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    South Australia - Miscellany

    Water Divining and Rainmaking

    Also see:
    Place Names - Burnside
    Place Names - Quorn
    Place Names - Northern Lands.


    Water Divining in South Australia

    (Taken from Geoffrey H. Manning's A Colonial Experience)


    The divining rod, spoken of by the ancient Romans as 'virgula divina', and mentioned by Cicero and Tacitus, was a different thing altogether from the modern forked twig of the water diviner and seems to be of immemorial antiquity. Its use in 'divination' was similar to that practised with a ring or a sieve suspended by a string. When the rod is thrown into the air and falls to the ground, or when the suspended object is set moving, it eventually comes to rest and, when thus at rest, must point in one particular direction.

    It was supposed that gods or spirits, invoked at the moment, guided the movement and final position of rest, so as to make the divining rod or ring or sieve, point to buried treasure, to an undetected murderer, or to watch a wizard, who had used magic arts to injure the person seeking its aid. Bits of sticks are so used at the present day by some savage races.

    The notion leading to its use is the same as that which has led to augury by inspection of an animal's entrails, by the flight of birds and other such varying appearances. The notion is that an unseen power will, when properly invoked, interfere with the blindly varying thing and make it vary so as to give indications either of hidden objects or of future events.

    The unseen power which thus revealed itself was supposed, primitively, to be that of a god or a spirit, but later the augur or intermediary, who worked the 'show', acquired exclusive importance and arrogated mysterious powers to himself. The same transference of importance has come about in the case of the modern hazel twig and the 'douser', who now claims to 'divine' without its aid.

    The forked twig used by water finders has another significance in history. It is held by each hand and after a time, as the explorer walks along, the twig suddenly, and even vigorously 'plunges' or 'ducks' as he holds it. It seems to do so of its own accord.

    The Old English word 'douse' signifies, ducking, dipping or plunging. The forked twig 'douses', hence the persons who use it are 'dousers'. The belief is widespread that this 'dousing' of the forked twig is caused by the presence of a vein of metallic ore in the ground, or in other cases by the presence of subterranean water. It is interesting to ascertain what ground there are for this belief.

    The dousing rod or twig is first mentioned in the 15th century by a writer on alchemy, Basil Valentine, and in 1546 by Agricola, who says it must be either willow or hazel, and describes its use in the discovery of metalliferous veins and subterranean water. It was introduced into England by German miners in the time of Queen Elizabeth. In the book Living Library, published in 1620, it is said 'that no man can tell why forked sticks of hazel (rather than sticks of other trees) are fit to show the places where the veins of gold and silver are...'

    In the 17th century the dousing twig was used as a guide in all sorts of quests such as searching for hidden treasure and in tracking criminals. Today, it is chiefly known by professional water finders. There is no doubt that some of these gentry are dishonest. They are not the credulous rustics to whom the dousing twig owes its long popularity. They are often clever and expert judges of the indications by form of the land, the geological strata and distribution of vegetation, as to the subterranean water.

    They make a pretence of using the douser's twig in order to obtain employment from landowners in search of a likely spot for sinking a well, since it is a fact that many people prefer to be guided by a sort of magician, who uses a supposed occult agency, rather to employ the honest and perhaps acute geologist.

    The believers in the connection of the movement of the douser's rod and the existence of concealed metal or water have started the theory recently that the twig itself is of no value in the 'experiment'. Some dousers have declared that they can work just as well without it, and that it is not the rod or twig, but they themselves who are so sensitive to concealed water or metal.

    They state that they feel a peculiar 'sinking' in the pit of the stomach, also a nervous tremor, and that their hands move spasmodically, causing the rod to move. Further, they attribute this to an influence on the human body of 'vibrations', or possibly 'electricity', from the concealed metal or water. This is ingenuous enough; it shifts the seat of the mysterious action from the simple twig to the much more complex human body. However, irrespective of the beliefs of many in the genuineness of water divining, it must be said that recent experiments made with dousers or water diviners to test their powers were unfavourable to their pretensions.

