- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2015

LYNDONVILLE, Vt. (AP) - Some journey here to learn an ancient practice. Others to hone their skills. Many return year after year.

More than 300 people - a few from as far away as the United Kingdom - attended the American Society of Dowsers’ 55th annual convention and expo, which runs through Monday.

Practitioners use metal rods, forked sticks and pendulums and what they say is their subconscious to tap into a universal natural knowledge to find water or minerals underground or lost objects like a set of keys.

“It’s really a fascinating place,” said Susan Connolly of Westport, Connecticut, of the six-day convention that includes workshops in dowsing and metaphysical topics like using quantum energy, stone circles, Earth acupuncture and holistic home and business harmonization.

Dowsers know they have doubters.

The United States Geological Survey points out that underground water is so prevalent in many places that it would be difficult not to find water.

Scientists who have studied dowsing say it is no more reliable than guessing and that dowsers subconsciously move divining rods in response to their surroundings, rather than drawn by a mystical force.

Donna Rizzo, a groundwater hydrologist and professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of Vermont, said dowsers may be unconsciously using factors, such as topography, temperature and vegetation, to locate groundwater.

“I’m always looking for why there would be a physics-based reason for why this would happen, and honestly I can’t come up with one,” she said, although she’s curious about the practice.

Dowsing instructors admit that “all of this is pretty far out, so learning to trust is perhaps the most difficult part of dowsing,” according to a booklet given out during a basic dowsing class.

Instructor Rodney Berger, of Swanton, Vermont, told students on Wednesday that they need to learn to ignore the doubters.

Water may be prevalent in some areas but dowsing can help to narrow down a location of potable water, said dowsing instructor Janis Fallon, an environmental attorney and engineer from Brunswick, New York, who has attended the national convention for over 15 years.

In the class, about 30 people learned about the tools and methods and then went outside to try them for themselves. Several participants said they wanted to tap into their intuitions.

Dowsers ask specific questions - like where to locate a well or where to find a pair of lost sunglasses - and say they get answers from the movements of their tools.

Berger said he has found lost pets and valuables through dowsing and the practice has been the most exciting and interesting part of his life.

What may start as a quest for water can turn into years of study.

“It takes a short time to learn how to dowse but one can spend an entire lifetime learning how to dowse,” Berger said.

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