1st Edition

Sacred Waters A Cross-Cultural Compendium of Hallowed Springs and Holy Wells

Edited By Celeste Ray Copyright 2020
    416 Pages
    by Routledge

    416 Pages
    by Routledge

    Continue Shopping

    Describing sacred waters and their associated traditions in over thirty countries and across multiple time periods, this book identifies patterns in panhuman hydrolatry. Supplying life’s most basic daily need, freshwater sources were likely the earliest sacred sites, and the first protected and contested resource. Guarded by taboos, rites and supermundane forces, freshwater sources have also been considered thresholds to otherworlds. Often associated also with venerated stones, trees and healing flora, sacred water sources are sites of biocultural diversity. Addressing themes that will shape future water research, this volume examines cultural perceptions of water’s sacrality that can be employed to foster resilient human–environmental relationships in the growing water crises of the twenty-first century. The work combines perspectives from anthropology, archaeology, classics, folklore, geography, geology, history, literature and religious studies.

    Holy wells and sacred springs

    Celeste Ray

    PART I Ancient influences

    1 Fons et Origo: observations on sacred springs in classical antiquity and tradition

    Christopher M. McDonough

    2 Water sources and the sacred in modern and ancient Greece

    Evy Johanne Håland

    3 Life and death from the watery underworld: ancient Maya interaction with caves and cenotes

    Nicholas P. Dunning

    PART II Stewarding curative waters and caring for pilgrims

    4 "Go drink from the spring and wash there": the healing waters of Lourdes

    Michael Agnew

    5 The well of Zamzam: a pilgrimage site and curative water in Islam

    Ahmad Ghabin

    6 Sacrality and waterfront sacred places in India: myths and the making of place

    Rana P.B. Singh

    PART III Genii loci and ancestors

    7 Freshwater sources and their relational contexts in Indigenous Australia: views from the past and present

    Liam M. Brady

    8 Inca shrines: deities in stone and water

    Marco Curatola Petrocchi

    9 Dragon wells and sacred springs in China

    Jean DeBernardi, Yan Jie and Ma Junhong

    10 Sacred springs of the Tewa Pueblos, New Mexico

    Richard I. Ford

    PART IV Temporal powers, social Identity and sacred geography

    11 Divine waters in Ethiopia: the source from heaven and Indigenous water-worlds in the Lake Tana region

    Terje Oestigaard and Gedef Abawa Firew

    12 Ori Aiye: a holy well among the Ondo of Southeastern Yorubaland, Nigeria

    Raheem Oluwafunminiyi and Victor Ajisola Omojeje

    13 Sacred wells of Banaras: glorifications, ritual practices and healing

    Vera Lazzaretti

    14 Yaksutŏ: Korean sacred mineral spring water

    Hong-key Yoon

    15 Sacred hierarchy, festival cycles and water veneration at Chalma in Central Mexico

    Ramiro Alfonso Gómez Arzapalo Dorantes

    PART V Medieval Europe

    16 Between Fons and foundation: managing a French holy well in the Miracula Sancti Theoderici

    Kate M. Craig

    17 Finnaun y Doudec Seint: a holy spring in early medieval Brycheiniog, Wales

    Andy Seaman

    18 Gvendarbrunnar of medieval Iceland

    Margaret Jean Cormack

    PART VI Contested and shared sites

    19 A higher level of immersion: a contemporary freshwater mikvah pool in Israel

    Robert Phillips

    20 Waters at the edge: sacred springs and spatiality in Southwest Finnish village landscapes

    John Björkman

    21 Memory and martyrs: holy springs in Western Siberia

    Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby

    22 Sacred and healing springs in the Republic of North Macedonia

    Snežana Filipova

    23 Water sanctuaries of Hatay, Turkey

    Jens Kreinath

    PART VII Sacred waterfalls

    24 Sacred waters of Haitian Vodou: the pilgrimage of Sodo

    Elizabeth McAlister

    25 The Olympic Mountains and the sacrality of water in the Klallam world

    Cailín E. Murray

    26 Back into the light: water and the indigenous uncanny in northeastern Japan

    Ellen Schattschneider

    PART VIII Popular pieties

    27 With sacred springs, without holy wells: the case of Estonia

    Heiki Valk

    28 The holy wells of Wychwood Forest, England

    Martin Haigh

    29 Holy wells and trees in Poland as an element of local and national identity

    Wojciech Bedyński

    30 Visiting holy wells in seventeenth-century Sweden: the case of St. Ingemo’s Well in Dala

    Terese Zachrisson

    31 The Buddha’s thumb, Nāga legends and blessings of health: sacred water and religious practice in Thailand

    Rachelle M. Scott

    PART IX Hydrology, stewardship and biocultural heritage

    32 At the end of the field, a pot of Nemunai is boiling: a study of Lithuanian springs

    Vykintas Vaitkevičius

    33 Where does the water come from? A hydrogeological characterisation of Irish holy wells

    Bruce Misstear, Laurence Gill, Cora McKenna and Ronan Foley

    34 The holy springs of Russia’s Orel region: traditions of place and environmental care

    Jane Costlow

    35 Sentient springs and sources of life: water, climate change and world-making practices in the Andes

    Astrid B. Stensrud

    36 Flora, fauna and curative waters: Ireland’s holy wells as sites of biocultural diversity

    Celeste Ray


    Celeste Ray is Professor of Environmental Arts and Humanities at the University of the South, USA. She is the author of The Origins of Ireland’s Holy Wells and Highland Heritage: Scottish Americans in the American South, and the editor of volumes considering ethnicity and historical ecology.

    In describing the extraordinary ubiquity of sacred water places around the world, this comprehensive collection simultaneously celebrates the rich cultural and historical diversity in the beliefs and practices through which people engage with them, celebrating water‘s essential role in generating life, health and societal wellbeing. A veritable wellspring of ideas.

    Professor Veronica Strang, Institute of Advanced Studies, Durham University