Sorry, I couldn’t help the pun. Water has been on our minds rather a lot this year, what with the contamination of our local water supply a couple of months ago. That now seems to be resolved, fortunately. However, our well ran dry yesterday and it will be some time before it replenishes itself. Just as well (sorry, that wasn’t intentional) that the watering season is drawing to a close.
Wells and citernes
We don’t use mains water for watering our plants. Ours is connected to a water softener and the plants don’t like the slight salinity. We are fortunate, though, to have two wells (puits) and a citerne (water cistern). The latter is an enormous underground chamber (see the pix below, before restoration).
When we bought our barn, several years after the house, it came with a very run-down well and an equally run-down citerne. Neither of them had a roof and the stonework was crumbling and falling inwards. The SF exercised his engineering skills and now they are both safe and usable. We have installed submersible pumps in them.
The well behind the barn probably dates from the mid-late 19th century, although we can’t be sure. It is 12 metres deep, which represents a lot of digging without the benefits of modern equipment and was probably quite a dangerous job.
People around here say that before the well was sunk, the occupants of our hamlet (there was one then) had to walk 1.5 km to the nearest stream and back uphill. We are on a dry plateau without any water courses, except for those underground. You only have to read Marcel Pagnol’s Jean de Florette and Manon des Sources or see the films to realise what a precious, and scarce, resource water was. This also explains why the éviers (stone sinks) in our house are so shallow. And no doubt people didn’t bother too much about luxuries like bathing.
The SF and I debated this morning how people would have detected water at that time. Professional water diviners (sourciers) have been around for centuries. Traditionally, they used a hazel stick in the shape of a Y (une baguette) or a watch and chain. Le sourcier walked over an area until the rod or watch moved or indicated that water was beneath the spot. The depth of the source was determined by placing pebbles in the palm of the hand until the rod stopped moving. Each pebble represented one metre. This method was also used to detect precious metals and gems. At different times, both the Pope and Martin Luther condemned the practice.
There is no scientific evidence that divination (or dowsing) works. Various controlled experiments suggest that it’s no more effective than random chance. The SF fully concurs with this. However, without some form of assistance, scientific or otherwise, the folk in our hamlet would have been extremely lucky to find at the first try the tiny source that feeds our well. And they wouldn’t have had the equipment, or the time, to keep digging holes until they did come across it.
So the art of water divining remains a mystery. People debate whether it’s a mystic gift, a process with a scientific basis or just charlatanry. Some claim that you must have the gift to be able to do it. Others assert that divination can be taught. In my researches, I’ve even found a sourcier in the Tarn who gives courses in water divining. And you can still call on the services of a professional sourcier if you want to find water on your property.
You might also like:
Copyright © 2017 Life on La Lune, all rights reserved