Dowsing, also called “water witching,” is a method of locating underground water or buried treasure by tapping into what dowsers call spiritual energy. Dowsing involves different methods, but often the dowser holds a forked rod with the straight end pointed toward the ground. It is believed that the rod moves up or down when the dowser walks directly over the place where water or other material is present. The practice of dowsing for water has been around since ancient times and is considered a harmless practice by many. The Bible does not say anything specific about dowsing, but there are elements of dowsing that should cause concern.
While anyone can walk around with a forked stick, dedicated dowsers believe they are using a sixth sense to channel the earth’s energy. They believe the “universe” is speaking to them and revealing buried truths. Using a dowsing rod is similar to using a Ouija board. It is an attempt to gain information through “positive or negative energy” that is supposedly controlling an inanimate object. While some argue that the earth is water-rich enough that almost anyone can predict a water source if they drill deeply enough, others point out that the accuracy of dowsers seems to be significantly higher than that of random guesses.
The Bible addresses practices such as dowsing in Hosea 4:12: “My people consult a wooden idol, and a diviner’s rod speaks to them. A spirit of prostitution leads them astray; they are unfaithful to their God.” The “diviner’s rod” has been variously interpreted as a magic wand, an Asherah pole, or some type of wooden staff used to predict the future or guide seekers into “wisdom.” The occult diviner’s rod condemned in Hosea sounds similar to a dowsing rod—in fact, another name for a dowsing rod is “divining rod,” because the purpose of dowsing is to divine the location of water or precious metal. According to Hosea, the Lord places divining rods, idolatry, and prostitution in the same category. But why would God be opposed to a harmless means of discovering a water source?
The bottom line is that dowsing is a form of divination, a practice strictly forbidden by God (Deuteronomy 18:10; 2 Kings 17:17; Leviticus 19:26). Divination is an attempt to predict the future or uncover secret knowledge through a supernatural means other than the Lord. Sorcery, divination, witchcraft, and other occult practices have been a part of human history since Old Testament days. This type of activity was one of the reasons God was so severe with the Canaanite nations and commanded His people to have nothing to do with it (Deuteronomy 18:14; Micah 5:12).
Dedicated dowsers refer to the Force behind their art, which they maintain is a spiritual energy that guides the universe. They are probably right. There are spiritual forces at work in our world. In Acts 16:16–18, a slave girl with a divining spirit pestered Paul and Silas, proclaiming their identities as “servants of the Most High God.” Annoyed, Paul turned around and ordered the spirit to come out of her, and it did. In this passage, divining is directly connected to demonic influence. This girl knew who Paul and Silas were. Her knowledge was accurate, and she obtained it through divination, just as dowsers profess to do. If there is a Force behind dowsing, as many claim, and that Force is not God, then who is it?
There are only two spiritual forces at work in our world: God and Satan. They are both real, both spirit, and both powerful. But they are not equals. Satan is merely a created being, a fallen angel whom God allows to rule this world within the boundaries God has established (2 Corinthians 4:4; Luke 10:18). Any supernatural power that does not originate with God is evil. There are no neutral spirits, friendly guides, or positive energies. There is no “power of the universe” behind supernatural occurrences. We are either experiencing the mighty power of God or dabbling in Satan’s playground.
Christians should beware of tampering with supernatural forces that are not from God. We open the door to our enemy by inviting his involvement in our lives (1 Peter 5:8). If we seek out people who claim to predict the future or claim that “the earth speaks” to them, we should know that we are inviting the very demons of hell to tell us about life. In Zechariah 10:2, God is crying out to Israel, warning them about what they are doing: “The idols speak deceitfully, diviners see visions that lie; they tell dreams that are false, they give comfort in vain. Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.” When we forsake our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) in order to chase knowledge that He did not reveal to us, we are easy prey for wolves (Matthew 10:16; Acts 20:29).