Sunday, July 29, 2007

Dad was a Water Witch

My daddy was a water witch.

When you are growing up, and you see your dad walk around with a fork of mesquite wood that occasionally points at the ground, you don't think about it much. It certainly wasn't anything he advertised, or talked about. Every so often, some oldtimer would come around and he and my dad would go off to some property and then come back. Not often, just sometimes. I do know payment never changed hands. I don't know how often he was successful--he never talked about it. And there's not such a much of water to find in our part of New Mexico.

Dad was a respected businessman, later a banker. In New Mexico, it wasn't quite as weird to have a bank president that was also a water witch, was a little different, shall we say.

We owned most of the desert around our house, and there came a time when Dad would go out, of a Sunday afternoon, and slowly walk back and forth across several acres.
He wanted to put in a water well. He was looking for the water. And he found it.

I remember the day he had me step between his arms and put my hands above his on the stick. You know how a hose feels when the water is pouring through it? It felt like that, and the stick was pulling, straining, to turn down to the ground. Then he let go, and suddenly I was just a girl holding a stick.

He ran out of money the first time he drilled and had to come back. Way more than 1,000 feet down, an underground river flowed just where he said it was. And the second time, he hit water. The driller had thought my dad was nuts, but hey, he was paying. Then the wet mud started coming. And finally, the water. The driller may have been more excited than my dad. After all, my dad knew the water was there. He was satisfied. He was very pleased though, with the volume and the potability. For years, he and mother used that water for their morning coffee. You see, in an Air Force town, the city water was highly chlorinated. This made much better coffee.

The well made it possible for him to nurture the large garden, flower beds, vegetable garden, and one memorable year, an acre of alfalfa, at pretty much his own expense. I loved wading through the grass when he flooded the lawn.

Throughout, he was just a perfectly ordinary man who liked to garden and keep bees, and did I mention, was fluent in three languages? In this little two-horse town in southern New Mexico. He was just my dad. Who was a water witch.


Matt G said...

What does it mean that I don't believe in such things, but I don't doubt you or your daddy?

Anonymous said...

I grew up in a rural area - there were a couple of water finders there too... it was always so cool to watch them and to watch that stick turn down....

phlegmfatale said...

This is a really cool story. Was this just something he was born with a knack for, or did he sit at the feet of someone else who also had the touch?

I wonder if there are folks who still have the touch for water-witching?

In my vast country family from the hills, I never knew of any water witch amongst our ranks, so it was always something I was not quite sure of. I do, however, hold great store in the wisdom of much folk tradition. Science has confirmed the efficacy of chicken soup for colds and meat tenderizer on bee/jellyfish stings, so why not waterwitching?

Thanks for a fun trip through your history.

Anonymous said...

I understand your story very well. You see, my Dad is a water witch too. We lived in Southeast Colorado and people from all over the county would come ask Dad to witch a well for them. As for the question from phlegmfatale... Yes there are folks who still have the touch. I myself can witch a well, not as well as my Dad did but I can get there. My daughter (who bloggs too) (Farmgirl) is one of the best water witches I've ever seen.
There are several methods of dousing. Your Dad used Mesquite branches. I've seen branches used and also twisted wire or prepared rods which I personally prefer.
Several years ago there was a missing person in our town. Just out of curiosity my Dad prepped his rods and asked them to "find" this person. The local sheriffs Dept looked X amount of miles in this direction and found nothing. Later after the person was located, one of the deputies came to us and admitted that Dad was extremely close on his estimation, the biggest difference was that the officers were looking X amount of miles in road miles not "as the crow flies." Good water witches are rare, never ask for payment, and I don't think they even know the extent of the talent.

night lightning woman said...

phlegmfatale, yes, they still exist. And I understand in Vietnam, there were soldiers who could "witch" metal coat hangers to detect land mines. There may be some in Afghanistan and Iran as well. I think my dad saw someone else do it, tried it and discovered he could.
Anonymous, that was fascinating. How I wish I had inherited any of my dad's talent, but I didn't. Mamma mia--Seeing is believing, isn't it?

phlegmfatale said...

Wow - thanks to you both for that fascinating information.

Sweet Violet said...

Yep---I got one, too. It flies in the face of everything I believe, but he can witch water and, to my everlasting dismay, it seems I have inherited the ability.

Anonymous said...

I witch for all lines, phones, electrical, gas, sewer, and for new water wells. It is I believe the electromagnetic field around myself that enables it to work. All I use is a pin flag, bent, held loosley, and it will turn and poit which way to go. Would love to make a living or something off it, but the truth is people don't believe it, at least till they see it.

Winfred0000 said...

Hi! My father was a plumber and very knowledgeable of water, sewer, and heating, systems for homes. One springtime, on a rare occasion, now that I think of it... forty years ago, he invited my sister and I along to one of his customers that wanted him to witch a well. My dad did this for many years and never talked about it, well I guess I can say I never even knew my own father very well as we never really conversed much.

