The miracle of water
April 11, 2010 by Bill
I cannot tell you how much I enjoy writing columns during this April month of Earth Day. It gives me a chance to write about water, this miracle of the sacred earth that is our home. If you want to be moved beyond trivial emotion, with tears in your eyes, please read “Miracles” in Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass.”
If there is magic on this Earth, it is contained in water. If there is anything truly sacred on this earth, it is water. This planet could get along beautifully without us, without human beings. But without the miracle of water, it would be dead and gone in only a matter of weeks.
My boyhood West Texas memories are filled with cisterns and rain barrels and the divine gift of water. Without the cisterns and rain barrels to catch and store cherished water, life would have been impossible on that bleak and barren land.
Several years ago, my wife and I took our vacation in Mexico City. I had longed to see and to study the religious symbols, artifacts and shrines of the Aztec and Mayan people. To my knowledge, there is no other museum in the world equal to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. You must see it to believe it.
The role that water has played in all of the religious mythologies of the world has long fascinated me. The belief that water was the primordial home of man is universal. In the symbolism of the great Mayan and Aztec pyramids, it is paramount.
The zero in the Mayan number system represented the ocean, which is endless in time and space. It was the Mayans who first developed a concept of the zero. The “foundation” of the pyramids was water, symbolizing the first world when all was water. Conch shells decorate the walls of Teotihuacan temples, since they are symbolic of water.
Water is a living element, a spiritual element, and relates us to the other elements of our earth, air and sunlight. Nearly 75 percent of the surface of the earth is water, and that same percentage applies to the water in our bodies. Menstrual periods, the ocean tides and ground water within the earth all reflect the course of the moon. Tree sap follows the same cosmic rhythm. Lumbermen floated their logs downstream during the new moon, or they would be beached high and dry under a full moon.
“Water…Thou art the source of all things and of all existence,” says an Indian Vedic text. The biblical creation mythology, which is only a refinement of the Babylonian creation myth, tells of a watery chaos, or a primordial ocean.
Primeval waters, as the origin of all worlds, can be found in almost all creation mythologies. An exegetical study on the book of Genesis in my library says it this way: “Here, in the Hebrew myth, a divine word as an agent of creation is found, as in Babylonian, Egyptian and Indian mythologies, as well as others. In these myths the word is a magic word, the correct formula, which being uttered released the power to bring order out of a watery chaos.”
Since prehistoric times, water, woman and moon were the trinity of fertility for man and the universe. The spiral was the symbol of water, and lunar fertility, with the snail, woman and fish.
In the Aztec religion, a mother would say the following while baptizing her new baby in water: “Take this water, for the goddess of waters, Chalchiuhtlatonac, is thy mother. May this bath cleanse thee of the sins and blemishes thou has received from thy parents.” Then touching the breast and head of the child with water, she would say, “Receive child, thy mother, the divine goddess of all water.”
The phrase “living water” in a spiritual sense, is universal in religious traditions. You will recall that phrase put into the mouth of Jesus in the Gospel of John. Using an ancient and universal symbolism, Jesus tells the woman he will give her “living water.”
Water nourishes life, brings to germination all seeds, is the supreme spiritual magic, as well as medicinal substance of this planet.
You and I, Homo sapiens, could totally disappear from the earth and it would make no difference to the life and survival of our delicate planet. In fact, the planet would survive longer without us.
If water were removed from our fragile earth, IT WOULD DIE. No plants, no animals. It would very shortly resemble the surface of the moon. Perhaps, after all, it is not us, but water that is the most sacred and spiritual element on this planet and the most dear to that Mystery we call “God.” Without water, there would be only desolation. “Water…Thou art the source of all existence.”
If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.