Water Exercises Equipment
THE ROLE OF WATER TODAY
In modern times, we generally view such practices as quaintly (or foolishly) superstitious; we dismiss our early ancestors as ignorant savages who worshipped natural phenomena because they lacked the rationality of science. Yet a look at the animist religions that still thrive in many cultures around the globe indicates that this may be a simplistic view of nature-based religions [see Chapter 14]. Rather than focusing on the hocus-pocus of the supernatural (as they’re often portrayed), such religions are rooted in the natural world, celebrating and regulating the relationships between humankind, other species, and the land that sustains us all.
In America, animism runs through the indigenous religions of the land. Various springs, wells, and pools are sacred to Native American tribal groups; and in such holy places one finds offerings similar to those by Chalice Well: feathers, flowers, stones, sage, tobacco, small carved animal forms, scraps of red cloth tied to trees, and other tokens of prayer. The Native American sweat-lodge ceremony uses water sprinkled over red-hot rocks to create the steam that’s called the “breath of life.” The lodge itself is the womb of Mother Earth, in which one is washed clean, purified, and spiritually reborn. In Native American church ceremonies, a pail of “Morning Water” is traditionally carried and prayed over by a woman before being sent sunwise around the circle to be shared by all. Water is sacred through its absence in the four-day Sundance ceremony, or the ritual of Crying for a Vision. After four days without water (or food), the first drop on the tongue is a potent reminder to be thankful for this precious gift from Mother Earth.
Tom Blue Wolf of the Eastern Lower Muscogee Creek Nation speaks of the central importance of water, particularly at a time when water tables worldwide are diminishing at alarming rates:
Once upon a time, the Chattahoochee River was known to the people here as the source of life. Every morning we would go to the water and fill ourselves with gratitude, and thank the Creator for giving us this source of life. We would honor it throughout the day. At that time, water was known as the Long Man. It came from a place that has no beginning, and went to a place that had no end. But now, for the first time in the history of our people, we can see the end of water.
Mythologist Michael Meade takes note of the ancient symbolism of water, and its vital role in our lives today:
Of the elements which some people count as four, and others count as five water is the element for reconciliation. Water is the element of flow. When water goes missing, flow goes missing. The ancient Irish used to say that there were two suns in the world.
Water Exercises Equipment Photo Gallery
One you see rise in the morning. The other is very deep in the Earth, and it’s called the black sun or inner sun. It’s a hot fire in there; no one knows how hot. The Earth is roughly 70 percent water because of that hidden sun inside. When the water goes down, the Earth heats up too much part of the global warming that’s happening everywhere. It happens inside people also, because people are like the Earth. People are 70 percent water, like the Earth, and people have a hidden sun or else we wouldn’t be 96° when it’s 40° outside. Everyone in the world is burning, and the water in the body keeps that burning from becoming a fever. What happens literally also happens emotionally and spiritually, so when people forget how to carry water and how to use water to reconcile, you get an increasing amount of heated conflict, as we’re seeing around the world today. In many cultures it’s the elders who carry the water, because elders are the peace-bringers. When a culture can’t remember or imagine peace on its streets or how to negotiate peace, it means its elders have forgotten what to do, how to carry water.4
The following evocative words come from a film about Chief Seattle, depicting the forced transfer of Suquamish lands to the U.S. government in 1855:
The shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water, but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you our land, you must remember that it is sacred. Each ghostly reflection in the clear water of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father. The rivers are our brothers. They quench our thirst. They carry our canoes and feed our children. So you must give to the rivers the kindness you would give any brother This we know: the Earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the Earth.5
I’m reminded here, at Dupath Well, that I, too, have distant ancestors who didn’t consider themselves greater than the land on which they lived; didn’t take good, pure water for granted; and who knew humans belonged to the earth.
An old English folklorist told me once that nature spirits would live in a well, a spring, a lake, or a grove of trees only as long as they were remembered and addressed respectfully. If the spirits were neglected, they’d leave the place; the land would feel soulless and dead henceforth. Remembering this, I dropped a pin into the brown water of Dupath Well. The well house stands near a farmyard. I could hear the traffic of the roads nearby, and yet somehow the spot still seemed timeless, magicaland very much alive. I cupped my hands, drank from the well, and whispered, “Thank you,” as I left. I couldn’t even tell you now who exactly I was addressing a nature spirit, a well fairy, a Celtic goddess, or the earth itself. And yet, in that ancient place, I swear that someone was listening.