Dowsing among the Indigenous People of Canada

by Henry Dorst

The only form of traditional, aboriginal dowsing using any kind of exterior instrument which I have heard about was an odd form used by the Inuit (formerly called Eskimos) reported by early European visitors among them. The village shaman would have a patient lie down on the ground at his feet, then tie a leather thong around the head. Holding the end of the thong he would raise the patient’s head slightly off the ground with it and begin to ask questions. The heaviness or lightness which he experienced in response to questions gave him an indication of the nature of the illness much in the same way a dowsing pendulum does for modern dowsers.

I believe that essentially, before white contact, our aboriginal people were so immersed in their environment, so undisturbed by modern shocks from noise and other common impacts, that they didn’t need to enhance their bodily responses with the tools of the dowser. After all, I am sure some of your readers know of dowsers who, after long practice, no longer use tools. I know one who, without instruments, can not only detect water but can follow ghost and animal tracks just with his hand. Imagine what would happen if such developed sensitivity were passed on and encouraged in the next generation and the one after that………. It makes sense that after a few generations the skill for sensing and identifying subtle energies would be developed to quite an astounding degree.

One elder I did get to know, Soloho, a Hopi Medicine Man in his eighties, obviously used a form of dowsing to get medicine for people when they were sick. After a prayer he would know in which direction to travel – sometimes for a considerable distance – to find just the right plant at the right stage of growth to be the medicine for that person.

In the interior of British Columbia I got to know a Nisga family. One day the grandmother pointed out the window of her kitchen where we were having a coffee. Pointing to a rocky hump high up the mountain, across the nearby Nass River she told me “Over there, on top of that rock, that’s where our ancestors landed, oh, about 5,000 years ago when the water was still much higher.” Now imagine generation after generation growing up in one small area – perhaps an area 10 km. by 40 km. – for 5,000 years, or even 500 years! In fact, for such people, every bend in the river, big trees, rocks, crack in the rock and pond has a name and a story. (One might well be reluctant to touch such a landscape in a destructive manner.) The relationship with the place for such people is truly intimate and they obviously grow very sensitive to every aspect of it as well as the whole. Spots within such an area become recognized and distinguished over time, some as assisting what women need when birthing, others what elders need when dying, yet others when people need insight into profound questions and so on. Such a landscape becomes entirely sacred. But dowsing they didn’t need, if you think of dowsing as the use of instruments. If you recognize dowsing for what it really represents – the fact of our being interwoven into the fabric or life as well as into other space and time dimensions and being sensitive to that – then our aboriginal people, and all people who settled in places for long periods of time, were natural and highly qualified dowsers although they didn’t need tools to enhance their body’s response to questions they might have had about the place or the creatures around them.

What about reports of ley lines at certain mounds and medicine wheels?

After inspecting one medicine wheel in Alberta and finding two ley lines converging on its centre I assumed that the Native builders of such monuments chose them because they had, somehow dowsed these energies. I was disavowed of this notion after building a brand-new wheel, and again, after helping construct two labyrinths. In all of these cases brand-new, dowsable “water domes” and “ley lines” appeared after people began to use these constructions meditatively. In other words, my assumption that aboriginal North Americans necessarily dowsed – in the way that we understand dowsing – for these energy phenomena before setting up a site for sacred practices, was erroneous.

© 2001 Henry Dorst & BSD EEG