“Water Witching” is said to have begun as far back as the late 15th century in Germany, where a forked stick is used to locate underground water. While found all across the world, it is most often recorded as an Applachian tradition in America – most likely because of the Scotts-Irish and Germans that settled in the area. Most of the time, the “water witch” was a man, and the forked willow or hazel tree branch was the preferred tool for what is calling ‘dowsing for water.’ Since digging a well was a fairly expensive and difficult thing to do, the first step was always to call in the local water witch before any ground was broken.
While I could easily write a much longer article on this topic (maybe in the future, I will), my main purpose of this post was to share this wonderful illustration of a water witch (the term wasn’t considered a negative thing.) It is taken from the 1900 book, Myths and Fables of To-day by S.A. Drake. This illustration, as well as others in the book, was drawn by Frank T. Merrill.
Drake, Samuel Adams. The Myths and Fables of To-day. Lee & Shephard Publishing, 1900. Illustrations: Frank T. Merrill