SANTA CRUZ -- The 29th annual West Coast Dowsing Conference settled into UC Santa Cruz on Friday and will remain through Tuesday, displaying myriad ways people have found to expand and apply an ancient divining technique perhaps best known as a way to discover groundwater.
Some at the conference portrayed dowsing as a way to discover health and contentment.
The American Society of Dowsers conference included a basic Dowsing School and a plethora of workshop topics -- more than 60 -- from earth acupuncture to dowsing in modern medicine to shamanic feng shui to alchemy to psychic protection.
The West Coast conference is held in Santa Cruz every other year, alternating with Flagstaff, Ariz., organizers said.
Sunday, Richard Tippett of Ertech Construction Management in Watsonville taught a workshop on using dowsing tools to improve business.
"There are a lot of practical uses for this stuff," he said. "It's been around for about 6,000 years. The joke is that Moses was a dowser."
Jody Healy of Soquel, who helped organize Sunday night's Fun Night, said she got involved with the conference when she visited with a friend.
Healy called dowsing an externalization of intuition, and said she uses it for things like choosing a doctor.
"It's a great conference; everyone learns a lot and has a great time," she said.
Robert Gandrup of Aromas taught a workshop about using numerology to help predict the post-2012 world.
Gandrup said his father and grandfather were traditional dowsers, scouting out well locations, but that he didn't realize all the applications until he began associating with other dowsers in the 1980s.
Now a business consultant, he said he likes to think of dowsing as "intuition on command."
It is a way to communicate with the subconscious, and can be used for everything from simple questions, like picking a meal at a restaurant, to much larger inquiries, he said.
He showed a dousing instrument, a kind of metal medallion on a string, that will gravitate toward an answer written on a piece of paper, for instance. Or a dish listed on a menu.
"It really can change your life," Gandrup said. "Anyone can do it and it can help anyone."
The conference included vendors selling books, tapes, labyrinths, herbs and other products.
Adhi Two Owls of Vermont was selling rattles and other items she created that are used by shamans.
Two Owls earned an art degree at the Kansas City Art Institute and began studying shamanic healing, particularly those using rattles, after beginning to focus her artwork on sacred objects.
She said shaman is a Mongolian word for someone who communicates with spirits, with use of an instrument that creates a trance-like state that allows them to travel through other dimensions. Often, it is used for community healing, she said.
Two Owls and others at the conference acknowledged that some dismiss their beliefs as hocus pocus.
"People always want to challenge you," she said. "Sometimes I rise to the occasion and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I think it's not my fight."
Alan Handelsman of Scottsdale, Ariz., was selling custom resonance tuners used to harmonize energy fields.
Handelsman began doing hypnotherapy in 2000, after finding cures for his stage fright and depression he suffered from as a professional musician, he said.
He said he first saw the tuner in action in 1978, when his flute teacher, Harold Bennett of New York, used it to harmonize instruments in a practice Bennett called homogenization.
"Some thought it was nuts and some swore by it," he said. "But mystery follows us all the time. I'm skeptical of people who think they can explain everything.
"And this helped me get straightened out, so I use what I've learned to help others."
Elizabeth Weedn of Houston said she has come to three annual conferences and Saturday taught a workshop that featured bending spoons and viewing auras. She said the Santa Cruz Mountains provide the perfect setting for the conference.
"I love it; it's just magical," Weedn said.