“If there is magic on the planet it is contained in the water” (Loren Eiseley – American anthropologist, philosopher & natural science writer).
I’m led to reflect on this every time I come upon a pool of water in a public place – whether that be the pool in the Princess of Wales Conservatory at Kew, the weir at the Saxon Mill, Warwick, the fountains in Trafalgar Square, or even the pool inside the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-upon-Avon. All have one thing in common.
They all have coins thrown in them. 20p, 50p and £1 coins; pennies and 2p and 5p and 10p pieces… Deep in the human psyche, folk religion demands that we offer up at least a nominal amount of what we most value to the water god in the hope that this will transform our lives. Coins are thrown into the water, because, reaching back through the roots of our pagan heritage, many of us still need to pay tribute to the world of Faerie.
I am fascinated by our pagan roots, and by how they blossom again and again through time. I’m currently reading “The Wine of Angels” by Phil Rickman. Rickman of course, as his fans know well, loves to explore the desire and longing found in many English communities for ancient traditions, landscape mysteries, and folk religion, as he draws it all together into a crime mystery set on the Welsh border, presided over by Merrily Watkins, local Ledwardine priest and deliverance expert.
Anthropologists at the University of California tell us that virtually any pool made accessible to the public qualifies as a wishing well. Offering money to water is an old tradition that can be dated back to Roman-British or Celtic mythology. Since then it has evolved from a religious ritual into a fun, yet superstitious cultural practice… which can be most effectively explained by relationships with the supernatural.
The River of Life, we are told in the Book of Revelations, runs through the Holy City. And back right at the beginning of the Bible, the Spirit of God moves across the face of the waters. Jesus spoke of bringing water of life. He told the Samaritan woman whom he met at the well, “I can give you water of life so you will never thirst again.” No wonder she replied, “Give me this water!”
C.S. Lewis knew the powerful symbolism of water when, in “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” he created that fearful image of a sea which turned to gold anything that fell into it – combining in one image the sharpest possible contrast: between the fulfillment of our greatest dreams and of our worst fear – limitless wealth, or death.
How do you feel about water? – about pools , rivers, and streams? Do you relate to them in a spiritual way? I’d love to hear your stories!