The Strong Symbolism of Water

Recently I wrote about the symbolism of the circle, noting how such a basic and simple thing – a circle – can express so much meaning. I also wrote about the box ritual – again, simple idea, but with great significance. The same, and more, can be said about water.

All cultures, religions and traditions have rituals using water. Holy water. We find symbolism and references everywhere.

A water sharing ritual for the wedding ceremony. (Garth Woods)

Almost all Christian churches or sects have initiation rituals involving water: baptism. Its origins are in the flight of the Israelites out of slavery, and then the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan.

In Judaism purification rituals include washing hands, feet, or total immersion which must done in ‘living water’, meaning the sea, a river, a spring, or in a mikveh (Hebrew for the ritual bath).
To Hindus all water is sacred, especially rivers, and there are seven sacred rivers, most of us know the Ganges, but also: Yamuna, Godavari, Sarasvati, Narmada, Sindhu and Kaveri.

In Islam water is also very important for cleansing and purifying, and in Taoism water is considered an aspect of wisdom. These are just some of the many religious traditions that incorporate water as profoundly symbolic.

 

By the water (Bayshore Photography)

Moving from religion to culture, history, and science – we know that all life started in water, where it began to take its many amazing forms. Everything that lives needs water, from the smallest plants to the largest whale. And from the beginning of history, humans have built their homes and their lives around water.

On a global scale the need for access to clean water is one of the upmost importance for the survival of our planet and everything living on it.

And on a micro scale, day-to-day, even including our own hobbies or passions, water plays a big part in our lives. Maybe you simply love sitting by an ocean, lake or stream. Perhaps you love to kayak, swim or fish. The uses, symbols and meanings we human attach to water are endless, because water is itself so vast and remarkable. Even our own bodies are 60% water.

Pope Frances washes in ritual.

Water literally and metaphorically cleanses and soothes, it also lifts and refreshes, it can transport, cool and certainly quenches our thirst. Water supports all life.

What a strong symbol, especially for marriage; and that is why a ‘water sharing’ ritual is one of my favorites. It’s quite simple but yet powerful. The words I choose to go along with it might vary greatly depending on the couple.  The action itself is simple, too: you simply pour and share some water. It is a symbol of your promise to nourish and sustain one another. And may you never thirst for love!

 

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