by Rick McDaniel, CITIZEN-TIMES CORRESPONDENT
published May 27, 2007 12:15 am
LEICESTER — When settlers first moved into the Appalachians, they knew water was their lifeline. The lucky ones settled on the banks of creeks or streams, but there were soon more people than there were creek banks. That’s when the call went out for a dowser.
“Dowsing is underground location,” said Nick Daniels, of Asheville, who uses dowsing every day in his job repairing underground utility cables. While dowsing is most often associated with finding water, dowsers say they can sense the energy that naturally flows from things, be it water, magnetic fields or a person’s aura.
“I use dowsing to locate water lines, power lines, phone lines — you name it,” Daniels said.
Dowsers, also known as “water witches,” use metal or wooden rods to find water flowing in veins
underneath the mountains. Since ancient times, they’ve been consulted by people wanting to know where to find water, and their abilities have sparked the curiosity of people who wonder if they might also have “the gift.”
Last weekend, Seana Steele, of Tallahassee, Fla., attended a dowsing clinic in Leicester, sponsored by the Appalachian Chapter of the American Society of Dowsers.
“I just wanted to learn more about how it’s done,” said Steele, whose boyfriend is a dowser.Family tradition
“My grandfather taught me,” Daniels said. “He used a forked apple stick to locate wells. Later, I learned a lot from Latt Grooms, who owned a septic service. I learned how to find lines from him.”Energy flows
Richard Crutchfield, of Asheville, got interested in dowsing when he had a dowser check into a house he was staying in several years ago.
“There was no place in that house where I could get to sleep,” Crutchfield said. “Someone told me to get a dowser to check the house, and this old timer came over and told me it was the worst house he had ever seen for having energy flowing under it.”
Crutchfield said that after the dowser had blocked the energy fields using a series of rods driven into the ground, he never had trouble falling asleep in the house again, and he was hooked on dowsing.
Lee Barnes, of Asheville, another experienced dowser, says that the mountains are full of energy flows, from flowing water to geological fault lines to old, unmarked graves.
“Some of this energy can have an effect on people, making them feel uncomfortable,” he said. “I can feel it, a tenseness in my body.”Tools of the trade
“The Y-shaped rod most people
associate with water witching has been around since the 14th century,” Barnes said.
Although, traditionally, wood was used for most Appalachian divining rods, Barnes said metal rods work just as well, even inexpensive ones made from pieces of an old coat hanger.
“For the real fancy jobs, I bring out the high-tech rods with the Teflon ball
bearings. When I’m charging someone $150 to dowse a well, they seem more willing to pay me than when I come out with a piece of coat hanger and say,
‘Oh, yeah, dig here,’” he quipped.On the trail
Daniels takes a coat hanger and puts it in a copper sleeve so it will turn freely
“You hold the rods loosely in your hands, and when you pass over the magnetic field, the rods will cross,” he explained.
Although he has sophisticated modern equipment available to look for the buried cables and lines, Daniels says often times the old ways are faster and more accurate.Keeping tradition alive
Daniels and Barnes have taught others their method, and Western North Carolina has an active chapter of
the American Society of Dowsers that meets quarterly.
“I’d encourage anyone who wants to see what dowsing is about to contact the club,” said Crutchfield, the group’s president.
Web Extras: Multimedia & Related Content Lee Barnes, a professional dowser in Asheville, teaches a dowsing seminar in Leicester.
On the Net:
Appalachian Chapter, American Society of Dowsers, www.wncdowsers.org