***image1***We all use water every day, and it’s the most essential element for life, and yet we take it for granted, in the Western world anyway. Forget science; you don’t need it to understand just how vital this resource, which we literally have ‘on tap’, is.
It can be no coincidence that 75% of this planet of ours is covered with water, and our bodies are made up of roughly the same percentage. This means that we are mostly made of water, with just a handful of chemicals thrown in to make human ‘soup’, and in fact we ourselves emerged from the oceans. Without water there would be no life; it’s as simple as that. Our ancestors had a natural reverence for water and prized its purity. Think about that next time you watch it gurgling down the drain! It is difficult to feel the same about water that we know has already passed through many bodies before it reached our kitchens!
***image2***To me water is proof of an intelligent universe. It’s made up of hydrogen and oxygen molecules. Merged together they form water, but if you separate the two elements, you are left with two different gases, invisible and tasteless. Why do these two gases conveniently combine this way? The fact that oxygen and hydrogen molecules cling together to provide us with water is evidence that there’s intelligence behind its formation. The actual molecules are intelligent and are capable of being directed by God, the creator, the power of the Universe, whatever you want to call it.
Water can create life or destroy it. It’s probably one of nature’s most lethal weapons and floods are impossible to stop of evade. Water is magical and mercurial. There is no other substance I can think of that exists in three distinct forms; liquid, ice, and vapour. No wonder then that our ancestors saw it as sacred.
Water undertakes an endless journey around the planet and its atmosphere, rising from the oceans as vapour, cooling as it drifts over mountain ranges and eventually falling back down as water droplets once more. Then it’s carried down the streams and rivers back to the sea. This is a perfect analogy for the circle of life, and underlines the sacred aspect of water.
***image3***To the Celts, water was a boundary between land and sky, and so they saw wells and springs as doorways between the earth and the spirit world. This makes it unsurprising that they threw precious artefacts or garlands of flowers into the water to offer them as gifts to the Gods. Of course nowadays the most precious thing you are likely to find in a stream is a shopping trolley! No wonder the world seems to be in trouble as one can’t imagine the ‘Gods’ looking very favourably on that as an offering!
As with other pagan beliefs, the sacredness of water eventually fell foul of the new Christian dogma and in the seventh century AD it was made illegal for anyone to “go to wells…or anywhere else except to God’s church, and there make vows or release himself from them.” Of course the Christian church also uses water in its own sacraments, such as Baptism, where the ritual washing of the baby’s head along with holy words, is believed to remove the stain of mortal sin from the child’s soul.
There are thousands of sacred places in the world where the main ingredient is water in some form. Oceans, wells, lakes, waterfalls, rivers and springs have all played their part since prehistoric times. Even today people, sometimes in their millions, will gather at mysterious places, seeking cleansing, enlightenment and soul awakening.
Probably the most well-known river used for sacred purposes is the Ganges, in India. The city of Banaras, which runs alongside the Ganges for many miles, is the most visited pilgrimage in the world. It’s believed that the Ganges is a medium for the Goddess Shiva, and that her essence, carried in the river, will wash away all sins. Up to twenty million pilgrims obviously believe this because they go there every year. Sometimes the crowds are so eager that people are actually trampled to death in the crush. Some go to have their sins cleansed, some to ask for riches and yet others believe that bathing in the waters will increase their fertility.
***image4***Another legend regarding the powers of water involves spas. When the early Britains saw water pouring from the ground at Bath, they thought it had to be the work of giants or wizards. Considering the spectacle that 250,000 gallons a day must have made, it’s not surprising.
It’s a pity the recent endeavour to complete the new baths there couldn’t call on those same wizards to complete the task; perhaps then it would have been finished on schedule! Of course the Romans made a lot of use of the spa waters of bath, but they cannot lay claim to being the first. 16,000 Iron Age coins have been found inside the springs.
In Glastonbury there is the Chalice Well. Next to it is a hawthorn tree which legend says sprung from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, who placed it there. Occupation of the area dates from the 4th century, and history says that the well there has never failed. 25,000 gallons of water emerge at the surface every day, filling subterranean chambers especially built to store it. It’s not surprising that the well became known for its healing powers, because the water contains a lot of iron and anaemia was rife in the 18th and 19th centuries.
It’s very interesting that every single culture on earth seems to have a legend relating to a deluge or great flood. From Noah’s Ark, to the Chinese legend of Pan Gu, to the Aboriginal story of Gajara; from the Teutonic Nifel-heim and the Mayan Hunab-KÃº, to the Egyptians belief in Nu, the churning water from which all life sprung; all people in every place believe that life came from water.
So, next time you’re in the bath or shower, light a few candles and play some relaxing music and realise that you are not just cleaning your body, but also washing your soul in a spiritual element.
This is the Lakota Native American legend of the creation of the world:
***image5***In the world before this one people were not good. The Creator was angry and he set out to make a new world. One of his songs brought rain and the water poured forth. By the time the rain had stopped, the earth was flooded. All the people and almost all the animals had drowned. Only the crow, Kangi was alive.
Kangi pleaded with the Creator to make him a new place to rest. So the Creator started to make a new world. He chose four animals from his Pipe Bag, which could stay underwater for a long time. He sent each in turn to get a lump of mud from beneath the floodwaters. First the loon tried, but it couldn’t reach the bottom. The otter, even with its strong webbed feet, also failed. Next, the beaver used its large flat tail to propel itself deep under the water, but it too failed to bring back mud.
Finally, the turtle took his turn. He stayed under the water for so long that everyone thought he had drowned. But suddenly he surfaced and mud filled his feet and claws and the cracks between his upper and lower shells. The Creator sang again and shaped the mud in his hands and spread it on the water, where it was just big enough for himself and the crow. Then he shook two long eagle wing feathers over the mud until earth spread wide and varied, overcoming the waters. The land was then too dry so the Creator cried tears that became oceans, streams, and lakes. He named the new land Turtle Continent in honour of the turtle.
The Creator then took many animals and birds from his great pipe bag and spread them across the earth. He made men and women from red, white, black, and yellow earth. He warned them about the fate of the people who came before them. He promised all would be well if all living things learned to live in harmony. But the world would be destroyed again if they made it bad and ugly.