Water Aerobics Exercises Examples
A MAGICAL HISTORY
In almost two decades of researching mind, body, and spirit subjects, I’ve encountered many interesting and wonderful people, places, and techniques for self-discovery. One of the strangest encounters followed my interview with Margaret Marion Stewart of the Springs’ Foundation.
Margaret was a guide to the Bath springs: Cross Bath Spring, the Hetling Spring, and the King’s Spring. She gave guided tours of the Cross Bath. R. J. Stewart, author of Waters of the Gap,1 had told her about the origins of the springs. His research had shown them to be a pre-druidic sacred place, oracular mystery school, and underworld initiation center.
According to Celtic legend, in the 9th century B.C., a chieftain called Bladud was expelled from court because his leprosy made him so ill that he was unable to rule. He became a swineherd instead. One day he followed a scabby pig to the springs and watched as it wallowed in the hot mud and emerged with its pink complexion restored. He plunged in himself and was cured. (The pig is the cult animal of Ceridwen, the goddess of the cauldron of inspiration and immortality.) Bladud is believed to have set up the first academy at the Bath springs around 800 B.C.; and the arts, astronomy, mathematics, astrology, prophecy, divination, and necromancy were taught there.
Margaret told of a legendary place referred to by the Greeks that was beyond Hyperborea, beyond the north wind. It was a triangular island that had two crops a year and hot springs gushing at the center. She felt sure that these were the Bath springs. Reinforcing the Greek connection, there are stories that druids from Bath taught Pythagoras.
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The area around the springs would have been sacred, with the public possibly only accessing it at festival times connected with the eightfold calendar. The pre-Roman Celtic culture would have been matriarchal and matrilineal; the sun would have been regarded as feminine, the hot springs as waters from the womb of the Goddess. A volunteer for the Springs’ Foundation said, “I really believe it’s sacred.” She also revealed that since being involved with the spring, “I’ve felt completely protected. When I have difficulties in my life, I go to the spring, and things work out.” This Goddess spirituality is undoubtedly of considerable importance to some in Bath.
During an excavation of the springs in the late 1970s, pre-Roman artifacts were discovered coins and offerings going back 7,000 years. There were also the remains of the walls the Romans had built around the springs. They paid homage to the local deity by calling the site Aquae Sulis (Waters of Sulis) in honor of the Celtic goddess Sulis (sulis means “an opening,” “an orifice,” “an eye,” or “a gap”). They built a temple there, incorporating the ancient Celtic site, and dedicated it to Sulis Minerva. (Minerva is the nearest equivalent Roman goddess to Sulis, a goddess of wisdom, healing, and war.)
West of the larger King’s Spring, linked to it by a sacred grove, lies the Cross Bath. Margaret’s sense of its function was that it was an inner sanctuary. An earlier excavation had revealed part of an altar stone dedicated to Aesculapius, the Greco-Roman god of healing, who presided over aesculapia, dream healing temples, where people had a ritual bath and then slept nearby. (Evidence of sheltering cubicles has been discovered under what’s now a modern shopping center.) They would have discussed their dreams with the resident therapeuts of the Romano-Celtic period a sort of early form of psychoanalysis.
From medieval times to the 18th century, the Cross Bath was known as Balneum Crucis (Bath of the Cross). It was part of a pilgrimage route between the Glastonbury and Malmesbury abbeys. The pilgrims would carry a life-sized replica of the cross and stop at certain points on the journey. One of the stopping places was the nearby Saint John’s Hospital, built by the Knights Templar in 1174. At the time, it was a hospitality place, but such spots eventually became known as hospitals because so many travelers were sick. At the Cross Bath, the pilgrims would have a ritual bath in the healing waters before going on refreshed.
It’s also reported that many queens visited the Cross Bath over the years, including Queen Mary; and the town itself became known as Royal Bath in the early 17th century when James I’s queen,
Anne of Denmark, visited, bathed, and soon conceived. An 18th-century author of a guide to the baths suggested that the waters might well act as a miraculous cure for infertility.
Bath became a fashionable resort of Georgian England under Beau Nash, the legendary master of ceremonies; and in 1822 a doctor with a lucrative practice treating wealthy neurotics in the town said the water was a sovereign cure for “rheumatic, gouty, and paralytic afflictions, in all those disorders originating from indigestion and acidity of the stomach, bilious and glandural obstructions, hypochondriac and hysterical afflictions.” By that time, many townsfolk were making a living off the waters, providing cures ranging from cups of steaming water to hot water enemas, selling souvenirs, housing invalids, or carrying them in “Bath chairs” through the streets.
In the 1970s, that all stopped. In 1976, the National Health Service stated that plunging patients into the miraculous water was no more effective than turning on a hot tap, and in 1978 tragedy struck. The water at the King’s Spring was found to be polluted, and a girl died of a meningitis-related illness. Bathing ended overnight, and visitors to the Roman baths museum were warned against touching the water.