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Magic, Witchcraft, And The Nature Of The Rod

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Chapter Summary

This chapter introduces the dowsing rod and begins charting its unique historical path. Early opponents wished to identify the practice with witchcraft. Theologians and philosophers intent on ridding the mines of diabolical influence said that practitioners made an 'implicit' pact with the Devil. The dowsing rod has ancient origins, although whether ancient miners wielded the rod remains an open question. The widespread practice of dowsing in mining was also apparent to the Catholic witchcraft scholar, Jean Bodin. Mineral vapors had a long history in natural philosophy before explaining dowsing. Avicenna, among other late medieval Arabic philosophers, commonly identified the two underground vapors that Aristotle had spoken of in his Meteorology with sulfur and quicksilver. Dowsing with a forked stick was an ancient practice that blurred the divide between legitimate and prohibited magic.

Keywords: dowsing rod; mining culture; witchcraft

10.1163/ej.9789004186422.i-218.17
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