Water in Religion and Literature
Throughout the previous year up until now, we have largely reflected upon WATER, the most precious resource of our planet Earth. Since life itself, speaking of any kind of living organism, regardless of the fact if a creature is an invertebrate or a human being, is absolutely impossible without water, we should always treat our water resources with utmost care, and, continually be aware of the following important facts: the more we waste and pollute the water resources of our planet, the closer we drive the fragile balance of all natural forces to finally collapse.
No Water, no Mankind, no Life on Earth
Life in various manifestations, as we know, require water in large quantities, continually and also at regular intervals. Therefore, or just because of this, the actual necessity, as well as the absolute indispensability, is still extremely underestimated on a large scale.
To kick off 2022, in today’s post, we take a look at literature and at religion.
Is there any particular context describing water literally, and, if so, are there some authors who have dealt with the topic of water, in general or in detail?
Does water play a major role in world religions and life philosophies?
First and Foremost, the Bible Comes to Mind:
Water has great significance in the Bible. In Genesis, God hovers over the water and finally separates water, air and earth into the three habitats. In many parts of the Bible water appears as a symbol of salvation or as a sign of God, e.g. in the story of the „Noah’s Ark“, in Moses “Exodus from Egypt”, when God opened a path for the refugees by separating the ocean. Jesus performed several miracles, which took place at ponds or at lakes. This made especially clear as to how purifying and renewing the mere effect of water is, indeed.
Another Work of Importance is the Odyssey by Homer:
In his Odyssey, Homer narrates about seductive sirens who lead sailors astray and of the strait between the rocks of Scylla and Charybdis, probably the mythical strait between Sicily and the Italian mainland. Odysseus first learns of the impending dangers from the sorceress Circe, and then experiences himself within all these dangers according to the prophecy.
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe writes in his most comprehensive Work “Goethes Faust”:
„Das Prinzip aller Dinge ist das Wasser; aus Wasser ist alles und ins Wasser kehrt alles zurück.“
(„The principle element of all things is water; out of water everything is created and into water everything returns.”)
Leonardo da Vinci described the Vital Elixir as follows:
Water is a very special substance, it is „the blood of the planet”. Da Vinci considered water a symbol of life, vitality, renewal and purification.
These are only four out of a large number of examples of the role water plays in literature.
Numerous poets, novelists, non-fiction writers and composers have left their scripts for us, having written and composed, directly or indirectly with the topic of “water”, throughout all past eras up until to the present moment. All of them were aware of the one and only fact: Without water no life at all is possible, for no one and for no thing. In countless myths referring to origin and creation, whether narrated about the Indian, the African, the South American and the Germanic heritage, even about those in classical antiquity, all of them carry the same message: Water is always in their center and is seen as the primordial beginning of all life.
Springs, rivers, lakes and oceans have been utterly praised in many myths and even in religions deities, or, in their dwelling places. In all those contexts, we feel that water has been worshipped or tremendously feared, water has played a holy or even a frightening role. The duality contained in the symbolism of water can be observed in all cultures. Water stands for creation, for physical and spiritual healing, for wealth, blessing and security, nevertheless water stands also for distress, threat, devastation and punishment.
There is another major lead for water: it also plays a large and important role in world religions and life philosophies: in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism, in all of them water plays a central role, both in ritual acts and in traditions. Water is the basis of all physical life on our planet.
In many religions, the element of water is a sacred phenomenon and has a proven healing effect. Frequently, water represents a mysterious life force. Rivers and springs are therefore considered to be sacred places in a wide variety of religions. Even the Jewish tradition, which generally rejects the glorification of any natural manifestation, does know about sacred springs and rivers.
Man has always associated mythical and mystical occurrences with water. In almost all cultures of our planet we learn about their gods who inhabit this element, and, also demons and spirits who have withdrawn to it. Water plays a central role in countless myths and stories, most notably in the Flood and Noah’s Ark.
Springs – Sacred Places in Literature
In the Germanic philosophy of life, springs were considered sacred places, for which reason many pilgrimage churches built are near holy springs. Legends tell us about healing the sick by applying spring water to them. For example, in Lourdes in the French Pyrenees, where in 1858 a girl named Bernadette Soubirous was healed at a grotto of a spring. Since then, the place has been a Catholic pilgrimage site for many believers and sick people. The Jordan River in the Middle East is considered a holy river by both, the Christians and the Jews.
