As a child, I cut willow wands and played about dowsing for water. The idea being that willow was sensitive to water, even when cut from the tree, and would twitch with delightful anticipation of finding a life giving source in which to grow new roots.
For some, this childhood game was on a par with Ouija boards sold as toys back then. Something a bit hocus pocus about it all.
Years later, whilst undertaking research in the States, I once again found myself willingly picking up a set of dowsing rods. Alongside me was a stunningly beautiful Elder from the Crow who was also learning how to dowse the energy fields of horses.
Aside from my total delight that something magical seemed to happen with these rods, the scientist in me instantly questioned how this actually worked. If the rods opened, the horse would allow me to approach it, if they crossed then I was not given ‘permission’ by the horse to approach.
The very practical part of me realised that, aside from anything else, dowsing was a superb risk management tool. You didn’t have to fill people with terror about what could happen if you startled horses. You just gave someone a pair of dowsing rods and hey presto, they would approach carefully and meticulously.
There was an added bonus that If they were fearful of the horse, it helped alleviate their anxiety. After all, moving into a large and seemingly unpredictable animal’s space can be pretty scary. Opened rods meant they were accepted. If the rods did not grant permission, they could save face by not going in close.
The evidence base for dowsing is scant. We know it has probably been used for thousands of years to search for water and indeed right across the hotter parts of Europe today, many remote villages have their own Dowser. So, despite the lack of empirical evidence as to its efficacy, dowsing continues to be used.
Not only is dowsing used for searching for water, it is employed in a variety of other ways. Animal communication being just once such application. Finding lost items, buried archaeological artefacts and assessing health status are others.
If you ask a New Ager about dowsing you will be treated to a range of wonderful insights on vibrational frequencies, psychic communication, sacred geometry, energy fields, dimensions and ley lines. If you ask a quantum physicist the same question you may get more mind boggling discussions on the differing String Theories. A psychotherapist might talk about inherited memory and tapping into a source of universal knowledge.
Despite the lack of definitive answers, in Nature Therapy we continue to use dowsing. We mainly use it as a safety tool around horses or wolves, but also to demonstrate how you can maintain your own personal boundaries.
More recently I went dowsing with a most delightful little boy who just happens to have a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Disorder – my grandson. The reason I am teaching him to dowse is quite simple.
To be able to master this particular art form, you need to remain focused and very clear about what you want as an outcome from your activity. You need to unemotionally be able to visualise what you want in your mind, and see consequences of your actions.
Each tip toe of dowsing needs to be broken down into smaller and smaller carefully focused steps. More than anything, it requires patience and perseverance when you are first learning. It can be quite demoralising when you don’t get what you want at the outset.
Dowsing is about dealing with your own expectations as quite frankly wondering around dowsing for an odd fifty pound note is just not going to happen. Dowsing is about putting things into perspective and keeping them real.
These are all valuable life lessons for any child, but these are also the very lessons that are the hardest to grasp when you have a mind wired to be active and easily distracted.
In the evidence based hierarchical reality we have created, science has replaced magic as king. Yet often the very things we seek in that academic world, like incontrovertible hard proof on how dowsing works, is just not attainable. Without this, dowsing is easily be dismissed.
We need to look beyond this through developing an understanding of the life lessons dowsing can gift us with. Only then can we peel back the layers to reveal something meaningful to the human experience.