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a person who claims to locate underground water or minerals


dowser = der Rutengänger



"Scientists pooh-pooh 'water witches,' who claim to know where to drill for water, but the dowsers are in demand."

The New York Times

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- a person who uses a divining rod to search for underground water or minerals

(American Heritage Dictionary)



Someone wandering around a field with a Y-shaped stick in their hand is not an everyday sight. In most cases, it's not a cause for concern because the person is likely a "dowser."

Dowsers practice the art of dowsing, which the British Society of Dowsers (BSD) defines as "searching for things that are hidden from view or knowledge with the aid of simple hand held tools or instruments." Most people know dowsing as the search for underground water. But the BSD claims that this skill can be also used to detect other underground objects like natural resources, as well as missing items or persons.

So how does dowsing work? Dowsers believe they can establish a psychic connection with the object. The idea is that all things, living and inanimate, possess an energy force. By concentrating on the hidden object, the dowser tunes in to this force. This creates a vibration that makes the rod or stick move.

Although there is no scientific explanation, some scientists acknowledge the possibility of a correlation between the dowsing reaction and changes in the magnetic field.

Dowsing has its share of sceptics however. Some view it as evil or devilish and compare it to soothsaying and quack medicine (colloquially, Americans call it "water witching"). As early as 1518 Martin Luther listed dowsing for metals as a sin against the First Commandment, "Do not have any gods before me."

Albert Einstein kept an open mind about dowsing however. He once said, "I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors which are unknown to us at this time."

The etymology of dowse is unknown, although a possible source is the verb "douse," meaning to make something completely wet.


water witching, divining, doodlebugging, rhabdomancy (from rhabdos, the ancient Greek word for rod)

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"My neighbour claims that a dowser found a source of water in his garden."

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