October 18, 1999 (Ira Pilgrim)


Witch, n. (1) An ugly repulsive old woman in a wicked league with the devil. (2) A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.

Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)

There is an old story about a man who is standing on a tall bridge and looking down at the water. He is approached by an old crone.

Woman: Watcha doin' sonny?

Man: I'm going to jump off of this bridge and kill myself.

W: Watcha wanna do that for?

M: I'm a banker. I've been using the bank's money to play the market. The market dropped and I lost more money than I can ever repay. Tomorrow the bank examiners will come and I'll end up in jail. I told my wife what I had done and she left me. I have nothing left to live for.

W: Well, you're in luck, sonny. It so happens that I'm a witch and, for a small consideration, I can fix everything.

M: If you could, I'd do anything.

W: (She snaps her fingers) Alakazam!! The money is back in the bank account and the books are all fixed. Alakazam!! Your wife is back home. She remembers nothing that you told her and anxiously awaits your return.

M: That's absolutely marvelous. Now, what is the consideration?

W: Not much; you just spend tonight with me and do everything that I want.

The man goes to the witch's room and spends a very active night. He awakens in the morning, looks at the crone lying next to him and shudders. She opens her eyes and looks at him, with a satisfied smile on her face.

W: How old are you, sonny?

M: Forty five.

W: Aren't you a little old to still be believing in witches?

There are two kinds of people with regard to magic and witchcraft: those who believe in it and those who do not. Among the non-believers are some who use "magic" to impress, or extract money from, those who do believe. Some of the nonbelievers are skilled showmen who earn a very good living impressing people with their magical skill.

Witchcraft was taken very seriously in times past. The Bible considers witchcraft to be the work of the Devil and, for nine centuries, hordes of people were tortured and burned at the stake for supposedly practicing witchcraft.

Just as children believe in all sorts of impossible things, made more believable by the cinema's special effects, many adults never lose their gullibility.

Our own local form of fakery is water witching, also called dowsing. It is one form of witchcraft that is almost always done by men rather than women. A man walks around with a forked stick. When the stick dips down, that is where he claims there is water. That is where the believer drills his well. Usually water is found; sometimes it isn't. Since there is underground water almost anywhere if one drills deep enough, the success rate of dowsers is pretty high.

There have been several controlled tests to see if water witches could actually detect water with their magical powers and the forked stick. Boxes containing either sand or water were used to test whether they could tell the difference. The witchers failed miserably.

My property has no apparent water source on it. Consequently my forked stick pointed at the sky. I built a 40,000 gallon underground cistern which works well. In this very dry year, at a time when some of my neighbor's wells are starting to run dry, my cistern is more than half full. During the rainy season, I collect water off my roof and into two 1,500 gallon tanks, and my cistern collects the rain that falls on its roof. The water is soft and almost pollution free.

I have a dowsing method that is just as good as the forked stick method. I put two soda straws up my nose and walk around. When the straws drop, or shoot out, that is where the water is. I have two other equally efficacious methods. One is the Reverse Viagra Method and the other, which also uses a soda straw, is the Sudden Petard method. I can't describe them here because both methods require partial nudity, and this is a family newspaper.

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