By: Don Martin Re: Dousing There has been some discussion of water witching or dowsing her

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By: Don Martin Re: Dousing There has been some discussion of water witching or dowsing here in the past. I found this in the book by Cecil Adams (ISBN 0-914091-54-9) pp 128-129. "Needless to say, dowsing is entirely a fraud, although often an unconscious one. Innumerable experiments, beginning in 1641--that's right, 1641--have demonstrated that (a) the presence of water has no discernable effect on a rod held above it, whether the rod is made of wood, metal, or anything else; (b) the success rate for diviners is about the same as that for people who use the hit-and-miss method when looking for water; and (c) geologists trained to recognize telltale surface clues (certain kinds of rocks and plants, various topographical features) will invariably far outdo dowsers in predicting where water will be found and at what depth. "Nevertheless, the belief in dowsing has persisted, partly because people want to believe in magic, partly because water is fairly easy to find in most parts of the inhabitable world, and partly because the plunging stick phenomenon seems so convincing to untutored obvservers. It is worth noting that in many parts of the eastern U.S. it is virtually impossible to dig a hole and _not_ find water. You [the person Adams in responding to in this particular newpaper column] do not mention where you went witching in Arizona, but I lived in Tucson for a spell and they had gotten well-digging down to such a science that the success rate approached 100 percent. Even in complex hydrological formation, the success rate for the hit-and-miss method is oftenas high as 75 percent. "The plunging-stick phenomenon is caused by a well-documented psychological effect known as 'ideomotor action' first described in the 1800s and clinically demonstrated in the 1930s. What happens is that conscious thought gives rise to involuntary, usually imperceptible muscle movements. If I strapped you to a table in a lab and loaded you up with sensors and told you to just think about raising your arm--but not actually to do so--the sensores would probably detect some slight upward motion in that arm, which you'd be completely unconscious of. Oija boards and several other seance-type tricks make use of this principle. "In forked-stick dowsing, the two ends of the stick are held in a rather uncomfortable grip in such a way that the stick is under considerable tension--coiled up like a spring, as it were. Any of four minor muscle movements will result in the stick taking a sudden lurch downward (you can try this in the backyard sometime). An experienced dowser, who has often picked up a fair bit of practical geological knowledge, particularly if he has worked in the same geographical area for many years, often develops a good instinct for judging where water might be just by looking at the terrain. When he walks around doing his number with the stick, his mind unconsciously transmits this knowledge to his arm muscles. You, you young sap, don't know anything about geology, but you do know where the stick pointed the first time, and unconsciously you want to duplicate that feat. if either you or the dowser is blindfolded, though, you won't even get close to the spot twice. Besides forked sticks, you can use barbed wire, a fork and spoon, coat hangers, welding rods and even a bunch of keys hanging by a chain from a Bible. If you want more information on this ridiculous art, most libraries have lots of books on the subject--right next to the section on tarot cards."

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