Water Exercises For Arthritis
ANCIENT WATER MYTHS AND RITUALS
Today, with clean water piped directly into our homes and largely taken for granted, it takes a leap of imagination to consider the greater importance of water to those who fetched it daily from the riverside or village well. Deeply dependent on the local water source for their crops and animals, our ancestors had a natural reverence for those places where good, pure water emerged like magic from the depths of the earth. As a result, water has played a role in myth, folklore, and sacred rites in cultures all around the globe, particularly in arid lands where the gift, of water is most precious.
According to a Blackfoot creation myth, in the beginning there was a great womb containing all of the animals, including Old Man. One day the womb burst, and all creation was underwater. Old Man and the animals emerged floating on a large raft. Old Man suggested that Beaver dive down and try to bring up some mud. Beaver was gone a very long time, but still he couldn’t reach the bottom of the water. Loon tried, Otter tried, but the water was just too deep for them Finally little Muskrat tried.
He was gone so long that he was nearly dead when they pulled him onto the raft again, yet he clutched a precious bit of mud in one of his little claws. From this mud, Old Man formed the land that emerged from that great ocean of water, and then he created all of the peoples, trees, and plant life upon it.
“Hylas and Water Nymphs” by John William Waterhouse
We find variations of this “diver motif” myth not only throughout North America but also in cultures around the world, including Buriat cosmology, Finnish folktales, and the Hindu Paranas.
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WATER GOODDESSES AND NATURAL SPIRITS
Many cultures associate water with women with the Great Goddess, or several goddesses, or a variety of female nature spirits. The !Kung of Botswana, for example, attribute the mythic origin of water to women and therefore grant all women special power over water in all its forms. All-mother, in an Aboriginal myth from northern Australia, arrived from the sea in the form of a rainbow serpent with children (the Ancestors) inside her. She made water for the Ancestors by urinating on the land, creating lakes, rivers, and water holes to quench their thirst.
The “living water” (running water) of springs and natural fountains is particularly associated in ancient mythological systems with women, fertility, and childbirth. Greek wells and fountains were sacred to various goddesses and had miraculous powers, such as the fountain at Kanathos, in which Hera regained her virginity each year. Greek springs were said to be the haunts of water nymphs, elemental spirits shaped like lovely young girls. (The original meaning of the Greek word for spring was “nubile maiden.”)
In Teutonic myth, the wild wood-wife (a kind of forest fairy) who loves the hero Wolfdietrich is transformed into a human girl when she’s baptized in a sacred fountain.
The Norse god Odin seeks wisdom and cunning from the fountain of the nature spirit Mimir. He sacrifices one of his eyes in exchange for a few precious sips of the water.
In Celtic legend, the salmon of knowledge swims in a sacred spring or pool under the shade of a hazel tree; the falling hazelnuts contain all the wisdom of the world and are swallowed by the fish.
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