Water-Witchin’ was at one time a part of regular country life when other means of finding water underground in order to dig a well weren’t available.
Many of us may have fond remembrances of watching someone perform this noble and ‘respectable‘ form of divination when we were young, or at least have heard older relatives tell the tale. In most of the in-person stories I have been lucky enough to hear, it was typically a man who seemed to have been taught by another male relative. Typically, it seems to be something passed from father to son, and uncle to nephew.
I am sure some women performed this too though. I remember seeing photographs of Sybil Leek performing this in competition with modern equipment, in her best-selling book The Complete Art of Witchcraft.
Typically, oral traditions of water-witchin’ state that you must either have received a passed-down ‘Divining Rod’ or you must go out and cut a fresh one, from preferably a fruit-producing tree. In my own area of Pennsylvania, the most common tree that I have personally heard referenced was a rod cut from a Peach Tree. Sometimes lore would say the branch must be from a virgin branch of the tree that has never produced fruit, and some do not specify.
Even though locally I had been told a virgin rod from a Peach tree, in other locations, you may also hear of using a Hazel rod. If you review this practice in the old school grimoires of occult magic from a few hundred years back, you’ll notice Hazel rods, or even ones from an Elder tree seem to be quite common!
The particular design and shape of it was told to be one that is shaped like a “Y” so that you can hold the “V” part of the stick in each hand with both thumbs pointing outward. This means, while holding, the left thumb is pointed to the left and the right thumb is pointed to the right.
You would proceed to walk with the divining rod, holding it parallel to the ground until either you felt the rod vibrate or that it would point up or down. (The “I” part of it may go down or up – or just vibrate… It depends on how you were taught to do this or how your own special talents develop.)
- F. Thistleton Dyer in his classical text The Folklore of Plants (my own 1894 copy of the book pictured here) has a curious little reference to this when they had written:
“Some sorcerers do boast they have a rod,
Gather’d with vows and sacrifice,
And, borne aloft, will strangely nod
The hidden treasure where it lies.”
Diving Rods such as this have been used throughout history. In our modern times they have been used to find more than just an underground spring or water; they have been used to find things such as ‘ley lines‘ (that run North to South – lines of power and power flow of the earth’s magnetism), buried treasure or anything at all. I have even heard a few folks say that you can use them to find graves of people long deceased!
Cutting wands or rods for a variety of purposes; whether for divinatory purposes or for commanding spiritual intelligences and elementals, seems to be a common theme throughout our known history and practice of magic.
A number of the old-time grimoires (grammars, or ‘manuals of magic’) discuss cutting various types of trees to use in practices such as commanding, directing and controlling spirits through conjuration and exorcism.
One particular wand that is quite curious and has an awe-inspiring reputation is known as the “blasting rod”. This wand was cut from the Blackthorn tree and was used in ritual magic and summoning of base spiritual-intelligences in order for them to obey the instructions of the exorcist or sorcerer who has summoned these beings to the edge of their protective magical circle in order to do their bidding. The blasting rod, in this particular instance, is used to give a sort of “magical threat” to the spirit to obey the requests and demands of the Exorcist.
Another type of rod that a few legendary grimoires, such as the famed The Red Dragon, require is that the magician cuts a virgin hazel wand on a particular day of the week for the purposes of chastising a thief that has stolen your property or an enemy, so that they will feel the blows of the rod when you strike the altar in their name. This is a form of sympathetic magic.
It wasn’t just in grimoires such as The Red Dragon, I have also come across very similar practices in other grimoires or black books of magic, such as the ever amazing The Black Books of Elverum.
Photo of the grimoire known as The Red Dragon can be found here below. This is the Teitan Press edition:
In various forms of Necromancy, various wands of these sorts are used when summoning the spirits of the departed in order for their attention to be attracted. These rites typically seem to call for wood made of willow or any other wood that is of a more watery nature.
In our coven, when we perform the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper at the time of the Hallowmas Sabbat, which is a form of Necromancy, the High Priestess uses the willow wand of necromancy for 13 nights to summon our kith and kin that we wish to silently ‘sup with during this complex ceremony.
