WITH NEARLY 50 PERCENT OF THE STATE IN “EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHT,” CALIFORNIANS ARE INCREASINGLY TURNING TO SPIRITUAL METHODS AND EVEN MAGIC IN THEIR DESPERATION TO BRING AN END TO THE DRY SPELL.

“A drought is upon her waters; and they shall be dried up: for it is the land of graven images, and they are mad upon their idols.” Jeremiah 50:38 

Vern Tassey doesn’t advertise. He’s never even had a business card. But here in California’s Central Valley, word has gotten around that he’s a man with “the gift,” and Tassey, a plainspoken, 76-year-old grandfather, has never been busier. Farmers call him day and night — some from as far away as the outskirts of San Francisco and even across the state line in Nevada. They ask, sometimes even beg, him to come to their land. “Name your price,” one told him. But Tassey has so far declined. What he does has never been about money, he says, and he prefers to work closer to home.

Tassey is what is known as a “water witch,” or a dowser — someone who uses little more than intuition and a rod or a stick to locate underground sources of water. It’s an ancient art that dates back at least to the 1500s — though some dowsers have argued the origins are even earlier, pointing to what they say is Biblical evidence of Moses using a rod to summon water. In California, farmers have been “witching the land” for decades — though the practitioners of this obscure ritual have never been as high profile or as in demand as during the last year. MORE