Question about a certain pendulum device


Hi all I’m new to this forum. I’m a fairly devout Catholic. And someone I know is doing something that I think is probably a very major sin but I don’t know for sure. I asked this question on another Catholic answers site and never received an answer. Here is my question. There is a certain practice called dowsing, where a person uses a piece of string with a heavy item on the end of it as a pendulum. They then will hold this pendulum out and ask questions such as

“where is the water at?” “Is this food good for me?” “Is my brother in heaven?” “Am I in a state of grace?”

If the pendulum turns left it is a no and if it turns right it is a yes or something like that.
Is this wrong to do? Is it a sin? Is it maybe heresy? I have done some personal research and I really can’t find a good answer. Specifically if there is a Papal Bull that bans this or was it banned at a Council? Thanks in advance for your help.



This is a form of divination, and so yes, it is grave matter (but might not be mortal, depending on the disposition of the sinner in question). You’ll find the most recent writing on it in the Catechism. Also see Deuteronomy or Leviticus…I can’t remember which…oh well, it’s all good :wink:


Just a question there, hope you dont mind Brandon and welcome btw

but what if its only to find water and nothing else??

is there a difference?


I agree with spirithound, this is a form of divination–it’s banned in the Bible. See CCC 2116, 2117 and 2138. I would say that this is a grave matter indeed. However, as spirithound said, we cannot assume it is a mortal sin because we cannot be sure that the other criteria for mortal sin have been met (full knowledge and complete consent).
Deuteronomy 18:10 and Jer 29:8 are applicable scripture.

Now that you know this is a grave matter, I would advise you to tell this person that what they are doing is a grave sin. People who are into these sorts of things often will ignore the information, but it is your duty to instruct the ignorant (not the most pleasant of tasks sometimes).

Blessings, Prayer_Warrior


I would like to second Kitty Chan’s question. What if dousing is only used to find water? I think there might be some genuine scientific explanations for the practice of dousing to find water.



Yeah I think some more context might be good. I know that my grandfather used a dowsing rod to look for where to dig the wells for his farm. He was pretty much 100% accurate and I in know it would have never crossed his mind that anything “occult” was going on. My understanding was that dowsing was simply how one found water back in day.


As I understand it, this technique relies on subtle and unconscious muscle movements to produce “answers.” Thus it is really a way to dig into one’s subconscious. In this sense it is like automatic writing and hypnosis. So the question becomes, are hypnosis and similar mind-exploring techniques sinful? AFAIK they are not (assuming they are not used for sinful purposes, of course).


Yes I was thinking of people like the grandfather who found water. Im thinking of muscle movement etc but if he for example was accurate 100% and if no one believes that, at least if he broke odds then there could be a scientific bent to it.

Unless some people themselves are spiritually discerning to water and influence the sticks?

And I do know when I was pregnant we hung a needle on a thread over my belly and it was held still then started moving back and forth which meant boy. when we held it over the guys it was boy. when we held it over girls it went in circles, but me it was boy. so dont know



I agree that there could be circumstances that it may not be divination. Obviously, if one is relying on some sort of natural response to this pendulum then I suppose it would not be divination. In the case of searching for water, I am not going to assume anything. However, when asking spirits about where souls are or if one is in a state of grace sounds like divination to me. It is true that the person could honestly think that they are just asking God and He is answering them. However, as we have been warned, through the Church and Scripture, when we ask “spirits” we could end up with something very bad answering us.

I can only imagine how awful it would be to ask “is my brother in heaven”, and even though he is in heaven, a demon lies to me and says “nope”. Then, I plunge into despair and maybe rage toward God. That is how the devil works though…


as science currently understands properties of water…

It is impossible to detirmine if there is water beneath your feet using metal rods…

Any polarization effect caused by the water, and thus on the rods would depend on once orientation… if you came in on the water from one direction, it may read “yes”, however, if you came in on the water from the opposite direction AND if the polarization effect was strong enough (unlikely) the answer would be no.

If you came in at it from a perpendicular angle, it may not read any change… Or it may read a change of 180 degrees in the no OR yes direction.

There is NO scientific evidence for the validity of this practice… WHICH MEANS…

if the are ever used and consistently give correct information, if it isn’t from a scientific reason, even if just for water… it must come from a different, darker source.

All forms of divination…

even one as harmless to find water

Is evil

In Christ


Ok well I will give some specific circumstances and questions this person is asking.

At a meal he hold the pendulum over his food and asks “Is this food good for me?”

During a talk he told me he asks it how many vitamins he should take on a given day.

Also he in front of me asked if he was in a state of grace, and if his dead brother went to heaven or hell.

My instinct right off the bat was that it was evil but he justifies it by saying that in older times Catholic priests actually used this device to find evil people and do other things with. And he has some book that a Priest wrote that says it is not evil. My take is that it is evil and he shouldn’t be doing it. Asking a pendulum if you should do this or that is kind of like not relying on the providence of God and a violation of the first commandment. I only ask though so I can ease myself when I judge that this guy is defiantly doing something wrong. Also he has been told before that it is evil and is divination and he still does it so…

Anyways thanks for all your responses everyone.

God Bless,


Older times? Try modern times. Now I’m not saying that every Catholic priest uses pendulums but I can say that I know of one who used it to detect illnesses in people.
:eek: The little smiley eek face summarizes my feeling about the matter. One needs to look closely at what Jesus used in his public ministry.
What materials did he use? This we know and it didn’t include pendulums.
Why did he use them? This too we know.


Those first 2 items are really quite frivolous to be asking a pendulum, or really anything/one short of your mother or doctor. The next 2 are quite a bit more serious, and could be dangerous to one’s spiritual health.
You should ask your friend for his sources about the priests using a pendulum, and for the book so you can research its author and see whether it’s a reliable source.


Seriously, the devil did not show farmers in the past where to find water that is completely rediculous. I can see it now:

Devil: “Yes my evil plan is coming together! Soon all the worlds farmers will have plenty of drinking water! Tell me farmers of the world do you know what its like to be completely… hydrated? Mwah ha ha!”


Just because scientists haven’t figured out how people in the past found wells doesn’t mean that it must by default be occult (which by the way is something else science hasn’t found evidence of). In truth Science knows very little about the world we live in. We’re a race that’s figured out a couple of tricks and suddenly view ourselves as the Master’s of the Universe.

All of that said the abstract questions that the OP’s friend was asking a pendulum was certainly attempting us it as divinatory tool. However, the problem here is in what the OP’s friend is attempting to do with the pendulum. Not with the pendulum itself. Keep in mind that a chalice and wine can be used for divination as well but that doesn’t mean that all uses of a chalice and wine are wrong.

It could be entirely possible that a pendulum might pick up on certain physical phenominon. It is however, unlikely that it communicates directly to the spiritual realm by its nature since it is in reality a dumb object. So if one is asking questions like “am I in a state of grace” the pendulum obviously can’t answer these questions so one would have assume that the question is intended for someone who can. In which case we would be dealing with an occult situation.

Of course all of this assumes that the OP’s friend isn’t in reality physically manipulating the pendulum either knowingly or unknowlingly by anticipating the answer. In which case nothing occult or scientific is going on.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit