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Dowsing Device

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An object, such as a forked branch or wooden stick, used to locate hidden objects by consulting supernatural or magical forces. The Dowsing Device itself is not necessarily magical, but it functions as a focus at least.

A version used by modern dowsers is a pair of L-shaped metal rods, held one in each hand.

Another variation is to use a pendulum, either by carrying it and following the direction of its movement or by holding it over a map.

This is a very old "folk magic" idea in the real world. In fiction, it tends to be used either as Functional Magic or as something for the skeptic to snark at — or sometimes, both at the same time.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In a Doraemon issue guest-starring Dorami, Gian shows off how dowsing works by locating a metal pipe Suneo buried in the open lot, and then asks for "something more challenging". Nobita then buries a 100 yen coin, only for Gian to fail in locating it and commenting "maybe a 500 yen would work" before leaving. Cue Dorami arriving with a dowsing gadget to help Nobita locate his missing money, which works, but then the same gadget locates a hidden underground city.
  • Pokémon: The Series: Being an adaptation of the games, it's natural that the Dowsing Machine would make its way into the show. Notably, it's exclusively used by Team Rocket.
    • Pokémon: The Original Series:
      • In "A Shadow of a Drought", Meowth uses a pair of dowsing rods to find more water after Team Rocket find themselves dying of thirst. It only leads them to an empty well.
      • James bought one from Infernado in "A Ghost of a Chance", which is dubbed as a Treasure Detector. It looks the same as the video and card games, but is treated as a rip-off by Jessie and Meowth as it mostly finds bottle caps. In the next episode, however, the Treasure Detector did find valuable treasure in a warehouse... guarded by Gastly.
    • In Pokémon the Series: Ruby and Sapphire episode "Sky High Gym Battle!", Team Rocket uses the Dowsing Machine, now called Itemfinder, to find treasure under the Fortee Gym. The treasure turns out to be Pikachu's Thunderbolt that turns the dowsing rods into lightning rods.
    • In Pokémon the Series: Diamond and Pearl episode "Try for the Family Stone!", James uses a pair of dowsing rods to find the Dusk Stone. It leads Team Rocket off a cliff, but they did find a mineshaft that may lead to a Dusk Stone quarry.
    • In Pokémon the Series: Sun & Moon episode "A Team-on-Team Tussle!", James uses a modified Dowsing Machine to find the Darkinium Z crystal. Unlike the other examples, it succeeds flawlessly... and naturally, a Totem Raticate guarding the Z crystal destroys the machine.
  • Numata of The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service normally uses a pendulum to dowse for corpses. In one story, however, he uses the more traditional bent sticks to honor the man who taught him the technique, who's been murdered himself.
  • In The Vision of Escaflowne Hitomi uses a pendant and a map to locate the missing Von Fanel.
  • JK's Iconic Item in Occult Academy. He can also use them as weapons, lockpicks and pretty much anything else.
  • Eila uses one in Strike Witches 2, episode seven, to track down the Neuroi that's been invading the girls' pants.
  • Kurapika in Hunter × Hunter uses one of his nen chains to locate people among others.
  • Caesar in Girls und Panzer uses a falling stick on an Eastern-style compass card to determine a direction to search in while looking for new tanks and, later, a team of missing freshmen. Coincidentally, the school offers magic as an elective and Roman generals and magistrates were responsible for certain forms of official divination.
  • Ko'ume in Urara Meirocho uses a blue jewel pendulum as one of her preferred methods of divination.
  • Lyserg from Shaman King is called a dowser, a shaman who's spirit specializes in finding people/things. In fact his whole bloodline has that specialty, which makes them particularly notable as detectives. In the manga and the anime, he's shown using a pendant as his spirit medium and weapon in his quest to find and exact revenge on villian Hao.

    Comic Books 
  • In Tintin, Professor Calculus occasionally attempts dowsing with a pendulum. Its success varies, but it generally finds something he's looking for but doesn't know he's looking for.
  • Used by a Smurf in a one-page Smurfs story who uses it to find treasure, and discovers what he thinks is an underground well of water that makes Smurfs feel funny — only to not realize that it was an underground distillery Papa Smurf was using to make sarsaparilla wine.

    Comic Strips 
  • Modesty Blaise recurring character Dinah Collier is an effective pendulum dowser (and blind).
  • The Far Side had a cartoon titled "Insect Witching Rods", in which a mosquito uses a dowsing rod to find blood veins on an old man's ear.
  • Parodied in Dilbert with Dogbert's invention (which is clearly just a Y-shaped metal rod) for detecting human stupidity.
    Dogbert: It has a very simple interface. All I do is point it at people.
    Dilbert: Then what does it do?
    Dogbert: Why would it need to do anything else?