    The Pioneer of Water Divining in SA - Adolph H.R. Gerber

    Adolph Heinrich Roderick Gerber was the son of the Rev Otto Gerber of Rensburg, Schleswig Holstein, Germany, and by calling was a Bavarian lager beer brewer. Subsequently, he followed the same business in Sweden as manager of one of the largest breweries there. He came to South Australia in 1852 and, in the early 1860s, went into the firm of Mahnke & Gerber, bakers; in 1874 he took over the business of what was known as Lloyd's Coffee Rooms at Port Adelaide, remaining there for eight years.

    He next occupied himself with storekeeping at Burnside for about six years until 1888 when he went to the city and became host of the National Hotel, Pirie Street. It was whilst residing at Burnside that he took a practical interest in the discovery of subterranean water by means of the divining rod and he made a number of remarkable finds in various parts of the colony. He died in March 1894, aged 69 years.

    Mr Gerber's first venture into water divining in South Australia took place at the police paddock, at the rear of the Botanic Gardens, in August 1867 in the presence of Dr Schomburgk, Mr Ey and Mr Lindrum. The four 'subjects' distributed themselves in different parts of the paddock and on reaching places where the rods became sensitive they marked them. They then exchanged beats, each pointing out to the others the direction on which he had moved, but keeping his marks a secret. In every case the rods showed agitation at the marked spots, or within a few feet of them. To complete the proof, Mr Gerber was sent out of the paddock altogether, while the other three made a series of 'finds'. On being recalled he was started at a distance of forty or fifty yards from the nearest 'find', but as soon as he approached it his rod fully confirmed the evidence of its predecessors.

    Three or four times the force of the upward movement broke the rods in front of the operator's hand where he could not by any mere muscular exertion have broken them. The fact of the movements occurring only at certain spots and of every operator experiencing the same result, discountenanced any subjective theory so often applied to occult influences.

    None of those who accompanied Mr Gerber had any previous knowledge of his experiments and, being chiefly Germans, they were all endowed with philosophic scepticism; consequently, there was no bias in his favour. Their unanimous verdict was that he made out at least a prima facie case for his 'occult phenomena'.

    General Notes

    An informative article on water divining is in the Observer,
    6 September 1845, page 3a,
    "The Divining Rod" in the Chronicle,
    6 July 1867, page 3a.

    "Trial of Divining Rod" is in the Register,
    13 and 16 August 1867, pages 2g and 2f; also see
    22 February 1868, page 3f,
    7 March 1868, page 9e,
    21 August 1867, page 2c,
    "The Divining Rod" in the Observer,
    22 October 1870, page 15d.

    "Finding Water by Means of the Divining-Rod" is in the Observer,
    6 January 1883, page 9d,
    "Feats of the Divining Rod" on
    20 June 1885, pages 9c-26a.

    Information on the divining rod is in the Register,
    30 September 1884, page 6d,
    2, 3, 14, 16 and 18 October 1884, pages 7b, 7e, 7a, 2e (supp.) and 7d,
    10, 19 and 26 November 1884, pages 3e, 7d and 7f.

    "The Divining Rod Again" is in the Register,
    7 October 1886, page 3e,
    29 November 1886, pages 6e-7a,
    1, 2, 6, 7, 9 and 13 December 1886, pages 7h, 6d, 3g, 7f, 7e and 7b,
    16 October 1886, page 11a; also see
    23 October 1886, page 11a,
    4 and 11 December 1886, pages 12b and 12d,
    1 October 1886, page 2c.

    A water divining exhibition at Mellor Brothers' factory in Franklin Street is described in the Register,
    9 January 1888, page 5c; also see
    26 January 1888, page 6f,
    14 January 1888, page 11a.

    Information on water divining is in the Observer,
    18 January 1890, page 41d,
    11 January 1892, page 6c,
    "Divination in the Hills" on
    19 March 1898, page 4h.

