The Mythology of Water

water mythology

Historically, the natural environment has been considered a turbulent, sentient entity. In many cultures, water in particular was often personified into a mysterious and often terrifying character that housed its own equally terrifying and mysterious creatures. Many movies are famous for their portrayal of the sea and recent Oscar winner The Shape of Water in particular uses water as its main backdrop for its ethereal storyline. Dreamy, haunting and melancholic, it serves to illustrate why people have and continue to regard water with such terror and fascination. On the opposite side of the spectrum, historically in many cultures, sailors would toss sacrifices into the ocean before they set sail in a desperate bid to keep themselves from falling victim to a watery grave or “Davy Jones Locker”. Water was not a soothing friend but rather a tyrannical and punitive monster that must be appeased at all costs. 

water sprite mythology
Sailors knew how quickly the ocean could turn from this serenity to a monstrosity….

Furthermore, the belief in the healing capacities of water dates back to Roman times where people used to go to public medicinal baths when they were in ill health. The ruins of these baths be visited today and are usually buzzing with tourists. Famous writers such as Jane Austen also made reference to many of her characters going to “take the waters” for health reasons. It may come as a surprise to many that the knowledge of contaminated water also dates back to early Roman times…. though their method of filtering water was a resounding failure. Passing water through a sieve cannot reduce the chances of dysentery, though it may get rid of water beetles.

mythology water creatures
Nee-deep nee-deep….

It could be said that we now live in a society that has lost its magic. Scientific knowledge has come at the cost of losing the thrill and mystery that people used to hold from not understanding how the natural elements worked. Science has now filtered our view with a lens that is cold, dry and functional. Though it goes without saying that science serves an indispensable purpose, for without it we may still be witch burning and dying of the common cold, removing the ethereal from our exploration of knowledge can leave it without flavour. There is a reason why alternative health remains in use today, despite our scientific and technological age and many aspects of modern medicine do adopt branches of alternative medicine. Massages and chiropractors are just a few of the common fruits that grow under the alternative medicine tree.

Furthermore, science is revealing more and more that the emotional state and psychological health of an individual has a vital effect on their physical health. The placebo effect is an example of how powerful the effect of the mind is on the body. Going to a practitioner of alternative medicine because it makes you feel like you’re doing something or because it feels nice might actually help you more than you think. So, if you want to light some candles, draw a bath and sprinkle those “special” herbal bath salts called “The Essence of Witch” (that you somehow got conned into buying) then go ahead and do it.

water serpent mythology

However, if you break out into a horrid rash, start feeling woozy and feel your throat constricting then immediately get out of the bath tub and call an ambulance. If you manage to survive this sudden onset of catatonia, then call the police on the quack that you bought the bath salts from. You go ahead and show him what “The Essence of Witch” actually is.

Water has been traditionally symbolic of purity and cleanliness and if the water is pure then it does clean you from the inside out. Globally, the cosmetic industry makes a fortune in marketing skincare products but nothing can beat what you put into your body. You can spend hundreds on the latest skin creams but if you continue to dehydrate yourself and/or smoke your painstaking effects are null and void. The foundation to health is basic. Cleanse your system with fresh, pure water.