divining rod or dowser, stick used in searching for underground water or minerals. This form of divination is still in common use in many parts of the world. The instrument is typically a forked twig. The operator holds the forked ends of the twig close to his body, with the stem pointing forward. When he walks over a spot under which water or the desired mineral lies, the stem of the divining rod is supposedly pulled down. Impartial research, however, has indicated that successes in this method result mostly from chance and possibly also from a heightened sensitivity to visual cues of which the diviner is unaware.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.