Which Dowsing Tool?

by Catherine Fortlage

There are almost as many dowsing tools as there are dowsers – and that runs into thousands. However, apart from the really weird dowsing tools, which are very personal to their designers and are usually quite incomprehensible to anyone else, dowsing tools generally fall into a few groups, classified according to the way they work. There are conventional ways of holding and using the various tools which are appropriate to their function, and for the apprentice dowser it is safer to follow the normal method during the learning stage, eventually developing a personal method as experience ripens. Some people will tell you that you must face North, wear purple pants, chant a mantra, and use only the little finger of your left hand (except at full moon when you should use your left big toe); but in practice it does not matter in the slightest how you use your dowsing tools – just do whatever feels right for you. I have never found any ill effects from using other people’s tools or lending my own, but some dowsers feel strongly about lending or borrowing tools, and their feelings should be respected – always ask permission to use someone else’s gear. Before using any dowsing tool you should remember the three questions which must be asked before dowsing any subject – May I? Can I ? Should I? – only if the answer to all three is ” Yes” should the dowser continue. When trying out dowsing tools, remember that the “Need to know” principle always applies even when practising; just “having a go for fun” is unlikely to produce any reliable results.

Of all the well known tools, pendulums are probably the most commonly used, varying from a lump of old iron on a bit of string to valuable gem stones on gold chains, and ranging from half pound weights to delicate featherweight pendulums. Next in popularity are the angle rods or L-rods which may also vary in size and weight from heavy steel rods to light swivelling pocket rods. Some people, especially country dowsers working on landscape and water projects, prefer the ancient Vee rods, either the traditional large hazel forked rod, or the modern smaller plastic or wire vee-shaped rods. Both angle rods and Vee rods need two hands to operate them, whereas pendulums, bobbers and wands can be used single handed. Then there are the straight rods; either bobbers which give a yes or no answer, or wands which can give a wide range of responses. There are also two well known complex tools; the aurameter and the revealer, which will be described in more detail later.


Pendulums have the advantage that they are easy to carry, simple to use, and can give a wide range of responses; they are ideal for indoor use, map dowsing, and can be discreetly used in public places. Anything makes a pendulum – car keys or neck chains, or shoulder strap handbags will do perfectly well. You can even swing one shoe by its laces if necessary, though this may look a bit odd in the supermarket. Some people like to stick to one pendulum, others like to use several different types, some like long strings, others like short strings – use what you like. I use a heavy brass plumb bob out of doors, and a crystal ball on a silver chain, which lives round my neck, indoors.

Pendulums can swing side to side, forward and backward, circle right or left, or swing in a random pattern. These five movements can be programmed by the dowser to answer “yes” or “no“, “don’t know“, “what a silly question“, and “you mustn’t ask this“. The strength of the swing indicates the force of the answer – if you ask whether a particular food is safe to eat and you get a really wild swing for “no” – don’t touch it, though a slight swing might mean that the food will be OK with indigestion tablets. Using one hand for the pendulum and the other for writing notes, planting markers, or tracing lines on a map is very convenient. Quartz crystal, metal and wooden pendulums are available from the BSD, and gemstone pendulums can be had from any Mind Body and Spirit type shop.

Some pendulums can be unscrewed to reveal a cavity which will hold a “witness” or sample of the substance being sought. This is helpful to some dowsers, though if you are trying to locate a US nuclear submarine (yes, it can be done) you may have a little difficulty in getting a piece of one as a witness. Experienced dowsers simply hold the image of their target in their minds; this works just as well as long as you don’t let your mind wander.

Angle Rods

These vary from very heavy beautifully polished brass rods up to 500 mm long to a bit of bent wire, but they all work the same way. Rods may be plain bent metal held in the hand so that the swing is controlled by the friction of the fingers, or they can be mounted in swivel handles which allow completely free movement. Some control is certainly useful in windy conditions or when walking over rough ground, but the swivel type give a more sensitive reading since they are not affected by your grasp.

Folding angle rods are available which are more convenient to carry in your pocket. The rods are normally held one in each hand, with your elbows away from your sides, and your forearms horizontal, which allows the rods to move easily. Angle rods cross inwards or turn outwards for “yes” and “no” according to the way you program them, and though they can rotate like pendulums, their best function is for finding and following energy or water lines. They will cross or diverge when the line is reached, and the direction can easily be followed by seeing the rods remain parallel when over the line and watching them turn towards the line when you go off to one side.

A single rod will give a yes or no by circling like a pendulum, and depths or distances can be dowsed by counting the number of revolutions. Angle rods can be fitted with sights or even a compass in order to give a bearing for plotting energy lines on a map, but in order to do this accurately it is necessary to use a GPS navigator and to have a competent knowledge of local and global compass magnetic deviation.


