Friday, August 22, 2014

Divining the Dead

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2011 on grave-witching.)

18th Century Dowser

Regardless of what you call it, divining, witching, dowsing or rhabdomancy - the interest in this ancient art is growing.
Grave dowsing has caught the attention of genealogists around the world as a way to locate the unmarked graves of ancestors. It can also be utilized to help locate lost burial grounds, find pioneer cemeteries, and uncover the burial grounds of Native Americans.

Y Branch
Witching, divining or dowsing has been used for centuries to locate water, oil, caves, precious metals, artifacts and treasure.  Cave paintings depicting dowsing have been found in France, Spain and the Middle East.  

Pharaohs were buried with dowsing tools and etchings on how the tools were used have been found on the walls of their tombs. Dowsing is mentioned in the Old Testament.   The Greek poet Homer referred to dowsing as Rhabdomancy – meaning divining rod in Greek.  Dowsing with a pendulum was popular in ancient Greece. In the 1700 and 1800’s. Europeans used forked branches to locate water and ore deposits. The U.S. military used dowsers in the Viet Nam War to locate land mines and hidden tunnels.  The British military had dowsers on the Falkland Islands to help locate unexploded ordnances.

De Vinci
There were times in history when dowsers were considered to be witches, or evil.  The Catholic Church assisted in this rumor by declaring that the devil was involved, giving dowsers ‘special powers.’  Dowsing fell from favor and went underground during the 1500's and 1600’s.  Victorians revived an awareness of it with their interest in the mystical and spiritual.  Many well-known people were dowsers including Leonardo De Vinci, Robert Boyle, Otto Edler von Graeve and Albert Einstein.

There are mainly four types of dowsing items used.  There is the rod, usually from a peach, willow or witch hazel tree.  The L rod can be brass, copper, aluminum, even wire coat hanger, bent in the shape of an L.  The Bobber rod is a long, slender, tapered stick.  The Pendulum is not a rod but a weight with a chain or a string attached.

L Rods

The actual skill of dowsing is not hard to learn.   L rods are easy to use and to explain.  You can make your own from wire coat hangers. Simple cut off the hook and straighten out the wire.  Make a bend about 4 inches in on the wire to create an L shape.  The smaller part of the L will be the handle. Create another and you have two L rods.

L rods held out

Stand normally, hands at your side.  Raise your arms to bend naturally at your elbows, with your forearms parallel to the ground.  Hold each rod straight out.  The rods should be held lightly in your hands.  Do not place your thumbs over the bend in the rods.  Now begin walking slowly and calmly toward the area you wish to test.  When you step on a grave the rods should cross or swing apart. When you step off the grave, the rods should uncross or swing back to their former positions.  Before you attempt to go into uncharted territory to divine graves, get your feet wet.  Take your rods to a cemetery and practice the art of dowsing there.

Many dowsing books and articles mention that cemeteries in the U.S. are usually laid out with heads pointing west and feet pointing east.  Supposedly this will aid you in identifying the gender of the body.  I have been in countless cemeteries where this is not the case.  While it may have begun in that manner, through the centuries, especially in large cemeteries, the bodies have been buried with the lay of the land.  Regardless, working your way from north to south will help you create an organized search route and may be able to determine the width of the cemetery.

Counting Steps
Once you get familiar with the rods, you may want to try to identify age and gender.  Age can be guessed at by the length of the body.  Count your steps lengthwise along the body.  A general rule of thumb is 1 or 2 steps for an infant, 3 or 4 steps for a child, 5, 6 or 7 steps for an adult. 

...indicates a female.

For gender, there are several methods.  An easy  one is to push one rod in the ground at the center of a grave.  Step back away from the grave and reapproach the grave with the remaining rod in one hand, out in front of you.  A swing to the left indicates a female; to the right is a male.  You can attempt to verify by approaching the grave from the other end and see if the verdict is the same.  (This is why practicing in a cemetery is useful – The stones will verify what you’ve found out.  Try different methods in order to discover what really works for you.)  Also remember, dowsing rods can also pick up on cremated bodies and animal remains

Dowsing Forms
So how does it work?  Better still, why does it work?  There are no true proven answers.  Theories abound that there may be a physical connection made between the dowser and the item sought.  It could possibly be an energy vibration that the dowser tunes into and the diving rods amplify, causing them to move.   Scientists say that the rods are not picking up on soil disturbances, metal in the ground, magnetic fields, or decay.  But as many have proven, believing in dowsing is not required for it to work.

Not everyone can dowse.  Just as we don’t know why it works, we also don’t understand why some people have the ability and some don’t.  As a water witcher, I felt compelled to try grave dousing.  I have always used peach or willow branches as Y dowsing rods, but discovered that the metal L rods work fine.  Cajoling my husband to assist me, we went to Richmond Cemetery in Richmond, Kentucky so I could see if I had, as my grandma would have said, ‘the touch.’  Grandma would be proud - I do.

