Rhabdomancy... or Dowsing for Water...AKA water witching. The term comes from the ancient Greek: rhabdos, which means stick or rod, and "mancy"which means communication or divination
Does it work? most doubt it!
Well, I got me some edjumacashun this morning. This new prepper property we bought is just beyond the extent of the city water lines. It has no well. The prior owner, who is now deceased, was supplied with water by her sister, who lives a quarter of a mile away, through a thin plastic agricultural waterline that was only buried six inches deep in some places along its route. They have dug it up and repaired it often over the years. While the sister is willing to provide us water, with a shared well contract, we decided that we are better off being self-sufficient. Hmmm... what are my options?
I calculated that rainwater harvesting in this region would provide about 1500 gallons per month (14 inches of rain per year). While that may supply a water-frugal family, it isn’t enough for gardening, orchards and livestock. Besides, the rains are not evenly spread throughout the year and it wouldn’t be safe to drink without serious treatment (birds shitting on the roof). Hmmm… need more and better water. I began researching other options.
I have an old friend who is a geologist with the state. He is checking the maps for me and will suggest an ideal location for my well. I told him about a water finding service that uses underground sonar to measure the density of rock and water content underground. For a mere $2000, they will come out and find water. My friend said "no need to hire them." He doesn’t trust their technology, and whatever I do, "stay away from those water-witches. They are nothing but charlatans!"
I called several well drillers and asked for bids. The first one bid $9000 (cough, gag, choke, cough) He did not guarantee finding good water. The next gave me a quote of $5500 to drill (gag, cough) and I would install of all the pump equipment. The third guy, Bill, came out today. His grey hair and beard, bronze skin, and bone-crushing handshake made me like him instantly—and that is when my learning began. A little later he quoted me a price of $2700 to drill the well. I cover the costs of running electricity, the water line, and the other plumbing myself.
I showed Bill where the septic system leach-field was, cause it is not a good idea to drill there (that water tastes icky) and we walked to the opposite corner of the two acre parcel. Along the way, we stopped at a mesquite tree where Bill cut off a small branch with some handy pruning shears he had in his back pocket. He trimmed it down into a pretty little Y shape. (Yes, you know where this is headed…)
He then held the stick by the branches of the Y pinched between his thumbs and palms (at the end of his lifelines), palms up, wrapped his fingers around next, and then curled his wrists upwards causing the stem of the Y to point upwards, and started walking slowly across the sandy field, chanting an ancient rhyme with his eyes closed. (Actually, I am kidding about the chant and closed eyes)
Then it happened!
The stick went “zoink,” twisting downward in his hands with the stem purportedly pointing at the water underground.
“I didn’t do that.” Bill said. He walked over the same spot from the other direction and it went “zoink” again. We walked around a bit more, finding a couple more “hits,” which my wife and I promptly marked with piles of stones. As we walked around, he told me a story about how an old woman taught him this method. He had drilled 4 holes on one property—all dry. The woman came over from next door, did her magic, and said” Drill here” The spot was a mere 18 feet from his last hole. They drilled. Sixty feet down they hit good water. He put a high powered pump on it to clean it out and 100 gallons per minute flowed out consistently. He concluded (from his drill material) that she had found an depression in a layer of clay that collected underground water in that area. Bill was a believer.
Then I asked if I could try it. Bill showed me how to hold the stick. He explained the need to walk north and south in this area to cut across the direction of the underground flows. I started walking and sure enough the stick went “zoink.” I started chuckling. That was just weird. I tried it again, being oh so very careful not to inadvertently move the stick on my own. “Zoink!” I laughed again. That is really, really weird. My wife tried it next, but it wouldn’t do it for her. She thinks she held the stick wrong. I think she is not a witch.
I am very curious now to know what quality of water, if any, we find down there. Does the stick make a difference? Bill didn’t seem too particular. The direction you walk? Prayer? In short, I’ll do some empirical testing. Is this witching method actually scientific? Is it spiritual? Is it evil—even without incantations and animal sacrifices? Does a mysterious ability to find life-giving water come from the God or the devil? Logic would suggest that a good thing comes from a good spiritual place. Science does not know everything—a fact which scientists too often are loathe to admit. Whatever it is, it sure was weird. Science has not been able to verify any greater success rate than statistical chance would indicate. But scientists can sure be irritating when instead of simply stating their statistical results, they ridicule and cast aspersions upon the “believers”--kind of like how Keynesian economists treat goldbugs.
Did I mention that it was really weird when that stick moved on its own?