Probably the oldest dowsing tool, and very satisfying to use. In some way these traditional natural rods seem to create a relationship between the dowser and the earth which is not so clear when using man-made tools. Traditionally, hazel is considered the best wood for the job, since it is very flexible, grows in the right shape and is easily available in Europe. In theory, a rod cut from a tree in the area where you are going to dowse is the best, but it is not always easy to find a good rod locally, and a good rod is worth keeping if you find one. The larger and stronger rods last well, and are easier to hold than thin rods, but they can snap up and down sharply with painful results to your nose or more critical parts of your anatomy.

V-rods do have to be held in the correct way to function, and this needs a demonstration and some practice, as well as developing some unexpected muscles. The arms of the rod are held one in each hand with the point of the fork pointing straight ahead, and the rod will jump sharply up or down when energy or water lines are crossed. An expert dowser will know by the feel of the rods if the water is good, how strong the flow is and how deep it lies, as well as its seasonal flow, but such skill takes a long time to develop. Small plastic or wire rods work in the same way, and need less strength, but are not so satisfactory to use. Cut your own hazel rod from any hedge or coppice, but do not take young saplings – find a mature tree which will not miss a branch or two. It is important to get both arms of the rod the same thickness, otherwise they will not respond accurately.

Straight Rods

Bobbers are simple short straight rods with a weight on the end which moves up and down or side to side, giving a simple “yes” or “no” answer to questions. Any straight stick, such as a walking stick, will dip over the target if it is held horizontally at the point of balance and allowed to move freely, though the response is not very sensitive. Wands are more sophisticated straight rods, longer and more flexible, slightly weighted with a crystal or brass tip. They can move up and down, side to side, circle right or left, move randomly or just vibrate and these movements can be programmed just as a pendulum is taught to give regular responses (this really means that you are programming your mind, but it sounds better to say that you are programming the dowsing tool).

The strength of the tip movement indicates the strength of the response, just as a pendulum does, but if the movement is too violent for comfort, the wand can be told to work at a lower power. Being very flexible they can follow very small changes in energy or water lines down to a few millimetres, and can even be used for map dowsing though this is not very comfortable. There is no particular way of holding a wand, though as with all dowsing tools, a very tight grasp tends to reduce the movement. Wands can be as short as 500 mm or as long as a metre, according to your taste and the purpose they are used for. They are very good for dowsing auras, and physical injuries, and some dowsers can transmit healing through them to the affected part. Telescopic wands are very useful as they will go in a pocket, though the movement is not quite so sensitive, but you can try using a car or radio aerial for the job.

Odd Rods

There are numerous personal variations on two-handed metal or plastic rods in odd shapes, such as W shaped, S shaped, U shaped, Z shaped, X shaped or C shaped, and some dowsers prefer these as they are supposed to give a more subtle response. Each end of the rod is held in a hand and the twist of the rod conveys various signals to the dowser – you could try twisting some wire into odd figures and seeing if you get better results.


This is an American tool for dowsing auras. It has a bullet shaped head on a spring balanced jointed arm which is capable of very complex and subtle movements. There is quite a considerable literature on the use of the aurameter, and it really requires some tuition and a good deal of practice before reliable results can be obtained. Some healer dowsers swear by it, while other dowsers cannot get sensible answers from it at all. They are quite expensive – around $ 140 – so try to borrow one before spending money on something you cannot use successfully.

The Revealer

A late Victorian tool which was developed mainly to search for minerals. There are not many around, and they do not seem to be made now, though you may see one at a meeting if the proud owner brings it along to demonstrate. The Revealer is basically an angle rod, made in jointed sections with a set of soft springs strung from the top of the handle to the bottom. When using the Revealer, different samples of metals (or other substances) were held against the springs and the rod responded only if that substance was found. The whole outfit lives in a beautifully polished hardwood box. I have never used one, but they were very popular at the time, so that they probably work well.

Body Tools

Also known as “tool-less dowsing”. This consists of using various parts of your body as dowsing tools to give a simple “yes” or “no” response. Some of the more usual methods are:

  • rubbing two fingers together – stick for “yes” and slip for “no” or the other way round.
  • blinking – one for “yes” and two for “no” or the other way round.
  • swaying back and forward – not a good idea in front of a policeman with a breathalyser.
  • swinging an arm like a pendulum, which gives you all the normal pendulum movements.
  • holding your hands out as though you were using angle rods – this works just like real rods.
  • holding your arms straight out with fingers touching – this works like a V rod but is tiring.
  • if you are one of those people who can twitch their ears this will work well.

No doubt you will find many other tool-less methods of dowsing which suit your personal way of doing things, and eventually you may arrive at the perfect art of dowsing, when you merely have to think of the question in order to receive an answer. Few of us attain that level.

© 2004 Catharine Fortlage & BSD EEG