Albert Einstein
Be skeptical, if you like.   After all, many consider this to be based on folklore, superstition, placing dowsers in the same category as charlatans and with doctors. Albert Einstein explained dowsing as a way of using the human senses to perceive something that is “unknown to us at this time.”     And since he had a good grasp on things being ‘relative,’ I can buy that! 

To learn more about dowsing visit these web sites:

International Society of Dowsers
American Society of Dowsers
Appalachian Dowsers      
Canadian Society of Dowsers

~ Joy

Friday, August 15, 2014

Cross By the Side of the Road

We’ve all seen them – those crosses and shrines along the side of the road, marking where someone has died in an accident.  Many drivers find them offensive and dangerous, others find them touching and thought-provoking; some just ask “Why?”
Roadside memorials have had a place on our highways and byways since man began traveling.  It was only practical, and necessary to bury someone where they fell on a journey. 

The Spanish brought the tradition of descansos (meaning ‘place of rest’) to America. Coffin bearers would place a stone on the route each time they set the coffin down to rest, from the church to the cemetery.  This was a reminder for others to pray for the deceased.

Today, these memorials are set up to mark the place where someone has died.  Family members express a universal motive for creating roadside memorials: To mark the spot where their loved one drew their last breathe: where their spirit departed.

Memorials vary in look and feel, some may be made up of a bunch of flowers stuck in the ground, or a simple wooden cross with a name painted on it. Others are more elaborate, a plaque with an inscription placed on a tree, or personal mementos edged with brick or rock along the side of the road.

Opinions about these roadside shrines are mixed.  Many people see them as places of healing for families who lost a loved one in an accident. Others say they represent a startling safe-driving message for passersby. 

Those opposed find the memorials to be ghoulish, a distraction, and a road safety hazard to drivers; the shrines create problems for road workers trying to maintain the right-of-ways.  Many also oppose special exemptions that are given for roadside memorials when the law bars all others from placing signs, advertising or promotions on public property.

Problems also stem from a public space being used for personal mourning.  Many feel it is the state’s responsibility to keep roadways and right-of-ways clear of debris, and distractions. 

States around the country are discovering that roadside memorials are becoming too numerous. With over 50,000 travel-related deaths occurring each year in the U.S., memorials have started appearing everywhere, and if not constantly attended to, quickly dissolve into attention-getting eyesores.

Although there are no federal laws concerning roadside memorials, many states in the U.S. are enacting laws to limit or eliminate them. Others are trying to find a balance between a family’s desire to express grief, and the public’s right to safe roadways.

Roadside memorials remain a sensitive issue – one that each state will have to eventually come to terms with. But the bottom line must remain safety first, or the end result could be another roadside memorial ...

~ Joy

Friday, August 8, 2014

100 Facts about World War One - 100 Years After It Began

This week marks the 100th anniversary of the start of World War One. Here are 100 facts about that fateful war, 100 years after its beginning.

Ramp Up To War
1) The final trigger for the war came on June 28th when Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife Sophie were gunned down
Archduke Ferdinand

2) “The Black Hand,” a Serbian terrorist group, planned the murders

3) Serbian nationalist and Black Hand member, Gavrilo Princip was the assassin

4) The war had actually been a long time in coming; spanning four decades of diplomatic conflicts between Italy, France, Britain, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia concerning political issues, the economy, and unresolved territorial disputes involving the Balkans


5) World War One was known as “The Great War”; The War to End All Wars; The War of the Nations, and is abbreviated as WWI
6) Great Britain and the British Empire declared war on Germany after the Central Powers invaded Belgium

7) The Central Powers were made up of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Turkey, and Bulgaria

8) The Allied Powers were made up of Great Britain, France, Russia, Italy, Japan, Rumania, Serbia, Belgium, Portugal, Greece, Montenegro, and, eventually, the United States

9) This was the first global conflict

War Facts
10) WWI lasted for 4 years - from 1914 to 1918

11) WWI changed the way war was fought and influenced the way future wars would be fought
12) 65 million soldiers fought during WWI

13) It was the sixth deadliest conflict in world history

14) Soldiers came from over 40 countries and numerous colonies

15) Russia marshaled 12 million fighting troops: this was the largest army in the war

16) Of those 12 million, more than ¾ of the men were killed, wounded or MIA

17) More than 10 million soldiers died; 6 million for the Allies and 4 million for the Central Powers
Mata Hari

18) That equates to over 6,000 deaths every day during the war

19) Another 21 million were wounded

20) Mata Hari’s name was Margaretha Zelle, a Dutch exotic dancer

21) She was executed in France in 1917, accused of being a spy

Air Warfare
22) WWI was the first war to be fought in the air
Air War

23) Over 65,000 aircraft had been produced by the end of the war

24) Thirty-eight American volunteers fought in the French Air Service years before the U.S. entered the war

25) Their unit was known as the Lafayette Escadrille: One of the best fighting units on the Western Front

26) The Escadrille men flew more than 3,000 missions

27) Germany built 123 Zeppelin airships

28) Zeppelins flew more than 100 bombing runs on Great Britain

29) The title “Flying Ace” was bestowed on a pilot after he had downed 5 enemy aircraft

