In 1518, Martin Luther condemned the act of dowsing; calling it "the work of devil"; an occult practice that breached the first commandment.
For centuries, people used various forms of diving rods to seek out precious metals, ore, water, oil, gems and grave sites hidden in the earth.
Dowsing is widely seen as a pseudo-science, disregarded as an old custom with no real scientific basis; yet people around the world continue to use this rudimentary, magick technology with confidence to search for everything from hidden explosives in urban war zones, finding precious metals in the Yukon, or mapping and uncovering unmarked graves.
A YouTube search for "dowsing" returns thousands of videos dedicated to the subject, including some interesting surveys for gold and even a excavation of buried headstones and graves from an early Mormon encampment in present-day Iowa.
Regardless of any scientific basis or explanation, the practice has withstood the test of time; effective enough to remain a popular and useful technology for hundreds of years.
An article by the Center for Tactical Magic (totally worth the read) originally published in Arthur Magazine in March, 2006 brought up some great points about emerging technologies and the semantics of the definition of "magick". The article does a fantastic job expounding on Arthur C. Clarke's famous quote:
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."
The act of dowsing and divination is a fantastic example of an extremely utilitarian, yet unexplained ability. Much like prayer, there's no sense in knocking something that works for certain people.
A friend of mine gave me a pair of dowsing rods like the ones pictured here for my birthday last year. Being a bit of an armchair mycologist and forager, I head out to the woods on a few mushroom forays a year. Mainly for morels in the spring, and chanterelles, lobster and boletes in the fall. Living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest has provided many an opportunity for a mycological foray.
Morels are particularly difficult to see in their natural habitat due to their woody color, small stature and short lived mycelia (new patches must be found every year), so I figured these delicious morsels of woody goodness would be a perfect target for these newly acquired divining rods!
Morels grow on the ground in varied habitats, though not usually at higher elevations. On the forest floor, in fruit orchards, in sandy soil, and common in burn areas, it's difficult to know where to begin when hunting for the elusive morel.
Morel season is in its infancy at the time of this post in the PacNW. In April, I plan to take a trip to the east side of Mt. Hood, hike some logging roads, and trudge through some wilderness with my sturdy dowsing rods and see what, if anything, I discover.
Morels and other wild mushrooms are basically impossible to cultivate due to the extremely fragile and specific conditions needed for mycelial growth, which is why you usually see only hardy, easy to grow, thoroughly cultivated varieties in grocery stores like portobella, oysters, and crimini.
Mushrooms are rich in essential minerals, selenium, copper and potassium. I'm hoping this will aid in their detection through divination. I've never heard of anyone dowsing for mushrooms, and wasn't able to find any information about anyone trying it on the internet, so I'm eager to give it a try and post my experiences to this blog. Stay tuned for part 2 next month. In the meantime, follow this blog for articles about all kinds of weird, wonderful and interesting topics.