During the High Ceremonial Dumb Supper, this wand makes an appearance once again – being used in the evocations for the kith and kin to attend as the names of power are called and the gates opened for them to enter in. Certain incenses are also used so they may enter this world of form more easily.
Another form of wand is also used by the High Priestess in this Hallowmas Ceremonial – that is her Coven Broom. As she travels around the circle Widdershins in order to instruct the deceased kith and kin where to sit and enjoy their meal, she takes up her coven broom and as she speaks the name of the individuals, she raps the handle end on the floor as part of the instructions so the spirits know where the ‘sup their dinner with their living hosts.
Various types of wood have been used throughout history to make all sorts of magical wands. I personally own a small assortment of wands and rods: some were gifts, some were handmade by me for various purposes and magical reasons. They all have their own purpose to them.
Pictured here on a Wiccan altar at the Wolfa Coven, you can see a magical wand prominently displayed that is appropriate to use in Wiccan rites. This is a wand I had cut and did the work on to make:
For those that wish to cut their own wands and make one, I will give you a couple simple instructions… In regards to what you put on the wand or how you must prepare it, I can’t go into those details here. You should follow your own particular magical tradition’s directions for how to prepare the wand for magical operations.
Most Wiccan or magical traditions either ascribe wands to either being aligned with the element of fire or the element of air. If your tradition ascribes it to the element of fire, go out and search for a suitable tree branch on a Monday. If your tradition or teachings ascribe the wand to air, go out and search for the branch on a Tuesday.
After you have located the branch, remember where it is at, as you will not be cutting it that day. The following day, you will cut the branch on Tuesday (if your tradition ascribes it to fire, in a Mars hour) or on Wednesday (if your tradition ascribes it to air, in a Mercury hour). Other days and planetary hours of the week might be important as well depending on the use of the wand and the tradition.
Why go to all that trouble to figure out the right time to cut it? Well, how important is your magic or witchcraft to you? As I have told my students throughout the years, it is not always “what” you do, but “how” you do it that makes all the difference. Little or lazy effort produces little to no results.
After the wand has been cut, it should lay out flat to dry for a while before you do any work on it… If you don’t lay it flat, as it dries it will begin to bow. If you work on it too soon and peel the bark off before it is dry, the wood will crack as it begins drying.
Your tradition will also most likely have specific sigils or symbols they may hold dear that you are to put on the wand. You should follow these directions too if they exist in your tradition.
This particular magical wand pictured below is one that took quite a bit of work. It was made to certain specific exact measurements – every detail being carefully measured out. The wood was split in half for the entire length of it and an iron rod placed in the center of the wood with another metal rod connecting to the iron one and coming out and wrapped around the handle. This magical wand has a peculiar effect. Without any effort, it produces quite a “cool” breeze-feeling on the body of another person it is pointed at – being able to easily feel the magnetism coming out of it. It is certainly one of my absolute favorite wands to use:
Let’s now think about divining rods of today…
Many folks that have come into the spiritual consumerism of the modern day have many options of shiny tools and gadgets they can buy. This isn’t a bad thing at all – except when it comes to the folks who like to do bouts of “spiritual tourism” through every esoteric practice they can find, not caring what culture they are appropriating from, nor whom they hurt in the process.
One particular item that has come out of the metaphysical shops and still seems to be popular today has been metal ‘Dowsing Rods‘. They are typically thicker pieces of metal bent into the shape of an “L” and sold as a pair. For an extra fee, I have also seen pairs of these rods that have wooden handles on the small part of the “L”, or some crystal-encrusted elaborate design.
One of these rods is held in each hand. As you slowly walk with them, when it senses what you are looking for, the rods will either open further or cross themselves. Let’s give some examples of their modern day uses.
Late into the night a number of years ago, a friend of mine had grabbed a pair of simple dowsing rods that she had made from two old metal clothing hangers and had bent them in the appropriate “L” shape.
The first experiment we did was that she went into the kitchen and she asked me to draw a small magical circle anywhere in the house and she would come find it with the rods.
So I picked out a particular spot, drew a magical circle with my hands and my iron-clad will. I then walked out of the circle and found a place to sit down.
