Divining the Future with Pendulums and Dowsing Rods

CS asks: “What do you know about a technique called dowsing or water witching, supposedly to locate water under the ground, but also to locate things with a rod in a Y shape? It does not seem like something harmful to be in search of water. However, there is also something called dowsing with a pendulum made out of a metal like brass or other materials that is attached to a string. Apparently, you would tell it that if it swings in a circle, this means ‘yes’ and if it swings in a straight line, this means ‘no’; and then you ask it a question and your answer is the direction that it swings. I have seen this done and it seems like something one should not be doing. I am not sure if I should tell the people that are doing it that it is wrong or not.”

CS, you would be performing an act of charity if you asked the people using the a dowsing rod or pendulum to stop because they are dabbling in the occult and are exposing themselves to spiritual danger.

These practices are one of many pagan divination tools which are forbidden in Scripture. And for good reason. All of them are used to divine the future.

For example, when trying to divine the location of water, a person known as a “dowser” walks across a stretch of land with a dowsing stick and waits for it to be forcefully thrust downward at the location where water is said to be found.

According to Elliot Miller, the late former editor of the Christian Research Journal, dowsers are thought to possess some kind of special ability or “divine gift” that consists of a natural sensitivity to alleged earth magnetism, water “radiations,” or some other natural phenomenon.

“They believe their dowsing stick or other device (often an occult pendulum) somehow ‘focuses’ or otherwise identifies this energy so that one is able to find water or other substances or things that one is seeking — including oil, treasure, and lost persons or objects,” Miller writes.

He goes on to report that many Christians also believe in dowsing as a divine gift and attempt to justify the practice by appealing to the Bible. Unfortunately, the scripture passages they cite refer only to digging wells or searching for water – never dowsing – which they claim is because the verses were mistranslated. If they were correctly translated, they would supposedly mention dowsing.

However, there is only one direct reference to dowsing in Scripture and it’s hardly an endorsement. “My people consult their wooden idol, and their diviner’s wand informs them; for a spirit of harlotry has led them astray, and they have played the harlot, departing from their God” (Hos. 4:12).

Dowsing, in any form, including the pendulum CS mentions in her e-mail, has always been considered an occult art, and one that is often associated with witchcraft, which explains the alternate term of “water witching.”

Practitioners who possess this gift tend to be involved in other psychic practices as well. For instance, many dowsers put themselves into a trance before dowsing. They are also called to “have faith” in the power behind the dowsing rod and to have a personal interaction/response with it.

These and other facts about dowsing “suggest that the force behind this practice is personal, intelligent, and desirous of human interaction,” Miller writes. “If men were only dealing with an impersonal force, it would never require respect, or faith, or personal communication. But these responses are exactly what spirit guides require and demand of their human mediums. Many illustrations of this kind of spirit-human interaction could be cited from those who use Ouija boards, the I Ching, rune dice, tarot cards, or who employ ceremonial magic and other forms of the occult.”

CS describes people who are using a pendulum to discern “yes” or “no” answers much like what is done with the planchette of a ouija board. She is correct to discern that this is also form of divination. A partial list of other practices that fall into the same category as dowsing would be horoscopes, tarot cards, ouija boards, runes, I Ching, divining rods, pendulums, palmistry, crystal-gazing, geomancy, and any derivative thereof.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives a very specific and easy to understand explanation of the dangers of all of these methods of divination in Sections 2115-2117. It is well worth taking the time to read.

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