The Red Baron
30) The Allies Top Ace was Rene Fonck of France who shot down 75 enemy planes

31) Eddie Rickenbacker was America’s Top Ace with 26 kills

32) Manfred Von Richthofen, better known as “The Red Baron,” was Germany’s Top Ace with 80 kills

33) Richthofen died April 21, 1918 after being shot down near Amiens

34) WWI was the first time aircraft carriers were used in a war

Naval Warfare
35) WWI was the last war to feature defining naval battles
German U-Boat

36) In the Battle of Jutland, over 250 ships took part in the fight

37) Germany built over 400 U-boats during the war

38) Of those 400, Germany lost on 178 U-boats during the war

39) The Central Powers sank over 5,500 Allied and neutral ships

40) Most were sunk in the English Channel

RMS Lusitania
41) The most famous ship to be sunk during the war was the RMS Lusitania in 1915
RMS Lusitania

42) A German sub sank her on May 7, 1915

43) A total of 1,198 people died when the Lusitania sank

44) 128 were Americans

45) The Lusitania went down within 18 minutes
46) This single act propelled the U.S. into the war
46) The United States entered the war on April 6, 1917

47) During those 18 months, over 116,000 Americans were killed

48) And 204,000 American soldiers were injured

Ground Forces
49) 1.2 million soldiers died during the Battle of the Somme

Ssgt. York
50) 58,000 British soldiers died during the first day of the Somme Battle

51) The most decorated American solider of the war was Alvin York who received a medal of honor for leading an attack on a German gun nest; killing 28 German soldiers and capturing another 32

52) The Western Front was made up of 466 miles, which stretched from the English Channel to Switzerland

53) Over 2,500 miles of trenches were dug on The Front
In the Trenches

54) For every 4 inches of trench dug, there was one soldier to defend it

55) By the end of the war, over 200,000 men had lost their lives in the trenches

56) Trench foot was a major problem during the war

57) The British army had over 20,000 cases reported during the first year
Battle of Verdun

58) The trenches were crawling with rats and lice

59) In 1916, the Battle of Verdun resulted in over one million causalities – all within a 10-month time frame

60) The Germans were the first to use flame-throwers in the war
WWI Tank

61) The flames could go as far as 130 feet

62) Tanks were first used in WWI

63) Tanks were originally called “landships

64) The first tank prototype was named “Little Willie

Little Willie
65) British tanks were designated as male and female: male tanks had cannons; female tanks had guns

66) This was the first war where self-powered machine gun use was widespread

67) Artillery weapons were responsible for 70% of all battlefield deaths

Big Bertha
68) Artillery barrages could be heard for hundreds of miles

69) The French had 75mm guns called “Devil Guns” by the Germans

70) Germany had a 48-ton Howitzer nicknamed “Big Bertha

71) Big Bertha could fire a 2,0050 pound shell almost 10 miles

Chemical Weapons
72) Germany had a total of 13 of these guns

73) WWI was the first time chemical weapons were used in war

74) France was the first country to use tear gas against the enemy in 1914

75) The following year, Germany was the first country to use poisonous chlorine gas against the enemy
Shell Shock

76) Over 30 different poisonous gases were used during the war

77) Over 1-million soldiers were gassed during the fighting

78) Of those, lose to 92,000 died

79) At the end of the conflict, most countries signed treaties, which outlawed the use of chemical weapons

80) More than half-a-million men died from mustard gas during the war

81) After the war over 80,000 British soldiers were diagnosed as suffering from shell shock

82) By the end of the war over 250,000 British soldiers had undergone at least one amputation

Spanish Influenza
83) The Spanish Influenza epidemic spread far and wide due in part, to WWI

84) By 1918, the U.S. Army had lost 60% of its soldiers to the flu

85) The U.S. Navy lost 40% of their men to the influenza

86) When the flu outbreak ended, at least a third of the soldiers had died from it

Other Causalities
87) Civilian deaths were over 6.6 million during the war

88) German soldiers shot and killed 150 civilians at Aerschot as part of their war strategy to incite terror in the public

89) Russia lost over 2 million civilians

90) During the four years of the war, 11% of France’s residents were either killed or wounded
Execution of Edith Cavell

91) A British nurse, Edith Cavell assisted 200 Allied soldiers in escaping from Belgium during the war

92) The Germans had her executed by a firing squad

93) Cavell’s death helped turn public sentiment against the Germans and the Central Powers

Sergeant Stubby
94) Over 1 million dogs died on WWI battlefields while scouting, acting as sentries or carrying messages

95) Dogs were also used to lay telegraph lines

96) The most decorated military dog during the war was Sergeant Stubby, a bull terrier mix 

97) Stubby took part in 17 battles and captured a German spy

WWI Poster
98) The war resulted in the loss of 8 million military horses

99) Over half-a-million carrier pigeons were used to carry messages along the front

100) After the war, a total of four empires collapsed: Germany, Ottoman, Austro-Hungary, and Russia

~ Joy