Dowsing for beginners: All you need to know to get started

You might think that dowsing is a special psychic ability limited to a few individuals born with ‘the gift’, but actually, while dowsing for beginners can be quite challenging, it’s something that can be learned by anyone who’s curious and willing to put in the time and practice to learn the art.

So while dowsing for beginners can be quite frustrating – it really can be magical in so many ways quite quickly.

As a transformation coach and energy healer, I love sharing practical things that have given me positive results. A few months ago I fell in love with the pendulum as a way of testing for shifts after specific healing protocols, which has been really useful and got me hooked!

More recently I started learning to dowse with rods as a way to connect with Nature, earth energies and the Higher Consciousness that connects us all.

If you’re curious to learn more about this fascinating practice, I hope you enjoy my beginner’s guide to dowsing below. It’s everything you need to know to start your dowsing adventures!

Dowsing is a pre-science and the old-world way used for millennia for finding lost or concealed things and information.

The British Society of Dowsers explains dowsing as:

“… a type of divination employed in attempts to locate ground water, buried metals or ores, gemstones, oil, gravesites, malign ‘earth vibrations’ and many other objects and materials without the use of a scientific apparatus.”

The American Society of Dowsing says:

“dowsing is the name given to a method of questioning or seeking information, with or without the assistance of a device. Such information can be for personal benefit or on behalf of others and appears to come to the dowser through a means other than the five senses.”

Dowsing is also known as divining or radiesthesia, water witching and water smelling (when dowsing for water), peach-twig toting, doodle bugging (particularly in the United States, in searching for petroleum), well prophesying and rhabdomancy.

Dowsing gives us access to higher or deeper levels of intelligence that we all have intuitive access to by virtue of our connection to the quantum field, or Divine Consciousness, but which we might not be aware of. Whether you’re dowsing to pick up different energy flows in the earth, or you’re asking a question when information is missing, it helps bring the information from the intuitive or subconscious mind to the attention of the conscious and rational mind by indicating where an energy current stops or flows, or by offering a yes or no/false or true binary response.

All that is needed is sensitivity, focus and a quieted mind to discern the energy.

A brief history of dowsing

A brief history of dowsing

Since dowsing is a natural human ability, it can’t really be said that there was a specific starting point when people began to use it. But references to early peoples using dowsing tools can be found in cave paintings and in various historical accounts of ancient civilizations.

In some ancient cultures it’s believed that dowsing was used for divination purposes, to divine the will of the gods and foretell the future. It was used by both the ancient Egyptians and Chinese to find beneficial or unhelpful energy flows in Earth’s magnetic field to find the best conditions for generating health and prosperity (think Feng Shui), as well as for finding water, minerals and so on.

Knowledgeable Aborigine peoples have been able to navigate vast distances of the Australian Outback by following ‘dreamlines’, not needing dowsing tools, but by picking up energy lines in the earth through their feet which guide them to the location of landmarks, waterholes, and other natural phenomena needed for their journey.

Celtic druids used dowsing to map ley lines that aligned megalithic sites of geographical interest, like stone circles, henges, mounds, long-barrows, beacon-hills and other markers in the landscape.

During the Middles Ages it was used throughout Europe to find coal seams and water, and in Germany it was employed to find metals.

In the 15th century, during Queen Elizabeth 1’s reign, England wanted to compete with the technical advances of other European countries, and so she negotiated for German mining experts to come to England to help find copper and zinc, which were essential in the production of brass for making cannons. It was this that probably brought dowsing expertise to England in the form it’s commonly used today.

As with many unexplained natural phenomena, in the 16th century dowsing came under suspicion by the church, was discredited as witchcraft and the work of the devil, and made illegal in England under the Witchcraft Act of 1562.

Because of our cultural conditioning in a society that values scientific data above all else, scepticism and hostility towards the practice still continues today, although a quote attributed to Albert Einstein does give it some authenticity. But happily, there is a resurgence of learning this art in the spiritual community.

Albert Einstein understood dowsing

How dowsing is thought to work

At the quantum level everything is energy. We might perceive ourselves as individual beings separated from each other and our environment by virtue of being in a body, but the truth is, we are all intrinsically connected to the greater field of consciousness, or Divine Intelligence, which holds all the answers to everything that ever was, is, or will be, where everything exists in the now, beyond time and space.

When we tune into this field of Higher Intelligence consciously with clear intent in mind about something we want to find or find out, our subconscious picks up the answers like a radio receiver. This triggers our autonomic nervous system which causes specific movements in our bodies. And when we’re holding dowsing tools that we’ve programmed to behave in a particular way, the body will respond accordingly.

So in the same way that turning up the volume amplifies sound frequency from a radio so we can hear it better, using dowsing tools amplifies our body’s subtle movements, giving us visible feedback to our questions. So dowsing is really just tuning into the naturally occurring processes in the body that we might not normally be conscious of.

What forms of dowsing are there?

The image that most people have when it comes to dowsing is of a person using dowsing tools like dowsing rods (also known as divining rods, witching rods or sticks, L-rods and Y-rods), and pendulums to find things in the ground.

Dowsing with Y-rods

Traditionally, the most common dowsing rod is a forked Y-shaped twig or branch from a tree or bush. It seems to be a personal preference, but often these are freshly cut from hazel, ash, rowan, witch-hazel and hickory in the United States, willow or peach trees.

The two ends on the forked side are held one in each hand, wrists facing upwards, with the third (the stem of the Y) pointing straight ahead. The dowser then walks slowly over the places they suspect have something of interest to be found in the ground. The dowsing rod is then expected to dip down or twitch up, or side to side when a discovery is made.

A man dowsing with a traditional Y-rod

Here’s a short video to demonstrate what dowsing with Y-rods looks like in practice.

Dowsing with L-rods

These days dowsers tend to use a pair of simple metal rods made from copper, brass, or can even be made from wire coat hangers. One rod is held in each hand, with the short arm of the L held vertically, and the long arms pointing forwards.

Dowsing for beginners with divining rods

Here’s a short video to demonstrate what dowsing with divining rods looks like in practice.

Dowsing with Pendulums

Pendulums can be crystal, metal or wooden weights or objects suspended on the end of a chain, but even a pendant on a necklace, or just a simple key on the end of a piece of string should work.

Using pendulums for spiritual dowsing

Here’s what pendulum dowsing looks like in practice.

Deviceless dowsing, or dowsing without tools


There are lots of techniques for dowsing without tools. Deviceless dowsing is a way of using your body’s response to a question to determine a yes or no answer.

Perhaps the simplest technique of dowsing for beginners is to use the body sway method. Usually a forward response indicates that an answer is yes, is healthy, strengthening or good for you, and a no, or something that isn’t healthy or good for you, is backwards.

Another method is to make interlocking circles with your thumb and first fingers. When you ask your question and pull the circles apart, a yes response usually stays strong and holds, and a no breaks open easily.

Further simple techniques can be found in this video by Holly Worton, or here on the Canadian Society of Dowsers website.

These are all simple ways to use the body’s yes-no response. For a much deeper dive, kinesiology is a fascinating and comprehensive healing modality that uses this bio-feedback system through muscle-testing to restore balance and harmony to the body for complete health care.

Dowsing for beginners: How to programme your dowsing tools

How to programme dowsing tools

Dowsing for beginners can be challenging because it’s a combination of mental, intuitive and emotional faculties which requires the dowser to let go of the logical, doubting mind, while staying open to ask questions. Of course, when you’re learning something new, you’re trying to comprehend with the mind, and as we’re typically conditioned to operate from the logical mind it’s understandable that it takes some time for dowsing to feel easy and natural. :

However, the simple practice of programming your dowsing tool to find your own body’s clear response to a yes or no answer can be done easily, and is a good way to kick-start your confidence.

When programming divining rods, if you ask your body to show you a “yes” the rod will either swing into your midline or away from you. Whatever the response you get, you can test it a number of times by making statements that are true, such as “I am called (name)” “I was born in (year)” “I work as a (profession or role). When the answer brings a consistent response from the rods you have found your ‘yes’.

When using rods to detect energy lines in the earth, usually you begin with the rods parallel, pointing forward. When something is discovered the arms typically swing in and cross one another. If a line or flow of something is found, then the rods can show the flow’s orientation by swinging in or out in opposite directions.

To programme a pendulum to determine your yes or no, the pendulum will either swing backwards and forwards, side to side or circle clockwise or anti-clockwise.

There is no set way that’s the same for everyone, and the important thing is to find what your yes or no is that’s consistent for you, so that you can learn to trust it. With all dowsing tools, the magic is in you as the instrument connected to Higher Consciousness, and in the clarity of your questions. It is not in the tool itself.

I’ve tried using a few pendulums in the past that I didn’t connect with, so I got poor and unreliable results that stopped me in my tracks for a while because I didn’t trust what the pendulum was showing me. But when I found one that I really liked the feel of, that seemed to really respond to me, my dowsing skills suddenly improved.

As I’ve been exploring dowsing I’ve discovered that there are more complex and fine-tuned ways to use a pendulum with dowsing boards, which provide multiple answer possibilities fanned out around a semi-circle or circle. But for dowsing for beginners, the basics should be plenty to get you started.

Dowsing charts

Mindset for dowsing

What’s essential for dowsing effectively is getting into the right frame of mind. It’s about tuning into and opening up your awareness to the Higher Intelligence that connects all things. It’s not an exact science, it’s an art; so be relaxed, yet alert, get out of your mind and into a state of curiosity.

When I got frustrated with myself because I wasn’t getting it, my teacher reminded me that it’s not a test, you’re not trying to prove anything or get anything perfect. I needed that permission to simply play, to be free to get it wrong and to relax, and in doing that I dropped out of my critical mind, which was focusing on what the rods were doing, and connected with the presence of the field, and in that moment everything changed.

It’s also important to note that dowsing is not 100% accurate. It very much depends on the clarity of the question you ask, your focus, your emotional state and your attachment to the answer. I’m told that it takes time and a lot of practice to master, and even for experienced dowsers it’s been difficult to prove any level of accuracy in scientifically measured tests.

But the fact is, for many people, dowsing does work a lot of the time, and it seems to be because master dowsers have learned to find an intuitive rhythm of working with, and interpreting answers from the field through their dowsing tools.

So if you feel like playing, I think the secret to dowsing for beginners is to stay open, have fun, and with lots of practice our skills will improve and we will trust ourselves more.

Using a pendulum and map to dowse

More uses for dowsing

As mentioned previously, dowsing has been used for millennia for finding water, oil, minerals, metals and the like; thousands of wells were sourced using this method before scientific technology was available. It was even employed by U.S. Marines during the Vietnam War to find Viet Cong tunnels, and it’s not widely known, but it’s still used today by some modern utility companies to find underground facilities like gas mains, cables, water pipes, and so on (and any breaks in them).

But there are many more practical applications of dowsing for beginners to use every day, which will develop one’s prowess and build trust in one’s answers.


Health and wellbeing

While Kinesiology is a complete health-care system that relies on working with a trained practitioner to find imbalances in the body and balancing them, you can get a lot of your own information about what’s healthy for your body by dowsing.

You can use it for determining:

  • Appropriate supplements or beneficial foods for a specific need
  • Foods that you may have sensitivities or allergies to, and whether you should be eating it
  • Where in your body or chakra system that you might have imbalances that need attention
  • Whether a particular skin product is causing a reaction
  • If you have toxins in your environment that you are reacting to
  • Potential side effects of a prescribed drug, therapy or treatment
  • Information about past lives that may be negatively impacting your wellbeing
  • Any negative energies that may be inhibiting your ability in just about anything.

You can also ask health-related questions to find the cause of an illness or where pain is in the body for those who can’t speak for themselves, such as babies or animals, or even plants; and whether they need to see a professional in order to get well.

And if you are a practitioner of multiple healing modalities, you can dowse for which one is most appropriate for use with your client at any given time, keeping yourself neutral and working purely with the intelligence of their body system.

By dowsing your property for underground water flowing under your house you can pinpoint potential problem areas and geopathic stress, which have been linked to cancer in people whose beds are positioned directly above. Here is an excellent full-length video on geopathic stress.


Transport questions

    • Which option is the best route to drive on a particular day to arrive by a certain time?
    • Do you have enough petrol to get to a given destination without fuelling up before you leave?
    • What’s the best car to buy – for value/reliability/mileage/performance/etc?
    • Will a flight or some other public transport depart or arrive on time?
    • What’s wrong with the car and where is the trouble spot?

Using a map to dowse with

By using a map you can dowse to find things that are lost or missing. It’s easiest to use a pendulum so that you can use one hand to point to areas on the map and the other to dowse, but lost objects can be found this way, lost pets and people, minerals, ruins, sacred sites, underground water, and so on. And then it can be followed up in the field.

Or you could use it to find the best place to site a well or bore-hole. With the ongoing need to find reliable sources of drinking water, as well as new sources of oil and minerals, dowsing is a particularly valuable skill in less-developed areas.


Earth energies

You can use dowsing for analysing and working with the ley lines, or subtle earth energies which flow around the planet. These are like the arteries and veins we have in our own bodies, which move, change and can be damaged. So by dowsing for these breakages you can then heal them if you have the appropriate skills.



Dowsing can help people in business by using it to set prices, indicate whether a particular decision is the best one for a certain outcome, what offers to make, whether to approach a customer or potential collaborative partner for a desired outcome, and when the best time to do so might be.


Accuracy and working with multiples

You can ask how accurate the information is that you are being given, or how true or false something is. You can quickly find an item you are looking for amongst many multiples of things by dowsing lists, and you can work out percentages and numbers.

Old-timer dowsing with rods

As a final note, I think dowsing for beginners, while initially being quite a challenge to trust the information and guidance you receive from your dowsing tools, it only takes a moment of connecting with something greater than ourselves in a state of presence, to make this practice so rewarding.

It’s exciting and wonderful when you do get those connected responses from your dowsing that feel true, especially when confirmed by others. It all helps to build trust in oneself and one’s intuition, confidence in the practice, and as you relax into it, you get even better results.

I‘m really enjoying practicing this wonderful art because it’s so practical. I love how it’s teaching me to connect more often through my body to the intelligent field of consciousness that we are all part of, and it inspires me to get out in nature much more to play. It might be an ancient practice, but dowsing, especially outdoors, is a great antidote to the modern lifestyle of spending too much time on computers or devices, and too much time in the mind, all of which separates us from the vibrancy of life all around us.


What’s your perspective on dowsing? Are you curious to have a go yourself? Maybe you’re an old hand, or a complete sceptic? What does it mean to you? Let me know in the comments below.

Cathy x
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Further dowsing resources

If you want to start playing with dowsing yourself, it’s helpful to find a group or other people who you can dowse with.

The Geomancy Group has an events page for courses and trainings around the world, as well as more detailed information on the body-mind connection to the quantum field and how dowsing works through that.

The British Society of Dowsers

Western Geomancy

The American Society of Dowsers

Canadian Society of Dowsers

Dowsers Society of NSW

Penwith Press was founded in the 1990s by Hamish Miller, a well-loved and respected dowser, philosopher, blacksmith, engineer and tree-planter, and was designed as an outlet for his books and DVDs, which record his extraordinary journeys and quest for knowledge.

This is a wonderful introduction to dowsing for beginners by the late Hamish Millar on Youtube.

And here is an excellent documentary on health problems created through geopathic stress by Irish dowser, Brendan Murphy.

Spiritual Dowsing, by author Sig Lonegren, is a history of the Earth Energies and their relationship with ancient sacred sites, how to dowse for these energies, healing techniques, and other uses today.

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Cathy portraitCathy Ballard – Mentor and visionary coach for spiritual paradigm-shifters and sensitive empaths.
Cathy teaches her clients to develop and trust their connection to Source, master their spiritual power and reclaim their worth and value, creating more joy, satisfaction and abundance as a natural by-product of authentic alignment.



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