But seriously, I thought my practical research into securing a good supply of water might be handy for others. No matter what we do, it is going to cost something--hopefully, not my soul.
A pump, pressure tank and all associated parts currently cost about $500-600, new for high quality stuff.
Professional Well System: Total set up cost: $5-9000.
I was surprised at the bids I received (except Bill’s). Expensive, hit or miss success in the western US. You have to pay the driller whether you find good water or not. State permits required to drill. Only licensed drillers can get a permit. Electricity required. I am sure Bill will find some water, but it may be so mineralized that it is not fit for drinking or running through plumbing fixtures in the home—just gardens and livestock.
Self drilling: Total set up cost: $1000.
In this state, you better be somewhat sneaky about it. We found a used “mud pump” for sale for $500 that would supply wonderful water pressure to drill wells much more quickly. You can also rent these by the day—figure all day or two to drill down 30-60 feet. The rest of the casing materials needed would run a couple of hundred. Electricity optional—a hand pump or windmill would work to get the water into storage—just like grandma and grandpa used to do! If you already have water, you can use a couple of hoses like this guy. A mud pump will provide good pressure through a 1.5 inch line and can handle sand & debris that would damage a regular pump. You have seen these at construction sites where they are pumping rainwater out of a hole or trench to continue underground work. The rest of the materials needed would run a couple of hundred.
Hauling water: Total set up cost: $3000.
Many people here in the desert buy their water and haul it in a trailer and pump it into a tank at their home. It’s very cheap, but then you have to do the hauling every 2-3 weeks, or hire someone deliver water in a big tanker truck (haulers charge more than a water bill from the local water company.). I like that plan due to the guarantee of having good water. I’ll have it all set up in a day. And we’ll still harvest the rain for gardens and animals. The problem is that the water supplier could shut me off in a disaster—not self-sufficient. But I need the storage and pump equipment no matter what route I take.
Trailers can be bought in these parts for as little as $1000. Our water company charges $3.50 per thousand gallons. The water is good for drinking. A family of four with lavish American water use will consume at least 4000 gallons. Conservation helps greatly. Storage tanks cost about a dollar per gallon. They can be above or below ground. My uncle says a herd of cattle can drink one of these dry in a day. Not ideal if you run livestock.
Rain harvesting: Total set up cost: $2000.
You need a storage tank, pump and all other water equipment. For gardening or live stock, no filter needed. But if you want to drink rainwater, you better pay for a good filter and use a chlorination system.
City Water: We all know how this works. You get a bill each month.
The bottom line for me is self-sufficiency. I plan to harvest the rainwater, and drill the well using the licensed driller. I will install a solar electric system to run the pump. I may self-drill an un-permitted second well just for fun. The rainwater will go for the garden, chickens, & perhaps livestock. I’ll filter what comes out of the well and we’ll use a Berkey system in the house for drinking water.
I am not a wealthy man. Whether or not this economy totally collapses and I need to be self-sufficient for survival is to be seen. But either way, I do not expect social security to provide my retirement. My employer retirement account will probably get MYRA’d into T-bills, providing just a trickle of income—or nothing. So my PMs will pay for my home, my water, my solar electric system and I’ll do my best to survive after I can no longer work in my industry. This system will eventually eliminate my water and electricity bills. Currently, those run about $200 per month--$2400 per year. It will pay for itself in four years, and right now, I can afford to install everything. After that, I have free water and electricity for life, with some maintenance costs along the way. I’ll have a paid off home. Taxes will have to be paid, but I think I can set aside enough gold to cover property taxes for life. Right now, it is an ounce per year, but hopefully that will change soon.
I liquidated a chunk of my stack and bought this particular property because it cost only 30% of its current realistic market value. I have not ruled out reselling or renting it after the renovation and improvements are complete, then purchasing a better property with profits (or rental income).
My advice? Choose your land and long-term property carefully. Consider all costs. If there is already a good septic system and productive well in place, with good water available, that is a huge advantage. And if you don’t have a well on the property yet, find a good Y shaped stick from the tree, use the method above, and start witching!
But I don’t know everything, and much of what I think I know is flawed. So flame away, straighten me out, augment, or refute. I hope all can take away something useful from this discussion.
And how in tarnation does rhabdomancy relate to precious metals? Well (pun intended), they say you can find gold using this method also.
Some Sorcerers do boast they have a Rod,
Gather'd with Vowes and Sacrifice,
And (borne about) will strangely nod
To hidden Treasure where it lies;
Mankind is (sure) that Rod divine,
For to the Wealthiest (ever) they incline.
Samuel Sheppard, 1651