Monday, May 4, 2009

Dowsing, Pendulums, Ouija Boards, and Smudging

It would be remiss of me as someone who writes about ghost hunting theories to not mention some of the “New Age” tools that are being utilized in the field by fellow hunters.

I’ll admit that when I first started hunting actively in 2003, I was willing to try anything a few times just to see if there was more than coincidence involved. I made some divining rods with delicate metal bars bent at right angles, bought a pendulum with a crystal in a cute little rock shop, dusted off the childhood Ouija board, and even tried smudging.

The use of bent metal bars to find water (dowsing/divining) has long been a favorite way to decide where to dig a well. I’m a huge advocate of utilizing Earth’s energy, geology, and magnetic fields and believe there could be something subtle at work here. It’s primitive, but it could be the basis of an extraordinary invention in the near future.

What I did find when using divining rods, is that I had consistency. I used them first in my home and found them to cross in the same spots over and over and over again no matter how many times I went back and forth. I stopped for weeks on end and then tried it again to find them cross in the same spots. The skeptic in me wondered if I had subtly changed my movements in anticipation of where I knew they had crossed before. So, I had two other people use the rods in the house without mentioning where they crossed. They crossed in the same places for them. They tend to do so over top of water pipes and in front of windows. That definitely got my attention because it was objectively verified and because of the places they crossed. It seemed to be something earth-based might be at work, something akin to finding well water. It also got me sidetracked learning more about feng shui and it’s place in hauntings and cleansings. So, even if one tool doesn’t end up staying in your bag, it could lead you into other directions.

Still, not knowing the origins of how we get information from dowsing rods, I’ve put mine away. Divining rods are just too much of a subjective tool. For example, it’s impossible do discern if a person intentionally moves a planchette on a Ouija board or if he subconsciously answers from a psychic level, or if in fact a spirit does take over and help him move it. So the source of this information is not verifiable. The same is true with divining rods. It’s impossible to verify what I’ve found without digging up the ground and I certainly wouldn’t base any conclusions in an investigation upon what the rods showed. In regards to EMF meter measurements in conjunction with the crossing of the rods, I haven’t yet found any consistent correlations. Here is an article about divining rods.

Now, on to pendulums. These are devices that are usually a delicate chain with a crystal or a weight on the end. These are used sort of like divining rods. One holds the pendulum out and asks a question. If it moves clockwise it’s “yes,” counterclockwise it’s “no.” One of the things that confuses me about this is that some folks believe back and forth movement is “no,” and circular movement is “yes.” With so many different ways to interpret, it’s kind of like staring at tealeaves. You’ll get 100 different people with 100 different interpretations. I like my pendulum. It’s a bit of a novelty piece for me, but knowing that you can’t control the shakiness of a hand or repeat holding it in the same way for each question, it’s rather unreliable. Here is an article that explains the use of a pendulum.

Ouija boards are one of those mixed bag of nuts. If you pull one out and use it, folks will be polarized; on one side of the room they’ll freak out that you have some kind of hotline to the Devil and the other half of the room will be shivering in anticipation for answers from the other side truly believing all the answers are from an unquestionable source. That being said, I’m certainly not afraid of Milton Bradley’s board games, so Ouija has nothing in the least to make me uncomfortable (honestly, I’m more scared of Monopoly—it takes so long to play!), but then I also don’t rely on the answers either. The problem here is, by sitting in front of a mass-produced board with letters on it and asking questions, are you truly getting to the spirit world? Is it really that easy? You can get to the subconscious level of those using the board, however. I used one at the Gila County Prison and we got the name and personality of a young man who was mentally challenged who cleaned up at the prison in the early 1900s. Later on that evening I saw a full-body apparition that I absolutely felt was the man we “contacted” on the board. The question is, did we contact him? or did I as a psychic get information and somehow will the board to show what I knew to be true? Once again, not a tool with any great merit, but it sure makes everyone uneasy and that’s something I always enjoy. To learn more about the Ouija, go here.

