“Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.”
~ Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225.
I think I’ve detailed about how all-encompassing water is, whether it’s in our daily lives, daily usage and the fact that water surrounds us.
As we’re coming up for Halloween, a favourite celebration of mine and also, my colleague, Belinda – as she details in her Halloween blog, it occurred to me that throughout the world, and irrespective of one’s religious or spiritual belief, water plays such a huge part in so many rituals or traditions.
In Buddhism, water features in Buddhist funerals where water is poured into a bowl placed before the monks and the dead body. As it fills and pours over the edge, the monks recite, “As the rains fill the rivers and overflow into the ocean, so likewise may what is given here reach the departed.”
Water has an enormous significance in Christianity. Almost all Christian churches or sects have an initiation ritual involving the use of water. Baptism has its origins in the symbolism of the Israelites being led by Moses out of slavery in Egypt through the Red Sea and from the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan. After Jesus’ resurrection he commanded his disciples to baptise in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The use of water other than for baptism goes back to the 4th century in the East and the 5th century in the West. The custom of sprinkling people with water at mass began in the 9th century.
Water in Hinduism has a special place because it is believed to have spiritually cleansing powers. To Hindus all water is sacred, especially rivers, and there are seven sacred rivers. For Hindus, morning cleansing with water is a basic obligation.
In Islam water is important for cleansing and purifying. Muslims must be ritually pure before approaching God in prayer. Some mosques have a courtyard with a pool of clear water in the centre, but in most mosques the ablutions are found outside the walls.
In Judaism ritual washing is intended to restore or maintain a state of ritual purity and its origins can be found in the Torah. These ablutions can be washing the hands, the hands and the feet, or total immersion which must done in ‘living water’, i.e. the sea, a river, a spring or in a mikveh.
Shinto is Japan’s indigenous religion and is based on the veneration of the kami – the innumerable deities believed to inhabit mountains, trees, rocks, springs and other natural phenomenon. Worship of kamis, whether public or private, always begins with the all-important act of purification with water.
So, water truly is all encompassing in every aspect of our lives, from the physical through to the spiritual.