Friday, 12 July 2013

The Sacredness of Water

Merry meet once again.

I could never be considered a water baby.  I don't like getting my face wet, even in the shower, and I'm not a strong swimmer, in fact I couldn't really swim at all until my husband taught me a few years ago, and even then it's not my exercise of choice even though it is very good for you.  Yet like many people, I am drawn to water in its different forms.  The gentle rush and pull of waves at the beach, the roar of a waterfall, the trickle of a stream, they all call to me; even the sound of raindrops battering the windows and pouring off the roof onto the path invites me to listen, come closer, engage. Across the globe, regardless of religion, there are sacred wells and springs, but why are we drawn to them?

In an earlier post I wrote about how I had a spiritual breakthrough while visiting the Roman baths in Bath, and it was the natural spring that gave me the connection to my history and ancestry.  I could imagine the awe the Celtic settlers must have felt at seeing the steam rise from the waters of the pool, and their understanding that this was a sacred place, a link between our world and the gods. The site would have seemed magical indeed when the snows fell and still the warm water bubbled out, keeping the muddy edges free from frost.

Yet not all springs are heated.  Most springs simply pour fresh water; is this, at its most basic level, why so many springs are revered?  In an age before plumbing and filtration, fresh water was only available at these sites.  Even as a child growing up in the 1980s we were taught to only wash our hands upstream of the local dairy herd so it wasn't contaminated; clean water is vital to life and disease prevention.

A waterfall near my in-laws home in south Wales
The spring at Lady's Well in Northumbria is suspected to be Roman in origin; although it is said to be the site of the baptism of hundreds of Anglo Saxons by St Ninian, it is on a south-west to north-east orientation which follows the line of the nearby Roman road, rather than the more traditional east - west alignment of most Christian sacred buildings.  Its true history is lost, but it certainly appears that it was seen as an important spiritual site since pre-Christian times.

The Celts were the first major group to make Britain their home, and we know that water was sacred to them as a symbol of life and rebirth.  You only have to have seen a few episodes of "Time Team" to know that natural water was the scene of ritual offerings, whether a spring, stream or lake, and that coins, jewellery and ornate weapons were the kind of high-value items given as offerings to the gods and goddesses.

We know that we evolved in water, and spend the first nine months of our life submerged within the nurturing waters of the womb; yet water can take life as well.  Could this be why, as a species, we seem to be drawn to watery locations yet also maintain a respect for it?  Even in the 21st century people still throw pennies in fountains in the hope their wishes will be granted, an echo down the generations of the offerings our ancestors made.

We will probably never truly know why lakes and rivers hold such fascination for us, but their pull is undeniable.  As a witch, I can collect water for magickal work and spells from the rain, a local stream or the sea.  I connect with the elements by standing outside as the thunder rolls around the hills and the first heavy drops of rain fall upon my skin, and I cleanse myself with ritual baths.  Water is in the air I breathe, the food I cook, and it hydrates my body allowing my brain and organs to work at their optimum efficiency.  The element of water is invoked when I call the quarters, and it is represented in the tarot cards I consult for guidance.  I scry for guidance in a black bowl of water, or the reflection of a flame, and I protect my home with sprinkled salt water.  Whatever our ancestors believed about water, there is no denying that it still has sacred qualities and is revered as such all over the planet.

Blessed be )0(