Now, onto the arena of “cleansing” an environment. One of the most often used techniques is “smudging” or the burning of certain kinds of herbs to scare away spirits (the favorite is having the house blessed by a religious figure/prayer). Supposedly, spirits really hate the smell of sage. And so do I. Be careful when you decide to use this, as your house will smell like you’ve been burning an entirely different kind of “weed.” That being said, from a logical point of view, I seriously doubt the olfactory sense is a hugely important one to a spirit, nor do I think the scent could linger long enough to be of much good even if they did have big schnoz’s. Still, I will admit that upon moving into a new place, I’ve enjoyed the ceremony involved in a sage smudging. I think it’s really along the lines of a house blessing or any other ceremony that says officially “this is my place, good energy only, please.” It has a way of neutralizing pre-existing scents and so you can lay down your own. Man is an animal, after all. It’s more satisfying for the living than for any “evil spirits” that might lurk, a kind of a benediction for your house. Here is a good article about smudging.

Whether you find these tools useful for not, it’s always good to learn about all the areas of ghost hunting if you’re pursuing this interest. When we become limited with what we use, we really lose sight of the desire to expand the field. When I began to realize my EMF meter was just too unreliable, I didn’t toss it out. I simply decided not to use the findings as evidence of a paranormal occurrence. In the right hands, some of these New Age type tools can actually be quite impressive. Still, I’m not in the ghost hunting field as a spiritualist, but as someone looking for good proof of phenomenon and even better documentation. I think, for my own purposes of ghost hunting, spiritual tools are not going to be effective to prove phenomena, but I respect people who find them to be valuable in their search. We are all on our own journeys in the field. In fact, I’ve hunted with folks who want to prove their grandparents made it to heaven, others who want to help trapped souls, and still others like me who want to document and prove phenomenon before we decide its origins.


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  2. Energy, energy, energy...I believe that is what it is all about. The divining rods, pendulums, sage, etc. are just a way for us to focus our own energy and tap into what's always around us, IMO.

    I also think the more they are practiced with, the better results will happen.

    Good article, as always! :)

  3. Great post, love reading your blog!

  4. Thanks Pamela and Marabella. I agree about these tools as being a way to focus our energy, unfortunately, it's difficult to weigh and measure just how well the person is utilizing their inner "knowledge." It's probably why I don't use my psychic impressions when I read a place as part of evidence. I don't mind using my talents to focus on an area that might be "hot," but then I must depend on getting hard proof for the skeptics and for verification. I think some day we'll find a better way to amplify personal and earth energy and that will help us to leap into a new spectrum of human existence. Marabella, glad you like the post. I've got a bunch sitting in word documents waiting to be uploaded. I think the next one is on "which place is more haunted"...

  5. Excellent post! "That being said, I’m certainly not afraid of Milton Bradley’s board games." *snicker*

    When it comes to looking for evidence of spirits/geological happenings I tend to rely first on instinct, then on verification through physical means. In other words, if I sense that there's a natural water source nearby I'll look to find it and/or smell it before I'll be satisfied that water is indeed present. Same for ghosties, though I'd like an electromagnetic reading before I'll lean toward believing.

    I like smudging because it's just so ancient. If humans have been smudging for thousands of years and consider it effective, then enough belief exists for it to be so. I suppose it's the same with all symbolism, really. Use something long enough it'll become psychologically and physically effective for many.

  6. Celyn;
    Yup. That's a good attitude. I don't take things blindly, but like to get a few sources to back each other up before I get excited. I think smudging is a really neat thing. Look at incense and its use amongst many religions. Perhaps it's the symbolism of when the smoke clears or perhaps the scent that evokes emotions. We know that olfactory is tied to the brain in such a way that smell and emotion area almost instantaneous. Of course, when it comes to cleansings in general, it's all really contingent on the occupants of the house who want it cleared. Some need that holy water and a blessing, some need smudging, others crystals, but the ultimate goal is to help them clear their mind of the way old way of viewing events and help them find a new stronger self-sufficient mindset. I'm so glad you commented. You have a lot of insight.