    Films — Animation 
  • Coraline (at least in the movie version) uses one that turns out to be made of poison oak.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Minari: Jacob has come to Arkansas to start a farm. Early in the film a local tries to get Jacob to hire him to use a dowsing rod to find a place to dig a well on the farm. Jacob dismisses this as nonsense. In the end he's hired the guy to find his well.
  • In The Princess Bride, Inigo prays to his late father to guide his sword — then successfully divines the entrance to the Pit of Despair.
  • The Thing That Couldn't Die (a horror film which would have languished in well-deserved obscurity had Mike and the Bots not discovered it) centers around a young girl who can 'water-witch' and consequently discovers the body of a man (justly) condemned to a Fate Worse than Death.
  • In The Water Diviner, Russell Crowe plays a character whose near-supernatural ability to find water sources is a recurring motif.
  • Woman in the Moon: Once he's landed on the Moon, Professor Mannfeldt uses a divining rod to search for water. And you call yourself a scientist!

  • In the Deptford Mice trilogy, Oswald Chitter uses a forked hazel twig to dowse for Audrey's missing mousebrass.
  • One Encyclopedia Brown story had an older boy claiming to have found a way to use divining rods to find gold, and "demonstrated" his ability by using the rod to find a gold brick. Encyclopedia was able to stop his friends from buying rods from the budding con artist by explaining why the gold had to be fake.
  • In the Modesty Blaise novels, recurring character Dinah is blind and has dowsing as her Disability Superpower. In A Taste for Death, the novel where she first appears, the villains try to kidnap her to dowse the location of a buried treasure for them. She uses the two metal rods.
  • In one of the Robin And Marian Mysteries by Clayton Emery, Robin and Marian encounter an extremely eccentric dowser with a reputation for being able to find stolen objects. He does a wild mystic dance while following his dowsing rod, and Robin deuces the secret of his success. He has trained his old three-legged dog to track by scent while staying behind him. The dog follows behind him, and he uses the dance to keep turning around and seeing where the dog is and staying ahead of it.
  • In Earthquake Weather, the main characters use a pendulum over a calendar to determine the day they should perform a ceremony that will revive a dead king.
  • Robin from Daystar and Shadow uses a rod, even though he can find water without one, because a physical object makes dowsing look less supernatural and more scientific.
  • Robert Frost poem "Two Tramps in Mud Time" is set in April. The speaker notes that while in summertime one might have to search for water "with a witching wand", in April the stream is full.
  • The Young Ghost Hunters Guide by J.H. Brennan says dowsing can be used to detect ghostly presences, and describes how to make the metal rods from wire coathangers, claiming it's more reliable than the forked stick because you can see what the rods are doing.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Munsters: Grandpa Munster had a transistorized one with multiple settings.
    Grandpa: Ah! Here it is! [cackles with glee] My radio direction finder.
    Herman: Direction finder? Grandpa, that's just an old-fashioned divining rod!
    Grandpa: True, true, heh, but I had it transistorized last month! [dials show that the direction finder can be set to find Water, Girls, Metal and Flying Objects]
  • Gilligan used a divining rod in an episode of Gilligan's Island.
  • Artemus Gordon, of The Wild Wild West, uses the forked branch variety in a rather elaborate plan to rescue his partner and another prisoner in "The Night of the Underground Terror."

    Tabletop Games 
  • Since psychic powers, including dowsing, are real in Rocket Age you shouldn't assume the person carrying crystals, sticks or globes is just messing around.
  • A Dowsing Dagger turns up in Magic: The Gathering's Golden Age Of Piracy themed expansion, Ixalan. When certain conditions are bet it leads the player (read: flips over) into the "Lost Vale", a powerful land (source of the games main mechanical resource, Mana) card.
  • A Dragon article about psionist kits for 2e Dungeons & Dragons included the Dowser, who required a forked willow branch that had both been shaped and fallen naturally, as a cut branch had no psionic potential.

