What is Dowsing?

Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, malign ‘earth vibrations’ and many other objects and materials without the use of a scientific apparatus.

Dowsing is also known as divining (especially in reference to interpretation of results), or (when searching specifically for water) water finding or water dowsing.

A Y-shaped twig or rod, or two L-shaped ones—individually called a dowsing rod, divining rod (Latin: virgula divina or baculus divinatorius), “vining rod”, or witching rod—are sometimes used during dowsing, although some dowsers use other equipment or no equipment at all.

The Equipment


Traditionally, the most common dowsing rod is a forked (Y-shaped) branch from a tree or bush. Some dowsers prefer branches from particular trees, and some prefer the branches to be freshly cut. Hazel twigs in Europe and witch-hazel in the United States are traditionally commonly chosen, as are branches from willow or peach trees.

The two ends on the forked side are held one in each hand with the third (the stem of the Y) pointing straight ahead. The dowser then walks slowly over the places where he suspects the target (for example, minerals or water) may be, and the dowsing rod is expected to dip, incline or twitch when a discovery is made. This method is sometimes known as “willow witching”.


Many dowsers today use a pair of simple L-shaped metal rods. One rod is held in each hand, with the short arm of the L held upright, and the long arm pointing forward. When something is “found”, the rods cross over one another. If the object is long and straight, such as a water pipe, the rods may point in opposite directions, showing its orientation.

The rods may be fashioned from wire coat hangers or wire flags used for locating utilities. Glass or plastic rods have also been accepted. Straight rods are also sometimes used for the same purposes, and were not uncommon in early 19th-century New England.