The first time I ever heard of “Water Divining” was at my paternal grandparents’ house in New Harmony, Indiana, many years ago as a child. Actually, the name “Divine” wasn’t mentioned, not that I recall; the learning of that terminology would come later. I don’t remember how it got started or who all was present, except for maybe my cousin Peggy Sue, but when my grandmother called out to the yard full of grandkids, “Who wants to learn how to Witch for water,” she had our undivided attention?
From her vantage point, seated on the weather-worn front porch in the faded white porch swing gently rocking to and fro, she often gave directions or enlightenment to us grandchildren. Her motion in the swing was barely noticeable, so much that, when you sat with her you needn’t bother trying to push. Her motion was so soft that any intrusion into the fluidness was a disruption of serenity. After we gathered at the corner of the porch under the shade of the majestic Sycamore tree for further instruction, there was the first flurry of questions.
“What is “Witching” for water mean, Grandma,” one of my other cousins would ask?
“Are we gonna turn into witches,” quipped another?
“It means to find water,” grandma calmly replied.
“Like in the kitchen sink,” said another.
“No, like under the ground,” she responded, not cracking a smile.
“Does that mean we have to dig,” said another somewhat elated that we would be allowed to dig a hole in the yard?
“No, there won’t be any digging needed.”
Our fledgling minds were at a standstill. How were we going to find water under the earth if we couldn’t dig? We didn’t have X-ray vision like Superman; or did we?
Before we could drift too far, she began.
First, she told us to go and fetch a branch from the Weeping Willow tree that was in the right corner of the front yard. “Get a branch with a fork in it,” she called to as we raced off to the tree.
It wasn’t one of our climbing favorites, not like the Golden Raintree, but it was fun to run beneath and let the flowing branches tickle your ears as you ran through the curtain of foliage. Looking back, it was as if God was tickling our ears, not the itching of ears that we would seek later in life.
We grabbed as much of a low hanging limb as possible, breaking off a piece and then racing back to grandma for further instructions. As I recall, my stick didn’t have a fork. Her initial detail hadn’t registered in my young mind since the only fork of which I was familiar was from the dinner table. So, after grandma held up to fingers in the sign of a “V,” at which point she said, “with a “V” in it, like Victory in Jesus.” At which point, she began whistling, as she so often did, the sweet refrain while we rushed back to the tree for another try.
When we had all finally gathered green willow sticks with V’s in them, we regrouped back at the porch. Not looking at us as she continued rocking, snapping green beans, she continued our education, “Ok, now take a side of each fork, one in each hand.” Looking at one another as we struggled to grasp the concept, we all finally managed to grab our makeshift fork by its two prongs. Then she looked up from beneath her horn-rimmed glasses and checked for our understanding. “No, not quite,” she said looking at the studious group. “Peg, come here and let me show you.” She took Peg’s branch and grabbed the fork with her hands facing up, then twisted her wrists inward until her hands were then facing down. Meanwhile, the stick had now gone through some sort of torque because the base of the “Y” was now our pointer but oddly tilted upward.
“See how I did it,” she asked?
After a couple of corrections and reproofs, we all seemed ready.
“Now what,” Peg said?
“Now you start walking around until the end of your stick starts to pull downward.”
“Really,” we all shouted?
“Truly,” she answered, and went back to snapping and whistling.
We began running around the yard like a wild bunch of spring heifers turned into a new meadow, our sticks bouncing up and down like yo-yos.
“Hold on,” came the call from the porch. “You need to walk slowly. How else are you going to feel the pull?”
From that point forward, it was as if we were trying to make magic.
We walked, crisscrossing the yard to-and-fro, but nothing. Occasionally someone might think they had a bite on their line as if fishing for water, but mostly nothing. Some cousins gave up and went back to what they had been doing before the lesson, but those of us who were older knew that if grandma had told us we could find water with a stick, then it must be true; so, we kept on. Feeling as if I might have better luck in the backyard, I slowly edged my way past the front porch and was about to turn past the corner of the house when all of a sudden I felt it.
The stick moved in my hand. It was as if someone had grabbed the other end and pulled it downward and to the left. At first, it scared me so much I gave a shout, “Hey, it’s working!” The others came running. Backing up a few feet, I again moved in the same direction, and as I did, we all watched, myself included, as the end of my branch twisted in my hands and pulled downward toward the corner of the house, like a fish pulling one’s line on a fishing pole.
