Home»Feature»Witch Way is the Water? The Ancient Art of “Water Witching” is Still Relevant

Witch Way is the Water? The Ancient Art of “Water Witching” is Still Relevant

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Jack King spins his two rods, L-shaped and about two feet long, made out of coat hangers, around in his hands around his head like lassos as he steps across the property line. He asks questions about where other wells in the area are located and how deep they are. He looks for large oak trees, spotting two right away. He holds the short part of the “L” in each fist, straight in front of him with his elbows held close to his sides, and the long part of the Ls pointing forward. He walks with a slow, steady stride.

witch1King would look like a sheriff in a western film sneaking up on a bandit, guns drawn, except he isn’t looking where he is going, just at the ends of the metal rods with undivided attention. After about half an hour, he returns and says that he found some good spots for water, but he wants to bring his friend Dave Van Arsdall back tomorrow. Not only can Van Arsdall tell where the water is, but also how far down the water is and how much, says King.

King and Van Arsdall are old friends who both retired—teacher and sawmill worker/car salesman, respectively—and share the unique hobby of water witching, also known as water divining or dowsing. Some swear it works; others don’t.

Basically, the practice involves a person using wooden sticks, metal rods or an object hung from a string to locate underground oil, minerals, artifacts or in this case—water. Those with the “gift” can “feel” the “pull” of the desired objective beneath the ground. King and Van Arsdall like to collaborate/compete when seeking water underground, for the purpose of choosing a spot to drill a well.

The next morning, they both show up in King’s pickup. King with his thin metal rods and Van Arsdall with both back pockets full of sticks. “Willow branches,” he says. Willow is “water loving,” and helps point the way to the water. All the sticks he has are the “Y” of the branches, and he shows me how to hold them. Palms up, in fists, grasping each side of the Y with the bottom of the Y pointing straight ahead. Again, elbows in, and the outside of the wrists facing each other. He looks for oak trees too, and starts that same trek, slow and steady, eyes on the end of his willow stick. He looks more like a bloodhound, sniffing out the water.

Not everyone can water witch, they say. Van Arsdall’s daughter can, but not his son. I timidly ask if I can try. Van Arsdall hands me a willow Y, and tells me to start walking along, holding it very still and straight. As I get closer to the spot he pinpointed, the stick starts to point down, ever so slightly, like a subtle nod from a seasoned auction bidder. Then he says, I’m going to touch your elbows now. When he does, the stick tilts downward even more. Trippy.

Next, I try King’s metal rods. Following the same trajectory as I did with the willow stick, I hold the rods like a sharpshooter. I walked along, and—I kid you not—the two tips of the rods moved towards one another as I got closer to the spot. Confirmed trippy.

After about a half hour, Van Arsdall says the water is about 90 feet down and we will get several gallons per minute. The stick pulls down on Van Arsdall’s hands, leaving the palms and the insides of his fingers white from the friction. He sure does seem to have the gift.

“If a well is going to give 30 gallons a minute, it will pull the stick right out of my hands,” he says.

About a month later, we have our well drilled by Coleman’s Well Drilling in Grants Pass—right in the spot King and Van Arsdall pinpointed. And sure enough, about 90 feet down, they find water, to the tune of about six gallons per minute. Trippy? Sure. But I’m a believer, and I’ve got the water to prove it.


  1. Simon Stone
    June 26, 2017 at 6:58 am — Reply

    I’m not quite sure Sara what you are looking for. Is it articles.
    I am Simon Stone, English/Irish, now living in Limerick Ireland. I am a dowsed of forty years experience. I specialise in water mostly , dowsing Fri maps, finding water where others have failed, tracing contamination, geological faults and hydrocarbons.
    The first well I had drilled was in Mexico and I dowsed it from a map when in England, I have another in Tanzania. I can not find anyone else on the net that dose this as I map all the aquifers to reveal the best spots to drill, calculate the depths quality and yield. Because of this and that I am getting one bit, still working a 48 hr week a 70 years, I have wells tested up-to 120,00 g/hr and have many times found good supplies when up-to five previous attempts by others had failed. I have written a book to teach other my dowsing technique, so as not to take it to the grave with me. I already have written over thirty articles on this subject with about half published in the USA, Canada or UK
    The book is not huge, about 28,000 words, and not so complicated the it could not be learnt by others in three months. I would take years of practise and experience to fine tune it though. The book has illustrations an photographs and case studies to demonstrate applications, and has 139 A4 pages. I hope to be able to get work in the arid states and I already know that many cities that need water are over very large aquifers.
    I hope that this item might interest you.
    Your truly,
    Simon Stone

  2. Bill Ellison
    February 26, 2018 at 6:32 pm — Reply

    Hello, we live near Butte Falls, a were wondering how much it would cost to have our place witched. We have a large White Oak near our house. We want to have a new well drilled in the future, the one we have now is 5 gal, shallow well about 20 ft. Haven’t had and problems and the water is good but we don’t drink it. McNeal Creek runs through our property also. We have been here about 10 years and was only land when we bought it. We have some property on the other side of the creek but don’t do much with it yet. I think there is water there because of sedges and some rushes. It is pretty wet now and don’t know if it would be better to wait until later or not. Thank You. Bill and Jeannie Elliison.

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