Forms of Divination: Dowsing and Pendulums

Dowsing and pendulums are one of the many forms of divination arts.  According to my dictionary, dowsing is “a technique for searching for underground water, minerals, or anything invisible, by observing the motion of a pointer (traditionally a forked stick, now often paired bent wires) or the changes in direction of a pendulum, supposedly in response to unseen influences.” A more witchy definition is dowsing is the divination art of finding the answer to a question by channeling the divine and observing the movement of an object in the practitioner’s hands.  On the art of dowsing Robert Boyle, the Father of Chemistry, said in an essay published in 1633 that “those who have seen it may much more readily believe than those who have not.”


This technique can be performed with two types of objects: dowsing rods and pendulums. Dowsing rods are two sticks or metal polls used to local objects and things in the Earth such as water, veins of metal, cable wires, etc.  Pendulums (pictured above) are any object hanging on a string to answer basic questions.


The history of dowsing goes back thousands of years and spans several different ancient and modern cultures.  The oldest evidence of dowsing that I could find is in the Tassili Cave Paintings which are 8,000 years old and are located in Algeria.  These painting depict a holy man with two rods in his hands looking for something in the Earth.  In Greece the Oracle of Delphi used pendulums to give readings to royalty and military commanders as far back as 2,000 BCE.  In The Bible, the Books of Hosea (4.12), Deuteronomy (18.9-12), and Exodus (17.5-6) all reference dowsing practices. Some resources I have read have even claimed that Moses’s work with his staff is a form of dowsing.  In England during the reign of Elizabeth I, dowsing was used to find mineral deposits and good places for new mines.  On that same vein references to the benefits of dowsing started popping up in mining and farming manuals in Europe during the 18th and 19th centuries.  Interestingly enough in 1912 an ancient mining manual, De re metallica or On Mining, that describes dowsing as a way to locate a rich vein of metal  in the Earth was translated by future President of the United States Herbert Hoover and his wife Lou Henry.

One old wives tale regarding dowsing and pendulums is to have a pregnant woman lay down and use her wedding ring or other piece of jewelry work daily on a chain dandled over her belly to determine the sex of her baby.

In popular culture dowsing has made it into a lot of shows, books, and movies about magic and witchcraft.  On Charmed, the Halliwell sisters use a pendulum to “scry” for other magical beings.  In the book Lady of Rivers by Philippa Gregory, Jacquetta Woodville teaches her daughter Elizabeth the art with a pearl on a string as part of her daughter’s magical education and shows all of her children how to dowse for water.    In 2014 Russell Crowe starred in the film The Water Diviner, which depicts a dowser trying to find his three missing sons.

Tips, Tricks, and Getting Started

By far the most important tip I can give you when working with a pendulum or dowsing rod is to stay grounded.  This form of divination is strongly rooted in the Earth.  You are using your connection to the Earth to find the answers to Her mysteries and to your questions.  I would strongly suggest grounding and centering before any form of divination, but especially this one.  Also I think the grounded nature of this art is why gemstone pendulums have become so popular. One rule I use is that I only buy pendulums in types of stones that I feel an intense connection.  While clearly you can use any charm on a string for this work, gemstone pendulums are readily available at most new age or Pagan shops.

Another good piece of advice for pendulum work is to not expect an answer or outcome.  Since the reader is channeling the energy of the Earth to their own hand, it’s super easy to let your own ego get involved and to show the outcome you want instead of the outcome of the situation.  Use your good mind-clearing practices while working this art.  If you are looking into a situation that is emotionally charged or if you are having trouble clearing your mind, I would recommend doing some yoga or taking a walk to calm down and clear your mind.

Pendulums in particular are great for yes-no questions.  There are also mats and printouts readily available for more complex questions.

Dowsing rods are largely made from willow or hazel branches.  For best results, make your rods yourself.  Copper and other metal rods are commercially available as well.  One of the videos below shows how to make metal rods from old coat hangers!

Both pendulums and dowsing rods are great for finding lost objects.  If you are a bit of an absent minded person or have a particular talent for finding things, this is an art you should learn.

Further Reading and Resources


Agricola, Georgius (1912). De re metallica. Trans. Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover.  Accessed 13 February 2016.

The Bible.  Accessed 13 February 2016.

“Divining Rod.” Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology (2001).  Accessed 13 February 2016.

“Pendulum Dowsing.” Accessed 13 February 2016.

“Water Dowsing.” United States Geological Survey.  Accessed 13 February 2016.

Youngblood, Lloyd. “Dowsing: Ancient History.” The American Society of Dowsers. Accessed 13 February 2016.

© Ariadne Woods


4 thoughts on “Forms of Divination: Dowsing and Pendulums

  1. I haven’t had much luck when it comes to dowsing. I have found that a pendulum can be useful for creating calmness. Just direct your negative energy down the chain into the crystal (or other point) and let the spinning reduce as you become calm. Cleanse the pendulum after. 🙂

  2. Great read!
    One time I was waiting for JULIE (the utility marking guys) and thought I might try to dowse for my water and gas lines to see if I could get close. .. Surprisingly, I was spot on for the water. Not so much for the gas.

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