    "The Divining Rod" is in the Register,
    30 September 1884, page 6d,
    9, 13 and 14 January 1890, pages 5h, 7c and 6h,
    1 June 1900, page 4d,
    "Water Finding - The Mystery of the Dowsing Rod" on
    29 August 1903, page 9h; also see
    4 December 1906, page 4f.

    Letters concerning the divining rod are in the Observer,
    26 November 1892, page 11d.

    An obituary of Mr A.H.R Gerber is in the Register,
    6 March 1894, page 5b,
    10 March 1894, page 30b.

    "The Echunga Goldfields and the Divining Rod" is in the Observer,
    19 February 1898, page 32c,
    "The Divining Rod" on
    16 June 1900, page 31a,
    "The Mystery of the Dowsing Rod" in the Register,
    29 August 1903, page 9h,
    5 September 1903, page 41a,
    "The Dowser's Rod" in the Express,
    18 February 1905, page 4e.

    "The Divining Rod - Remarkable SA Success", by James Smith, is in the Register,
    10 February 1908, page 6f,
    "Divining Rod to the Rescue" on
    4 July 1910, page 10a.

    Information on the diving rod is in the Express,
    17 May 1906, page 1h,
    15 February 1908, page 41e,
    11 April 1908, page 11d,
    2 May 1908, page 23d,
    18 July 1908, page 14a,
    16 July 1910, page 50c..

    "The Divining Rod" is in the Advertiser,
    2 June 1909, page 6h,
    "Do Divining Rods Divine?" on
    5 June 1909, page 16e,
    "Water Divining - Successful Operations" on
    1 March 1912, page 11d.

    "The Divining Rod - Its Use and History" is in the Register,
    11 September 1913, page 9g,
    "Divining - Value of the Rod" on
    26 September 1914, page 13a,
    15 October 1914, page 4c,
    27 November 1914, page 8d; also see
    21 November 1914, page 33a.

    "The Divining Rod - Water at Lockleys" is in the Register,
    13 February 1914, page 7e.

    "Divining - Value of the Rod" is in the Register,
    26 September 1914, page 13a; also see
    15 October 1914, page 4c.

    "The Value of the Divining Rod" is in the Advertiser,
    18 November 1914, page 12f; also see
    20 November 1914, page 6f,
    2 December 1914, page 9c,
    27 November 1914, page 8d,
    10 December 1914, page 6f,
    5 and 12 December 1914, pages 16b and 24e-25a-28e.

    "Anzac Water Diviner" is in the Observer,
    20 May 1916, page 29b.

    "The Divining Rod - Is it a Fake?" is in the Register,
    13 September 1916, page 9f; also see
    23 July 1924, page 6e,
    27 November 1924, page 8f,
    2 July 1927, page 5g,
    15 and 29 June 1929, pages 30a and 10a,
    6 July 1929, page 5d-e,
    31 January 1930, page 24e,
    13, 19 and 21 February 1930, pages 18f, 18d and 22f,
    4 March 1930, page 18e.

    "The Divining Rod - Water and Oil Witching" is in the Advertiser,
    20 January 1922, page 8d,
    "Scientific Divining" on
    21 September 1927, page 12i. Also see
    28 April 1928, page 5a.

    A report on water divining is in the Observer,
    2 August 1924, page 7d.

    An obituary of a "diviner", W.H. Pole, is in the Observer,
    18 September 1926, page 39d.

    "Water Divining - Fraud or Special Gift" is in the Advertiser,
    7 January 1928, page 19e,
    "Water Diviners" on
    4 August 1928, page 7i,
    15 and 20 May 1929, pages 6e and 6d,
    8 and 12 June 1929, pages 8d and 8b,
    22 and 29 June 1929, pages 7d-10c and 7a,
    6 July 1929, page 5d,
    13 November 1930, page 46a.

    "Science Has Not Ousted the Divining Rod" is in The Mail,
    6 February 1932, page 15c.

    "How an Adelaide Scientist Tested a Water Diviner" is in The Mail,
    10 June 1933, page 16.

