The art of dowsing has a history stretching back centuries and as reporter Danielle Street discovers, the ancient practice is alive and well in Auckland.
For many people the word dowsing conjures up images of a man brandishing a Y-shaped stick, scouring a dry stretch of land for hidden water.
It is sometimes known as divining and has been practised in this manner around the globe for centuries.
But the exercise is not limited to tracking water and the simple handheld tools, such as dowsing rods and pendulums, can apparently be used to detect items including archaeological remains, tunnels and oil.
The practice has long been the target of scepticism, but Alison Ellett from the NZ Dowsing & Radionics Society says dowsing changed her life.
"Things come up now and before I would brush it off, but now I'm like ‘gee whiz did that happen to me for a reason?'," she says. "It's made me really aware of each moment of life."
Mrs Ellett has been "swinging a pendulum", as she calls it, for about 20 years.
She was drawn to dowsing while working as a homeopath.
"While searching for an elusive remedy I saw a friend and she said ‘oh I wish Dr Popplewaite was still alive, he used to just run his finger down the page and he would be swinging his pendulum at the same time and that would be the right remedy'," Mrs Ellett recalls.
"I said ‘he what?' and out came a pendulum. Well, she yanked out a hair and her ring. I didn't look back from then."
These days Mrs Ellett uses dowsing for all manner of things, including making decisions about her health.
While holding one of her numerous pendulums she will ask a closed question such as "do I need to see the doctor about my hip?" The pendulum will then swing towards the right for a positive response, or to the left for negative.
Mrs Ellett says dowsing is best described as developing your intuition.
"Some people have a strong bent that way anyway so they just pick it up and run with it. Others need to persevere and practice," she says.
"To pick up a pendulum and get it swinging is quite difficult at first, but when you pick up a rod and ask if my name is Rumplestiltskin, it will point to no."
Mrs Ellett and her husband Ren make their own dowsing rods in a workshop on their farm.
There is always a set of rods in her car and pendulums are scattered throughout the office, bedroom and her purse.
However, she says she has developed her own intuition to the point that she doesn't always need a tool.
"If I'm out and I need to know an answer I'll let my left arm drop and I'll ask the question. My arm won't swing but I'll feel the energy go right to positive or left to negative," she says.
"So everyone develops their own personal extension. It's once you have seen it and believe it you can fit it into your world as it suits you."
The dowsing society has around 60 members around the country, a few dozen of whom meet at a central Auckland hall once a month.
"It's amazing the people who come into dowsing. They become very strong in their spiritual belief of god or whatever higher power.
"We are not a religion. We are not a sect. But it does bring out that aspect of people."
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