Water Witching or Dowsing is a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, and many other objects and materials (Wikipedia)
I remember when I was a kid back in the late 1980's our well went dry and an older guy from the well drillers came out one day to take a look at where they'd drill the new well. I remember we were in the back yard and he walked over to a maple tree and broke off a forked branch. To me, it looked like he walked around the backyard with this stick pointing out in front of him and every once in a while it would bounce up and down. After a bit he told me mom where they would drill and how many feet deep the water was. He was only five feet off when they actually drilled. I was AMAZED!
Fast forward to this past week in Oklahoma. My parents, brothers and sister came to southern Oklahoma to visit our brother Mountain Man and we joined them on Wednesday. I had always heard that our youngest brother, who we affectionately call Mater, could witch water but I'd never seen it. He is a lot younger than me after all and just a young pup at 21 years old.
We had been walking in the backyard and Mountain Man was pointing out where the ground had been disturbed to place a drain from his washing machine. I asked Mater if he could show me how to witch it. He proceeded to pick up two semi straight sticks off the ground and walk across the drain.
Those two sticks crossed just like that. I made him do it a couple of times and I watched carefully. He held them really loosely and he wasn't moving them at all. Those sticks moved all on their own.
Not everyone can witch water I learned. Dad can't do it but Mom can, but only with wire. Dad cut a wire hanger and shaped it into two L shapes and we were trying it out with that.
I was kind of bummed at first when I tried it with the sticks and nothing happened but I was absolutely tickled when I tried it with the wires and they crossed for me right over the disturbed ground.
My sister Officer could do it with the wires too.
Later on that day we all walked to an old cemetery with missing stones. As we walked across certain areas the wires crossed and uncrossed at regular intervals indicating unmarked graves beneath our feet.
When my mom, sister and I used the wires to walk over the disturbed ground the ends of the wires only crossed a little. Whereas for Mater, when he used the wires, they practically crossed so far they slapped his chest. Mountain Man remarked sarcastically that Mater could balance a penny on his finger and make it spin witching water. I'm not altogether sure he isn't right about that. Mater must have water, or dirt, running through his veins.
I haven't a clue as to why some people can do it and some can't. It's one of those old time skills that not too many folks know about any more. I sure wish I'd thought of it and taken a video!