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon
    • The series has an item named the Itemfinder, also called the Dowsing Machine in Japan and, internationally, from Generation IV onwards. The Pokétch, introduced in Pokémon Diamond and Pearl, features a Dowsing Machine application which essentially performs the same function.
    • Roaming Form Gimmighoul's antennae swivel and point towards things of interest, often coins.
  • In the first Broken Sword game, George briefly uses a divining rod to find an ancient well (he finds nothing but an extremely old tin can, but when he tosses it aside...).
  • Persona 4: Ms Sofue has one. One sidequest requires the MC to get special materials for her to build a new one once her old one has "stopped responding to her powers".
  • In Touhou Project, dowsing is Nazrin's schtick. Her rods appear to be weather vanes. Also uses a crystal pendant.
  • The Legend of Zelda:
    • Skyward Sword has this as a main mechanic, using Link's sword to search for keys, pick-ups and Zelda.
    • Breath of the Wild and its sequel Tears of the Kingdom have a similar system called the Sheikah Sensor which allows you to search for Shrines and, after an upgrade, everything in the Collectapedia. Instead of using your sword in first-person view however, the Sheikah Sensor instead works as Link moves, giving off a stronger signal when he moves towards the closest desired object in a game of "Hot and Cold".
  • In Dishonored, Corvo is given a biomechanical Heart he can use to find Runes and Bone Charms.
  • Shadow of the Colossus has this as a main gameplay mechanic, where Wander's Sword is used to locate the next enemy, as well as its weak points.
  • The dowsing rod in Psychonauts is incredibly useful, as it allows you to find deep caches of arrowheads (the game's currency), without one you can only pull up one or two at a time, and since there are several mandatory powers you need to buy in the shop, it will save you a lot of time grinding money.
  • Dowsing rods are found in Dragon Age. Though magic is feared and hated, dowsing is generally acceptable, since...
    "the worst possible dowsing-related crime suggested by Grand Cleric Willhemina of Hossberg was that they might go looking for poisonous worms which could be left in the chantry offertory."
  • In Cryostasis the Northwinds navigation system is named after the divining rod.
  • In BoxxyQuest: The Gathering Storm there’s the Seeker’s Compass, which makes nearby hidden items emit a shower of golden sparks, but only when it’s equipped by the party leader.
  • In the adventure game Rhiannon: Curse of the Four Branches, you must use one of these to locate a spring of fresh water that is necessary for the Second Branch's portion of the game.
  • In the Puyo Puyo series, Feli, who specializes in divination, is always seen carrying around two crooked rods.


    Web Videos 
  • Rufus Hooter Talltales attempts to use one in Episode 9 of World's Greatest Adventures... and promptly breaks it.
  • Stephen finds a lost dog in Paranatural, and figuring he'd find its home eventually, he goes to a fortune teller to see how things will turn out. The woman isn't thrilled Stephen can't pay her, but pities him and gives him some advice and a set of (fake) dousing rods to help find the dog's home, telling him to point any potential customers her way.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventures of Puss in Boots features the Silver Dowsing Rod of Akhenaten, a magic dowsing rod that can track down anything the holder thinks of.
  • The Super Hero Squad Show episode "Mysterious Mayhem at Mutant High": The Ringmaster has a divining rod that can find fractals.
  • Used in the first episode of Total Drama World Tour.
  • In Looney Tunes short There They Go-Go-Go!, Wile E. Coyote gets his tail on fire, so he uses a divining rod to find for water to douse it.
  • In the Ren & Stimpy episode "Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen", one is used to find a vein of Canada's greatest resource: dirt. It consists of a shovel with some fruit placed on top.
  • Used a few times in The Smurfs (1981): once by a treasure-hunting imp who was looking for the treasure of the ancient trolls, and once by Gargamel to track down Smurfs.
  • She uses no rods herself, but Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic knows a spell that serves as this for gems. In "Cutie Mark Chronicles", filly Rarity's horn acted up on its own and dragged her across the landscape to a huge rock filled with gems.

    Real Life 
  • Dowsing is Older Than Steam, as seen here.
  • Still in use, as seen in this ad and this video.
  • Evidence has shown that Dowsing is not better at detecting the flow of water or location of pipes than guessing. Water is found by dowsers simply because water is plentiful and easy to find by following geologic cues.
    • There is an interesting theory that the whole rod part of the equation was initially used simply as a visual aid to help someone trace things like erosion lines and depressions so they could visualize the flow of water. Over time this was corrupted into the idea that the stick played a magical role.
  • In what would be hilarious if the implications weren't so tragic, a UK company called ATSC manufactured and sold thousands of, basically, dowsing devices, as a legitimate bomb detector called the ADE 651. The company claimed that the device worked on the principle of "electrostatic magnetic ion attraction", and said that it could detect guns, ammunition, drugs, human bodies and any other contraband you cared to name, over a distance of 1km. They sold these things to 20 countries in the Middle East: the Iraqi security forces alone are said to have spent £52m on them. They cost about £150 to make, and sold for upwards of £11,500 each. They were finally busted after a BBC documentary and other investigations pointed out that the things contained no operating components of any kind and their supposed special component, a "programmed substance detection card" which you inserted into the machine before you used it, was just a plastic card implanted with the kind of security tag used as an anti-shoplifting device. The British government raided the company, arresting its founder and the device's inventor (a retired police officer). He was charged with multiple counts of fraud and sentenced to ten years. The utter failure of these devices to detect explosives of any kind (or anything else) cost many, many lives; given that they were still being used by the Iraqi police in July 2016, they may have helped to make the 2016 Baghdad bombings possible.