For centuries, Amish Americans and Russländer Mennonites have attempted to establish homes in dry hostile environments and to survive draught in part by practicing the mysterious and controversial art of water dowsing. In Montana, we refer to this as water witching – the practice of attempting to find water by noting reactions and vibrations in a wooden or metal stick. My grandfather, Albert Wall, used a long metal rod and spent many an afternoon trying to determine water resources on his Montana farm. According to his stories, his grandfather, J. C. Wall, had located at least three water wells using a willow wand – though at least one of these seems to me to a rather common sense location due to surface evidence of a high water table.
In Nuevo Ideal, Mexico, distant cousins are currently attempting to deal with the consequences of a harsh drought. A few are moving to Canada but others are attempting to either ride out the difference between the drought year and a promising recovery, or even to identify new water resources. Apparently, Mexican Mennonite Peter Wall has inherited the knack for dowsing – though his method is described as that of using two metal wands – one in each hand, to determine the location, quantity and depth of the water table. Who knows – there might be something to this. While water dowsing is certainly not considered to be scientific, neither would Mennonites sanction the practice of magic – so the practice is seemingly more complicated than doubters would have us believe.