Witching For Water

No matter what the origin, divining or dowsing or witching for water is practiced all over the world and despite scientific ridicule, water witches still flourish today.

  • 006-075-01
    William C. Barham uses a forked stick to check for water.
  • Water witching with grapevine
    The grapevine spins as Arthur Lee Brown finds water.
  • Water witching grapevine points to water
    The grapevine Arthur Lee Brown holds points to water.
  • 006-076-01a
    The forked stick dips toward water for William C. Barham.

  • 006-075-01
  • Water witching with grapevine
  • Water witching grapevine points to water
  • 006-076-01a

Some say it started with Moses (Numbers 20:9-11). Some swear by the ancient Greeks. But the first written record of finding water with a forked twig is in Georgius Agricola's work, De re metallica, written in 1556.

No matter what the origin, divining or dowsing or witching for water is practiced all over the world and despite scientific ridicule, water witches still flourish today. Almost every area has a diviner or two; Wake County, North Carolina boasts more than a dozen. A few of the Wake County dowsers refer to their skill as witching (from the witch hazel, a popular divining rod of the early American settlers), but it's usually called finding a well, spotting a well, or—simply—finding water.

Witching for Water

Until his death a few months ago, Arthur Lee Brown was the best known dowser in Northern Wake County. He'd been witching for twenty-five years and found more than a hundred good wells. Arthur Lee claimed it came in spurts: You found a well for one person, and two or three other prospects cropped up.

Brown started divining by accident. A man came through who could witch, and Arthur Lee found out that he could, too. "Not everybody can do it, you know," he declared with conviction. "It just works for some folks." A freshly cut peach tree twig or a length of grapevine were Brown's favorite tools. He held them both palms down, with his thumbs turned in. The grape vine spun in his hands as he walked over the vein, and the forked stick pointed toward the ground.

Like most diviners, Brown wouldn't even guess why the switch worked. He just knew that it did. "There's a streak of water down under the ground," he explained, "and if you take even one step off to the side, the stick won't move. You have to be right on top of the water."

He told about a man who claimed he could figure the depth of the water, but Arthur Lee wasn't so sure. He could find water, but wouldn't go any further than that.

7/12/2018 9:14:57 PM

Thank you for writing this article. My grandfather witched wells. I'll never forget watching him do it. I never seen the branch fork spin with him but it would bounce up and down sometimes ripping right out of his hands. He was never taught so I was shocked to hear how others also believed taking payment would take away the gift. This always surprised me because he was very Scrooge-Like. Amazing how that conviction seems to be inherited with the gift!



Fall 2021!

Put your DIY skills to the test throughout November. We’re mixing full meal recipes in jars, crafting with flowers, backyard composting, cultivating mushrooms, and more!


Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters