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The Texas Quote of the Day 1-20-2023: How to Witch for Water


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The Texas Quote of the Day has special meaning to me because it was written by Dorothy McQuary Callaway, a wonderful woman whom I met in 2021, when she was 99 years old and as spry as can be. She was born and raised on a farm in Milam County and was nice enough to allow me to photograph her looking at the farmhouse in which she was born in 1923. The house, which is in good condition, is still in her family. As you can imagine, it was very interesting to walk around the property with her and listen to her talk about the things that had happened there. Here, Dorothy writes about how to go about "witching" for water.
"Historically, dowsing is a technique employed by a dowser or water witch to indicate a good spot to locate a water well with the expectation of finding good water to drink. To dig a well is costly, both in time and labor, so the water witch performed a useful service. Thus the pioneer in the early centuries of America knowing little about the water table relied on the dowser to locate a suitable spot for his new water well.
References to dowsing are found in writings of ancient Egypt and China in which a special priest or shaman provided this service for the government. The Bible refers to a situation wherein Moses 'threw down the rod' and water flowed from a rock. During the Middle Ages throughout European countries the dowser used various devices in his search for clean water to drink. He also used the rods in his search for underground coal with which to heat his home.

After the discovery of America over 500 years ago immigrants from Europe brought their folk practices to the New World, including the notion that certain individuals possessed 'the gift' and could locate water underground with a forked limb from a willow or other tree that grew near water, a bent copper rod, or even the hand held in a particular position. Skeptics always have been around to dispel any belief in the power of these individuals. Yet others have witnessed the success of the dowser and will swear that he has a 'natural gift' that cannot be explained.
Who has 'the gift'? Old folk tales indicate that the gift is a natural phenomena. One has it or one does not have it, that one inherits the gift. Other tales say that, after many years of practice, a water witch or dowser may not charge for witching a well or searching for something underground for fear of losing the power to locate anything. The skeptics say that witching is just folklore and not scientific enough to command one's trust, much less his money or time. And then there are people who say that witching is a wicked practice and one should distance himself from witching wants, pendulums, or even forked willow sticks.

Today, whether one is a believer or non-believer, one may find pleasure in learning how the old timers used wands or forked limbs in search of water. Thomas Edison was known to say that he didn't understand electricity but we should use it. Regardless of one's level of skepticism, today one may acquire the skill for dowsing that men have practiced down through the ages to locate untold, and unverified, treasures in the ground.
In addition to witching for water, dowsers have employed various techniques in an effort to discover precious metals and minerals in the earth, for energy lines that may connect sites of natural power in rock structures or mountains, and, lastly, some have used dowsing implements in their search for lost items, even missing persons.

Is there any wonder that men also wanted to know where to search for gold or iron or diamonds or other metals and minerals and, therefore, employed the dowser? In 1901, with the discovery of oil at Spindletop where Patillo Higgins said he 'witched the hill with a peach limb,' dowsers and pseudo-scientists have employed an array of dowsing techniques in their search for oil stored deep within the earth. 'Doodlebug' is a word that came to be associated with oil exploration, though it was originally nothing more than a metal wire the dowser held as he walked over a field. He selected a spot for the driller to up his derrick to drill for the precious 'black gold'. Oil historians point to oil fields that were discovered and developed because a dowser's wands 'crossed' at a certain spot as the dowser walked over the terrain. The 'wildcatter' and the driller firmly believed in the power of the dowser, the witch, and the 'wiggle stick' to find oil!

Choose a set of copper L-shaped witching wands no longer than the length of the arm to finger tips, preferably wands with a copper tube over the short end. Follow these accepted practices:

Grasp handles of wands loosely in fingers, elbows at sides. Point wands forward and hold them parallel to each other and parallel with the ground.
Slowly walk forward in a straight line over the selected ground area as you observe the unassisted action of wands.

If both wands swing to the right, turn and walk in that direction. Follow the wands if they swing to the left and walk in line with pointing wands.

If wants swing around erratically after several passes over the ground the wands are indicating there is no water in the vicinity.

If wands cross in an 'X' and dip slightly toward the earth, mark the spot with a rock or drag a stick in the dirt.

To verify the exact location where water is to be found go to another point and walk toward the 'X'. The wands should cross at this spot once again. Most dowsers will test for accuracy by walking from several directions.

Only if the wands consistently cross at the 'X' will the dowser say to the farmer, landowner or oil man 'Give me a shovel! It's time to get a drink of water!'"
----- Dorothy McQuary Callaway, 2012

Shown here: Dorothy Calloway looks at the house in which she was born 99 years before this photo was taken. It's in Sharp, Texas. Sharp is about 12 miles northwest of Rockdale.

Dorothy at her birthplace 99 years ago 1382.jpg

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