    A humorous account of an "Old Cow as a Water Diviner" is in the Advertiser,
    7 December 1933, page 16h.

    "Rainmaking" is in the Observer,
    1 October 1881, page 10b,
    "Producing Rain" is in the Express,
    21 and 22 April 1884, pages 3c and 3e.

    Artificial rainmaking is discussed in them Observer,
    29 August 1891, page 10d,
    7 November 1891, page 9e,
    28 and 30 November 1891, pages 6e and 6a-7g,
    4, 11, 12 and 29 January 1892, pages 4f-7b, 6g, 6f and 7h,
    28 November 1902, page 6d.

    Also see Advertiser,
    23 and 26 October 1891, pages 7b and 6c,
    5, 14, 21, 25 and 30 November 1891, pages 7c, 6e, 6a, 6g and 5f,
    3, 25 and 29 December 1891, pages 5e, 7e and 7b,
    12, 13 and 20 January 1892, pages 5f, 5f and 5f,
    21 March 1892, page 7b,
    18 October 1892, page 3f,
    4 April 1914, page 19c,
    28 May 1929, page 17d and Aborigines.

    "Water From the Air" is in the Chronicle,
    24 June 1916, page 16a.

    Miscellany - Choose again

    Wattle Day

    Information on a "Wattle Blossom League" a women's branch of the Australian Natives' Association, is in the Register,
    19 March 1890, page 6f,
    13 May 1890, page 6d,
    10 October 1890, page 5a,
    12 June 1891, page 5a,
    13 May 1890, page 2g,
    4 December 1891, page 3b,
    6 May 1892, page 2c,
    17 May 1890, page 35b.

    The events of the first "Wattle Day" are discussed in the Register,
    31 August 1910, page 8d,
    1, 2 and 3 September 1910, pages 4d-f-5a, 6f and 15e; also see
    1, 2 and 19 September 1911, pages 4d, 14c and 8f,
    26, 27 and 31 August 1912, pages 6c, 8d and 14c-18d,
    2 September 1912, page 8a,
    30 August 1913, pages 11c-14d.

    "The Stolen Wattle Blossom" is in the Observer,
    20 and 27 May 1911, pages 31d and 45b.

    A history of the Wattle Day Movement is in the Register,
    30 August 1913, pages 11c-14d-17b (includes photographs).

    The first annual general meeting of the Wattle League is reported in the Observer,
    23 September 1911, page 45e; also see
    8 March 1913, page 38d,
    6 September 1913, pages 44a-48.

    "Children and Wattle Day" is in the Express,
    4 November 1913, page 4b.
    Photographs are in the Observer,
    6 September 1913, pages 30-31.

    "The Wattle League and War" is in the Observer,
    22 August 1914, page 48d.

    A history of the movement is in the Advertiser,
    8 October 1912, pages 16d,
    18 August 1913, page 16d.
    Photographs are in the Observer,
    6 September 1913, page 30,
    5 September 1914, page 30,
    8 September 1923, page 23.

    Photograph of an "Apple and Rose Day" are in The Critic,
    10 May 1916, page 15.

    Also see Register,
    1, 2 and 4 September 1916, pages 5c, 8c and 5d,
    1 and 3 September 1917, pages 6b-10d and 5f,
    30 May 1918, page 5c,
    24 August 1918, page 6c,
    29 and 30 August 1919, pages 7d and 8d,
    1 September 1919, page 7b,
    3, 4 and 6 September 1920, pages 6d, 3e-7f and 7a.

    A history of the movement is in the Register on
    27 August 1921, page 8c; also see
    29 August 1921, page 7c,
    2 and 4 September 1922, pages 8c-10a and 7b,
    1 September 1923, pages 8f-11d,
    1 September 1924, page 7c,
    28, 29 and 31 August 1925, pages 8f, 9e and 10c,
    12 August 1926, page 11e.

    "Wattle Day - The Winning Essays" is in the Register,
    12 September 1925, page 11e.

    Miscellany - Choose again