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DousingStickIn a different post this week I was telling my personal tale of woe about our house plumbing.  Part of that story involved Bob Sullivan, an employee from Newton’s Water and Sewer Dept coming out to my house and checking out the situation.

There was one fascinating detail of his visit that I forgot to mention – the divining stick.   First Bob took a look at our inside plumbing.  When we went outside, he grabbed a simple looking tool from the front seat of the car that looked like this (above).

He held it by the handle, walked down Spring St, across Winter St, about a 1/3 way cross Winter, the rod swung around 90 degrees to point down hill.   He then walked down Winter St and it suddenly swung 90 degrees again. We looked down, there was a small round cover.  He said “yeah, that’s the feed for that house over there”.

Completely mystified, I asked him what this thing was.  He said it’s a “divining stick”.  It shows you where the running water is”.  Up to that minute, I had always thought of “divining rods” as being something along the ESP/telekinesis/ fortune telling spectrum.  i.e. something done by quirky guys with some supposed “gift” or sensitivity to water.   Bob’s use of the divining stick was as a supernatural as using a screwdriver.  It just seemed to be a matter-of-fact tool of the trade.  Bob said that a co-worker showed it to him years ago and he’s been using it ever since.

I assumed that I must have the wrong idea about “divining” and that this is a standard tool for anyone dealing with buried pipes.   I wanted to learn about the physics of it – i.e. what makes it work.

This morning, I just did some quick Internet research and from what I’ve found, I’m right back to the realm of ESP/telekinesis/fortune telling.  Now I’m completely confused.

Bob Sullivan definitely didn’t seem to be a guy dabbling in the supernatural.  He was just a guy doing his job and the tool, and his use of it, just appeared to be as routine and mundane as turning a wrench.  I suppose, Bob could have been having some fun with me, but once again, unlike me, he didn’t seem be someone who would toy with citizens for his own amusement.

I have no answers to any of this, just more questions.  My one regret is that I didn’t ask Bob to try it out myself.

So what do you say?   Have you ever seen someone use a divining rod?  Have you ever used one yourself?  Is it voodoo?  Was I being scammed?