“WOW, it’s amazing,” they all exclaimed as everyone tried their own sticks once more. Sadly, as the others tried, none of them could make their sticks work quite like mine. Amazed at this new discovery, we regrouped back to grandma who all the while had kept slowly working on her pile of beans and had just finished as had we.
“Did you see that grandma, Timmy got his to work?”
“Yes, I did, she smiled looking down at us from her motherly perch.”
“Is he a witch,” asked another cousin?
“No,” she chuckled in reply.
“Is it magic grandma,” I asked?
“Some may think so my son, but I believe it is a gift from God.”
They all looked at me in awe. Suddenly a strange feeling washed over me like I was weird or something. Before the others could react, grandma cut in, “I expected as much since your father could do this as well.”
“Why can’t we do it too,” called another cousin?
“There are a lot of reasons. Perhaps you weren’t holding your stick correctly, or perhaps your limb wasn’t green enough. There are a lot of reasons why. But mostly, not everyone is blessed, or gifted in the same manner,” she answered. “Each of you will find your own talents or gifts in life. Timothy Wayne has just found one of his.”
Then she continued, directing her attention back to me, “As long as you live, you may use this gift to help others. Because it is a special gift from God, you should never make anyone pay you to find water for them. If you begin charging people for this gift, then it will become a curse. Do you understand?”
I shook my head yes.
Her words lingered in my memory ever since.
Years later, I would use the gift only a handful of times, never charging for fear of misusing the talent. One of the most memorable was when a friend of mine in Chatham County, Gary Hart, asked me to douse his well. He was building a new home in what used to be his father’s cow pasture. Finding a Dogwood tree with the proper size forked branch, I grabbed it as grandma had taught us so many years before and began to crisscross his land. Not long into my search the stick was nearly ripped out of my hand sideways. I retreated, somewhat startled at the strength of the pull, then began again, heading straight toward the spot. This time the limb was pulled out of my hands as I passed over the location. Gary, still somewhat skeptical, looked on. At my encouragement, I had him try. He too had the stick move and was suddenly a believer. He had his well put in at that spot and had over 75 gallons per minute.
As stated earlier, I never put a lot of stock in the ability other than it came in handy at times. However, the Bible warns us of such abilities. Many times, dousing is mentioned as a gateway into the demonic word, since only a spirit can control the divining rod, as some people claim. When we allow the spirits of the earth to come into our being, we are welcoming in Satan. As the book of Hosea reads, “My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.”-Hosea 4:12
Then there are the many listings of the word “divination,” which more relevantly refer to things divine in nature, or the act of being prophetic. Regardless, whatever acts we perform, be they supernatural or not, we should be mindful of the power that is working in us and be careful not to follow the temptation to profit from them, lest we fall under the order or prostitution or whoredom, as mentioned in Hosea. To prevent ourselves from being lured into the demonic world, we should always pray that we only be filled with the Holy Spirit and face whatever gifts we have been given with this in mind. In other words, use that with which we have been endowed to serve God.
On a more positive note, there are times when we see magnificent displays of God at work concerning the rod and water, like in Exodus, “The Lord answered Moses, “Go out in front of the people. Take with you some of the elders of Israel and take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. 6 I will stand there before you by the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it for the people to drink.”-Exodus 17:5-6
When we fill ourselves with the Holy Spirit and walk in the Lord, we have nothing to fear. For as we live, we walk in His way. As the 23rd Psalm tells us, “He prepareth a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, my cup runneth over.” When we overflow with the Holy Spirit within us, there is no room for evil; and thus, using a rod to find water will no more hurt us than using a bowling ball to knock down pins.
Whatever you prefer to call it, dousing, divining, or witching, my thoughts will always go back to that innocent time of my life when we learned our life lessons from that battered old front porch on the edge of town. Grandma’s lessons were Christ-centered, and for that, I will always be grateful. I know in my heart, somewhere under the shade of a majestic Sycamore tree, just on the edge of heaven, the old porch swing creaks as she rocks back and forth, waiting; waiting for us to enter in.
Thanks be to God.