A divining rod is just another word for a pen

The art of sensing a story

Grant Faulkner


Life might be described as largely a matter of looking for signs.

Signs that someone likes you. Signs that someone doesn’t like you. Signs of a storm coming. Signs of care. Signs of food.

As an artist, you have to be especially attuned to the mysterious pulses around you. You hear things. You smell things. You’re a walking Ouija Board. You’re a lightning rod.

You’re a divining rod.

I’ve always been fascinated by divining rods.

Divining rods have been used throughout history to locate things like water, gems under the earth, or even criminals on the run. There are references to the use of divining rods in Herodotus, the writings of Marco Polo, and the Bible. In the Tassili Caves of northern Africa, an 8,000-year-old cave painting depicts a man holding a forked stick, apparently using it to search for water.

Some thought divining rods were a tool of the devil. Some thought they were a tool of angels. They were used by French authorities as late as 1703 to select Protestants for roasting.

But there’s the question of whether the power is in the rod or the “dowser” (another word for diviners).

Dowsers believe that objects possess a natural magnetic, electromagnetic, or other unknown energy that their senses can detect. The rod twists when the operator passes over underground water or minerals. To a dowser, sensing energy is a natural process that can be developed through practice.

Scientists have largely proven that dowsing doesn’t work, but Albert Einstein believed in it. He said, “I know very well that many scientists consider dowsing as they do astrology, as a type of ancient superstition. According to my conviction this is, however, unjustified. The dowsing rod is a simple instrument, which shows the reaction of the human nervous system to certain factors that are unknown to us at this time.”

It’s good for us to be open to forces that “are unknown to us at this time.”

Divining rod as pen

“Water witching” is much like story witching. A divining rod is a metaphor for a pen. You pick it up…



Grant Faulkner

Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month, co-founder of 100 Word Story, writer, tap dancer, alchemist, contortionist, numbskull, preacher.