the search for underground anomolies such as leaks. While one US Geological Survey report published in 1917 dismissed such research as a "misuse of public funds", the department has since spent more than $400,000 researching one Ukrainian's offerings, the scientifically named technique of Passive Magnetic Resonance Anomaly Mapping or 'PMRAM'. The Ukrainian, the only person in the world capable of using the method, claimed that it could be used to detect underground leaks and other anomolies, a claim that has yet to be conclusively proven.

Dowsing continues to be used today, though dowsers and the majority of the scientific community remain divided on its success. Nevertheless, historical accounts have shown many occassions on which dowsing has proven useful to mankind.


See also:

What's Related  on eMystica.com:

  1. History of Dowsing
  2. Dowsing: Introduction, how it is performed, how to make a pendulum
  3. How to Make your own Pendulum - Dowsing

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