I yelled over to let her know I was finished. She came out of the kitchen and walked slowly through the entire space. Literally, at the exact spot I drew that magical circle with nothing but my hand and my mind, the rods opened up in order to avoid penetrating the circle as if someone pushed them wide open in order to stop them. It was fascinating to see with clear eyes and mind how a magical operation performed in the mind and projected by your will through your own body can leave such an imprint on a particular area so as to alter the effects of another item as it enters the aura of that space – in this instance, the metal dowsing rods.
We repeated this exercise. I drew another magical circle into the Astral Light of that space in a different spot of the room with the exact same results being produced: she being able to come in, and the rods opening, at the exact spot the circle was drawn.
So we concluded, beyond a shadow of a doubt in our own minds, and with another witch present to observe as a witness, that this spontaneous activity is legit, providing two things are available:
- That the person doing the divining is patient and psychic enough to possibly pick up on small impressions left in the astral light, and/or…
- The person drawing the circle is able to physically manifest magical powers and impregnate an object or a defined space with it.
Now, the next experiment was shifted to another one of the Occult Sciences, that of telekinesis…
One witch was to hold the rods while the other witch stood on the other side of the room and with nothing but the powers of your own mind’s will power, force the rods to move by will.
I was up first to do the moving… She stood across the room and I stood on the opposite end.
This was the first time I had tried doing something like this, so I wasn’t 100% sure what to expect or how to proceed, but I didn’t need directions, just had to go with what I could figure out and see if it would work. So I decided that I would start by concentrating on just one of the rods, because I didn’t know if I could focus on them both at the same time.
I focused on the one that was on my right, but in her left hand, and sure enough, after about 10 seconds of focus, the rod began to bounce and opened up completely back on her arm.
Next I focused on the one on my left that was in her right hand. The same thing occurred.
We tried this again, same thing happened.
Now on this third attempt, I decided I would try this with both at the same time.
It took me a little extra time to get both rods firm in my mind, and I projected power from my body to the tips of the rods pointing toward me. Sure enough, both rods began to bounce and they proceeded to bounce their way back toward her arms. The experiments were a complete success!
A couple weeks later, it was a cold December night and I was sitting by candlelight at the table with various witches of mixed paths and focusing good intentions to other people in need of good thoughts, healing wishes and prayers.
The witch who owned the home had a set of small metal dowsing rods that she purchased from a metaphysical store and she handed them to another male witch who was also at the table to use in order to check the energy of the workings being done. (I don’t know why this was necessary, but whatever floats your boat!) I must admit that I found them a tempting distraction from what we were doing… So I decided that I would “play around” with the rods and see if he could notice.
So I started moving the rods on purpose, in secret, with only my mind and without anyone’s knowledge around the table. Soon I heard, “Wow, there must have been a lot of energy moving at those few requests because these things have been going crazy!”
I chuckled and said, “Yes, indeed. I bet you on the next one they won’t move at all.”
“Why do you say that?” he said.
“I just have a feeling…”
So sure enough, didn’t move at all.
I did this a couple more times – moving to the left, then to right, etc., each time, ‘predicting’ what would happen beforehand.
After this, he had said he wanted to know why they were so erratic. I said I knew why but would tell him later so that we could finish the working. Well, that comment stopped us in our tracks because by now, everyone was getting so curious on what the heck was going on.
So I came clean and said I was moving them for fun. So we got a big chuckle, and then we decided we would put the dowsing rods down. Good thing indeed, because I was more interested in playing with them than the petitions I should have been focusing on for those in need!
That’s another reason why I think spending the time to collect a practical, working set of tools without all the other fancy-pants bobbles is much better than owning three of everything in terms of occult supplies. Too many shiny things can be a distraction from doing the real work. Just like those that do “spiritual tourism” through every form of magic-d’jour they find, always chasing the tail of the dragon, because they have gone into every pursuit with a half-measure and no strong commitment.
Have any of you had any experience or stories about divining rods, magic wands or telekinesis? If so we would love to hear about it in the comments below!
By Thorn Nightwind, Wolfa Coven – Pennsylvania, USA