In India there are even seven holy rivers. The holiest and most popular undoubtedly is the Ganges. A bath in it serves for ritual purification, and every Hindu would like to die at or in the River Ganges. The worshippers to this river find their faith based on the myth of the river goddess Ganga: The sage Kapila had burned the rude and plebeian sons of King Sagara to ashes. The Ganga, flowing as a milky way in the sky, was necessary to perform the death ritual. However, many years later, Baghirata succeeded in making the water rain heavily from the sky. After a thousand years of asceticism, Baghirata received help from Lord Shiva, who slowed down the impact of the water masses with his long hair.
Washing away Sins with Water
In many religions, believers try to free themselves by washing of their sins with water.
The Celts in Central Europe threw coins and jewellery into lakes and rivers to thank the water-dwelling gods. Greek mythology, in turn, particularly emphasises the importance of water in the origin of life. One of the twelve Titans was the sea god Okeanos. With his sister and wife Tethys, he gave birth to the river gods who ruled the seas, known as the Okeanids, and nearly 4,000 in number. The two then separated in time, luckily, because otherwise they would still be giving birth to springs and rivers today.
Fairy tale writers also took up the theme of water again and again in their works. Pointing out just one example, like the fairy tale „The Water of Life,“ here, the Grimm brothers devoted themselves entirely to this precious commodity showing special characteristics, as they believed, namely that water is able to unchain healing powers to the terminally ill.
We have compiled some books for you, pieces of literature, in which water plays a central role:
- T.C.Boyle: Water Music
- Redmond O’Hanlon: Into the Interior of Borneo
- Érik Orsenna: Future of Water – A Journey Around the World
- Joseph Conrad: Into the Heart of Darkness
- Helon Habila: Oil on Water
- Dorothea Nürnberg: Under Water
- Anna Stern: The Appraiser
- Herman Melville: Moby Dick or The Whale
- Rudyard Kipling: Overboard
- Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea
- Paul Torday: Salmon Fishing in the Yemen
- Theodor Storm: The White Horse Rider
- Siegfried Lenz: Water Worlds
- Janice Jakait: Thundering silence
- Donna Leon: Still Waters
- Erskine Childers: The Riddle of the Sandbar
- Arundhati Roy: The God of Small Things
TIME IS RUNNING OUT – the most Precious Resource of Planet Earth is in Danger
Mojib Latif, the German scientist (meteorologist, climate researcher, PhD in oceanography, professor at the Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Kiel), whose research focuses on the effects of human heedlessness on the oceans and the global climate, has published the following alarming statements:
„The oceans act like a giant reservoir, storing 95% of the heat generated by burning fossil fuels over the last 150 years. When this storage capacity is exhausted, the effect of the warming of the Earth so far, in interaction with other main factors of transition to a climate catastrophe, will create a lethal dynamic for life on Earth.“ „Acidification of the world’s oceans due to accelerated increases in atmospheric CO2 and ocean warming mean that one-fifth of the world’s coral reefs have already been lost and phytoplankton, a component of the food pyramid and oxygen producer, have declined dramatically.“
„Globally, more than 200 million tons of plastic are produced each year. A significant amount of the plastics eventually end up in the oceans. According to a report by the United Nations Environment Programme, around 6.4 million tons of waste end up in the ocean every year. However, this estimate dates back to the 1990s. Today, the figure is likely to be even higher. In total, it is estimated that up to 150 million tons of plastic waste has already accumulated in the oceans.“
„Today, fish already provides nearly 17% of the global protein intake from animal products for humans, and on coasts and in island areas, the figure is sometimes as high as 70%. Hunger on Earth would increase dramatically if the oceans became dirty water and marine ecosystems tilted. Petroleum, radioactivity, plastic waste, ocean warming and acidification all damage marine life and thus affect the world’s food supply in the longer term. This is another time bomb ticking in the oceans.”
Such Statements Clearly Show:
As a matter of fact, since we have proceeded so far up until now, we do jeopardise the existence of mankind, and, of course, that of all carbon-based beings on our planet.
Our Blog Posts serve to give our readers some insights into the critical situation of water resources on our planet, and, make us reflect upon ideas for strategies to handle water scarceness and develop progressive systems in technological fields to guarantee a more careful usage of water. We wish to inspire you for global cooperation, encourage new and innovative ways of thinking.
We look forward to learn from your ideas, thoughts and suggestions.