He used two pieces of copper tubing long enough to fit in the palms of his big hands. He cut two pieces of coat hanger about a foot and a half long each. He bent them into 90 degree angles leaving one end about six inches long and the other 12 inches long. He just loosely put the six inch long end down into the copper tubing which left 12 inches to swing freely. He held his forearms bent level and straight ahead of himself and held the copper tubing in each hand so the tubing was held vertically. The coat hanger lengths would then swing very freely so it appeared he tilted the angle of the tubing slightly forward so the wires pointed straight ahead. He took short steps and stood more erectly than normal. He also kept his head straight and not bending would look down at his hands.

Conductivity of the human body wasn't a factor as he wore boots. When he found the well the coat hanger wires would cross each other into an "X". Minnesota is full of water, especially in the northern region where we lived.

He found the place to drill for the family, plus for fun he led us and a bunch of curious children down the long logging road to their property where he located many hot spots. The kids were amazed; and my dad would only laugh each time it happened. Also, just because the wires crossed didn't really mean that the water would be good enough. How in water laden Minnesota he could tell what was a good spot from many others I do not know. My dad did this for many people. How did he really do it? I never asked. My dad's father was Danish so I don't know if it's a Danish tradition.

My dad said he also used a willow branch. Why willow, I don't know. He said he would cut it with a fork on one end for each hand to hold and a long 3 foot length as the pointer. He would hold that in front of him and when it started to point down that would be the spot. Wood isn't a good conductor either. I vaguely remember sometimes finding a de-barked willow branch among his tools. Also, I don't know where the copper tubing and coat hanger idea came from either. Maybe my dad invented it as he was very intelligent and intuitive.

I did ask a friend of my mother's who solved quite a few murder cases. She was for many years a resource for the FBI in locating murder victims plus revealing once unsolved cases. All she told me was it is a sense we all have. She said there's no big deal about it, that you just simply recognize it. Maybe there is an objective scientific explanation for witching a well, or what witching a well might in part be, which is why I ended up at this blog. It's just a memory that surfaced today somehow suddenly among the tidal-washings of that inferential sea of the mind. So I wanted to try to find an answer... no luck ha. I don't know where my dad learned to do this. All the kids that followed tried the same that day and couldn't do it. I didn't try; and I didn't for some reason want to know if I could or not. Maybe somehow I subconsciously wanted it to be in my dad's realm, a kind of recognition to his gift, of the gifts we all simply haven't recognized I guess. Perhaps too this serves for me a reminder what the knowing of our never-known Fathers might mean, Fathers plumbing wells into an earth where the tiny feet of children in step might lead through their laughter of forty spring-times to the hidden fountains of our transcendence.... Thanks for having this blog. I hope to find out more as time passes from those that contribute here. Sincerely, Winfred0000

Lisa said...

This is VERY REAL... My dad was a water witch too. I love walking with him watching him hold that forked willow tree branch. He tried his best to teach me, and I couldnt do it, but, I was little. Now that my dad passed away, I really want to be able to do it. Is it really body chemistry? what is the scientific outlook on it? I mean it would be sooo strong sometimes that when he let go, it stuck in the ground... there was no faking that. Does anyone know any little bit more detail of more facts on water witching? How come out of 4 kids, not one of us can do it? Lisa Sterling, NY

Lisa said...

This is sooo VERY True. My dad was a water witch too. I loved walking with him, desperatly trying to do it myself when I was a kid. Dad was an operating engineer too, so it came in handy for digging wells for customers. Lots of people asked dad to witch their wells. How come I cant do it? Is is body chemistry? What is the scientific outlook on it? How come out of 4 kids, none of us can do it? I want to learn sooo bad now that dad is gone. He used a forked willow tree branch... what else can I try?

Anonymous said...

I witch wells too. As a kid, I scoffed at people that witched. I was the biggest nonbeliever in the world. Thought it was some kind of joke or trickery.
I tried with a peice of wood, and no luck. Years later, I tried with metal rods, and it worked!!! I have successfully witched wells, wires, electrical lines and graves.
I work in the science field. I promise you, I do not tell many people that I am a well witcher. So many folks think you are a flake, a screw loose, a hand of the devil. I honestly believe everyone has the ability, the difficulty is finding the medium to use. I don't know of any well witcher folks that will take money for witching, and somehow, it just seems wrong.
I would like to learn how to estimate the depth or quantity of water. It is not like you can just strike up a conversation with a stranger and ask.....Oh by the way.....
I know a man that witches churchyard graves and unmarked graves for the police. I don't believe he will accept money for this.
Good Luck, try different objects, like an old time watch on a metal chairn, wood, metal rods, a pendulum.