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When many people hear the word "dowsing", they immediately think of a mystical search for sources of water. While the practice of water witching is a common application of dowsing, there are a number of other activities involving the use of divining instruments. Dowsing is actually a all-encompassing word which describes the use of psychic energy to reveal invisible or unknowable events. Besides the search for potable water, dowsing can also be used to discover metallic ore deposits, locate missing persons or determine the gender of an unborn baby, among other applications.
Dowsing often involves the use of simple tools, but these tools are generally used to amplify the dowser's own physical responses to psychic events. If a dowser is dowsing for water, he or she might hold a V-shaped branch under tension. The dowser walks slowly over the area to be surveyed, focusing his or her mental energy on the presence of water. Whenever an underground source of water is beneath the dowser's body, the tip of the branch should point immediately to the ground. The location is marked and the dowsing process continues until the entire area has been scanned.
Another form of dowsing used to discover water involves two metal rods bent at right angles. Two metal coat hangers can be fashioned into crude dowsing rods if necessary. The dowsing process begins with the dowser holding a rod loosely in each hand, with the ends of each rod remaining parallel to each other. Those who believe in dowsing say the rods should cross each other naturally whenever a water source has been located. The rods themselves do not detect the water, but they amplify the dowser's own muscular and nervous responses.
Dowsing can also be performed with a pendulum or bobber, especially when attempting to divine answers from an unseen paranormal force. Some dowsers will hold a simple weight and string over a pregnant woman's abdomen to divine the child's gender. A circular swinging motion may indicate a boy, while a straight back-and-forth swing may indicate a girl. Other forms of dowsing with a pendulum involve asking simple yes or no questions and divining the answer according to the pendulum's swing.
Dowsing may be seen as a pseudoscience or a form of wishful thinking by many, but some dowsers have a significant track record for finding sources of water. Critics argue that dowsing is more indicative of a native knowledge of hydrology than an actual paranormal phenomenon, but there are professional water dowsers who have found sources of usable water numerous times.