  7. Great article as always-enjoyed your humor also about the Monopoly game-that is right on as they say:-) I always have enjoyed your putting the full body apparation at the Gila County Prison in this and I believe an earlier article?? That is so interesting and scary too in some ways-but I really don't think these beings mean to be "scary" i think in a lot of cases their souls never crossed over.It is also interesting you mentioned sage-A native American friend I worked with (i may have mentioned him before) -Navajo culture used this at a group home we worked at to "cleanse" it-There was also some information on dowsing from a man named TC Lethbridge -I think anyway in a Colin Wilson book-I tried this in the late 1990s but do not remember exactly how it worked. You put a key or something like that on a measured bit of string to act as a pendulum-and in Lethbridge's thinking the length of the string unrolled (ie ten, twenty inches and on) would put you in contact with different worlds. I had forgotten that I had tried this "home" experiment until I read your article. Depending on the motion of the pendulum and length of string let out-(motion being clockwise or counterclockwise and how much) you were supposed to be able to tell if you were contacting a real spirit.To calibrate I put the pendulum over a photo in the obits section-and indeed it did seem to move in a counterclockwise motion-then I put the pendulum over a photo of a missing person-here is what got to me-the pendulum seemed to move at a much higher rate (in fact it spooked me somewhat) than it dead over the obit photo in the same counterclockwise motion. I do not know if my own nervous energy was transferring energy to the pendulum or what-but that was the end of my experiementing with it.If Mesa Library still has the book I would be able to tell you exactly how to set the dowsing/pendulum experiment up exactly-Wilson has so many books on the paranormal out I can't remember exact title-but shouldn't be too hard to find. Sorry to be so wordy in this comment-those two memories were triggered by your article and I thought it was very interesting as usual!! all the best!!

  8. Devin;
    Thanks for the info. I always like to find new sources on these subjects. I have to admit that upon seeing that full body apparition there were some factors happening. Of course, beforehand we used the Ouija board where I got a man's name, but when I got the name, I got a flood of psychic info on him, from his life to his looks to his mind and the way he saw things. I had flashes of images of his life and his work at the jail and interaction with the tormenting prisoners. I tried talking out loud to him using his name and speaking like a parent trying to keep a child who is ADD on task as we did the Ouija. Others in the group were upset by the tone of my voice, but I told them that mentally he was essentially a 4-year-old. He needed a mother figure to cut through his fear. The only way he'd communicate if he felt a strong woman was present. I think that's why we had so much activity in our room that night with two women inhabiting the room, laughing, and being generally friendly and greeting. If spirits truly do exist, we were probably irresistable and safe. It's impossible, however, to tell if what I saw was a true spirit or an image left in the environment. Even psychics don't have all the answers. I started reading dead relatives of folks and they thought I was talking to their relatives. Honestly, I can't tell you if I was reading the person or a spirit. I felt the connection between the two and how they felt about each other, but that's not necessarily proof of spirit. It's a really tricky thing trying not to let my hopes and wishes get in the way of investigating. I constantly have to use cognitive techniques to keep me on task to come up with proof that holds water. That's why I keep chugging along.

  9. Good and informative Post. I've heard about those Dowsing Rods and Pendulums, but never Smudging. That's different.

    FYI - On Ouija Boards. While serving in the US Navy, over in Vietnam years ago, some of the guy's had a Ouiga Board down in IC Plot. I had a good friend of mine, that I still have to this day, that was scared to death of those things. He would not go anywhere near one. He always said that "they are Evil!"

  10. Try limbs from a Willow tree Autumn and see what happens, we still find water the old way here. People try different tree limbs or a fork from a tree. I am going to try and make some Ouja Boards this year. I saw a beautiful one last Halloween, that was handmade, so i have to try to do some. I bought quite a bit of Peridot, left it in the full moon and have people carry a piece with them at all times for protection, it has proven to work. I am also a rockhound. I have stones all over the house, the deck and around the house. I don't know if they do anything or not, but they are pretty. LOL

  11. Hey Corker; Yeah, I know some folks who had bad experiences. You have to be careful who you let use one. Some folks have religious backgrounds or superstitious tendencies and have bad reactions.

    You sound like me. My house is a combination of Green Man faces, branches from trees, rocks, geods, crystals, seashells, pine cones...if it's nature, I have it. My mom used to use the willow branches for dowsing. It worked over our creek quite well and over our well. I can't explain how it works, but where water is concerned, it seems to be significant. Do you ever put a jar of water in the full moonlight? I used to do that as a kid and later in life I read about paganism and found out they do that to power the water on a full moon night. Crazy. Kids have good instincts about nature.