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Looking for water on your land?

Readers who follow me on my Singing Gardener page should have a good idea of my subject material after I let “the cat out of the bag” in the February 25 Grainews issue. I don’t write only “pour passer le temps” (French) i.e. to pass the time; but write because it’s part of my makeup. Gardeners and farmers are sort of “terrae filius” (Latin) i.e. sons of the soil. Water is more precious than liquid gold and the land has been called black gold. Both are so absolutely essential to life and our survival. We thank teachers who taught the ABCs to us, but also thank farmers and gardeners who put food on our tables.


Then — look for a dowser. Believe it or not, that’s what some old-timers said and did when they wanted to find a spot for a well with a good supply of quality water. I, Ted, have dabbled a bit as a water dowser myself, but have met only a handful so far. If there are a lot of them out there in this vast country, they’re certainly keeping to themselves. It seems word of mouth has been the primary mode of advertising as to engaging one of these dowser guys who’ve also been referred to as water diviners, switchers and witchers.

The ability to be a dowser probably applies to about one person per dozen. Most people don’t realize they may have the gift primarily because they’ve never tried it. Dowsing is probably as ancient as humanity’s need for water. Call it what you will, but some individuals have that uncanny ability to find underground streams and even their depth and volume. Let it be known that neither trickery nor petty foolishness is ever applied by a bona fide dowser, although some non-believers have been known to describe them as a fake.

It is known that wild animals in the jungle and forest are able to smell a waterhole that’s many kilometres away. Perhaps in humans the ability to dowse for water is an ancient ancestry instinct that only some people still possess. Another way is to think of it as a natural, innate and freely given talent that some people are born with. Such sensitivity has been called radiesthesia and described as a movement of invisible energy waves that emanate between earth, minerals, water, people and other things around us. I’m neither a scientist nor a specialist in this area, but in simple terms that’s how I understand it. We’ve all heard of Albert Einstein who also apparently had a profound interest in dowsing.

It’s little known, but folklore had an intriguing connection to the practice of dowsing. Folklorists say the power is inherited by a son from his mother or by a daughter from her father. Others say the gift of divination is granted from above to only a few.


… arrived at my inbox in January. Thanks to Dan Ohler for his willingness to share. He writes: Hi Ted, I trust all is well for you. I enjoy reading your articles in Grainews. Thanks for the great info and insights. I was curious about your recent article asking about water diviners. I do it, and have done it successfully (100 per cent), although I’ve not much experience. I’ve only had the opportunity to have the sense confirmed four times for water wells. However, I use the same technique quite regularly to help people find power, sewer, gas, pipes and water lines.

I usually use two welding rods bent in a 90-degree angle. To make them more sensitive, I have small plastic beads on the part I hold in my hands, so the rod turns inside the beads, similar to a bearing.

I’ve also used a willow “Y.” The most interesting experiences I’ve had with willow are in the spring (when the sap is flowing). When I squeeze the branch really hard, a strong, underground water force will tear the bark off the wood as the long part of the “Y” bends toward the ground. With warmest regards. Have fun!

Dan Ohler

Sangudo, Alta. (one hour west of Edmonton)


Simply stated, the beads prevent the dowser’s hands from touching the rods and there’s less friction. It also discourages anyone from suggesting the practitioner is somehow engaging the rods into movement. As Dan pointed out “since the diviner’s bare hands do not touch the rods, skeptics (and there are some) cannot say otherwise.” He keeps his rods in the back of the truck or under the seat, or fits them into a backpack.

I asked Dan how he got started and here was his reply. “When I was a boy on the farm in southern Alberta, I watched a guy do this and thought it was really interesting. I practised it a bit but thought it was kind of airy-fairy crap. When I got a bit older, my dad and I were deciding where to drill a well on some pasture land. Dad had a friend who used rods, sticks, crowbars, and even hung a pendulum over an aerial map. We all went to the pasture and I walked around with a couple pieces of #9 wire. I agreed with the general vicinity of where the other guy thought it should be, but to this day, I believe if we’d have drilled 20 feet or so away, there would have been more and better water. Another diviner walked around later and said he agreed with me, although we didn’t drill another well.”

Time has since passed. Dan tried it here and there, but never really had the chance to test it again for a few years. Then he continued: “My dad retired and was building a new yard site. A local diviner told him where to drill. I disagreed and had my place marked out. Dad naturally drilled where the ‘professional’ advised. He got water, but very bad water that ate faucets quickly and was full of sand. Dad decided to drill again and hired a local well driller who also did some divining. He drilled exactly where I had marked and had great water.”

Now a youthful 55 year old, Dan is in their new location west of Edmonton. He told the following about drilling a well in a clearing in their forest. “We were planning a building site there but realized that water was the key issue. I measured my spot from nearby markers, so someone else wouldn’t know. The well driller came and did his divining. His choice was exactly where I had chosen and we got a great well there — very deep (315 feet) but good water.” Dan also had the opportunity to do this for another neighbour with success.

He went on to say, “It’s just something I play around with. It’s fun to feel the energy through my body. And it’s really fun to have other people try it without results, and then walk behind them with my hand on their shoulder. They are amazed to see what happens.”


Then let’s get started. For simplicity sake, we’ll use a Y-shaped or forked red willow bark branch. Harvest a pliable piece so it bends easily rather than one that breaks when the pointer end is pulled down. Remove any small twigs. This is approximate only. Try to find a branch about the thickness of a pencil and about 45 cm (18 inches) long. Decide whether you want it thicker or longer.

Grasp the two prongs a few inches from the tips with palms facing up and fists clenched. Rest your fists firmly against your hips or hold fists a few inches to the front in which case your elbows are tightly pressed against sides of your body. Walk slowly over area to be dowsed, feet close to the ground without shuffling and focus on what your intention is. (i.e. finding cool, clear water). When you come to an underground stream, the end of the willow will be suddenly pulled down earthward in a vertical position by a force of energy. You might consider approaching the spot from several different directions. Often the gravitational pull is so strong that the bark rips off and breaks away from the wood. Sometimes the Y-shaped willow rod even breaks. Once you’ve determined the point of greatest pull, pound in a stake or identify it with a marker of some sort. This may be an oversimplification but should provide some insight whether or not you are a dowser. Incidentally, if using welding rods or coat hangers, the exact spot is found where they cross each other to form an “X.” †

About the author


Ted Meseyton

This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from Portage la Prairie, Man. I salute all gardeners and farmers who help make our world a little safer and more ecologically balanced, and who toil to provide health-giving produce to others who cannot produce their own. It takes all sorts to make a world. One half of the world doesn’t know how the other half lives. The best physicians are Dr. Diet, Dr. Quiet and Dr. Merryman.



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