By C. Austin
I was sitting in a surgical centre the other day, waiting for word on a loved one. The waiting area was designed well. In addition to comfortable chairs, lamps and reading materials, it had a large indoor atrium. Sunlight filtered through fern fronds and a good-sized waterfall splashed soothingly down one storey to a grotto-like recessed pond below.
Filled with the heartfelt prayers of others, the pond welcomed my own wish penny on its coin-strewn bottom. With the music of the water in my ears and the sun in my eyes, I sat down to wait and think.
At its simplest, water is made of two atoms of hydrogen bonded with one atom of oxygen. There are almost a billion cubic miles of water on earth, and it exists in three states of matter -- liquid, solid and vapor. Our bodies are two-thirds water and it is one of our most precious resources. Life began in the salty solution of the primordial seas and it is from the waters of our motherâ€™s womb that we all issue.
Water flows through many of the world's greatest creation and flood myths. Ever changing, it brings life as well as death. Water take life and land; the relentless force of erosion shapes our globe. Water carries the memory of all it has seen - sun, moon, mountain, cloud. Revered by the Hindu, the Shinto and many others, water absorbs and reflects the vibrations of healing words, songs, prayers and suffering. The Bodhisattva rises from the waters of the soul.
Water is the lifeblood of our Mother, Earth. Her many rivers, lakes, streams and oceans are home to water divinities throughout world tradition. Beyond its necessity for the biological nurturance of life on this planet, water is valued as a source of healing, initiation, knowledge and oracular direction.
The early people of the European continent venerated water as did the Celts who followed. The mutability of water manifested its supernatural nature. Mediating between sky, earth and underworld, water carried the communications of the Otherworld. Places from which water came forth from the earth and the courses upon which it ran were areas of life, sanctity and divine spirit.
Some water sources, such as the Chalice Well with its iron rich water in Glastonbury, England were visited for their healing properties. Many other rivers, lakes and wells were sites for the ritual deposition of valuable goods into the water to propitiate resident deities.
The act of throwing costly and beautiful items into the water was both a sacrifice and an offering - a sacrifice from this world and an offering to the Otherworld. Oftentimes ritual damage was done to the offerings undoubtedly to overtly display the faults of man (humility) and to make the votive material less than desirable to would-be thieves.
Today, throughout the world, in parks, plazas, gardens, shopping malls and private homes, it is rare to find a fountain or "wishing well" without a coin laying quietly on the bottom, a silent offering from someone in need.
But, for today, the word from the surgeon who found me in the atrium was good. As I turned to go, I dropped another coin in the pool and whispered "thank-you," watching as my smiling face dissolved in the widening ripples of water.