You are on page 1of 3

Water symbols across the world

Water is an intrinsic part of most spiritual beliefs. Its uses and symbolism in religion are
many and varied; its spiritual and healing properties are seen in rites and rituals; and its
representations are as numerous as they are diverse. These different religious and cultural
aspects of water reflect the vast array of civilizations that have made water the central
element in their practices. (Courtesy of UNESCO Water and World Views)

The ancient Egyptian Heliopolitan story of creation narrates that the Sun God Atum (Re)
reposed in the primordial ocean (Nun).

Assyro-Babylonian mythology states that the gods, and subsequently all beings, arose
from the fusion of salt water (Tiamat) and sweet water (Apsu). Apsu is the embodiment
of the freshwater abyss that lies beneath the Earth. From Tiamat's water came forth the
clouds, and her tears became the source of the Tigris and the Euphratus.

The holy books of the Hindus explain that all the inhabitants of the earth emerged from
the primordial sea. At the beginning of the Judeo-Christian story of creation, the spirit of
God is described as "stirring above the waters," and later, God creates "a firmament in the
midst of the waters to divide the waters" (Genesis 1:1-6)

In ancient Greece, the souls of the dead were ferried to rest across the dark waters of the
River Styx. This river separates the world of the living from the world of the dead.

Aphrodite, the ancient Greek goddess of love, was born of the sea. When Cronus
castrated his father Uranus, he threw the severed genitals into the ocean, which began to
foam. From the Aphros ("sea foam") arose Aphrodite.

Anahita, the ancient Persian water and fertility goddess, is associated with rivers and
lakes, as the waters of birth.

Purity and pollution are central to Zoroastrian belief. Pollution is considered evil,
whereas clean water is sacred. It is forbidden to spit, urinate or wash one's hands in rivers
for fear of blemishing the water's sacredness.

The Koran cites the words "We have created every living thing from water".

In Christianity, baptism links the concept of the water of life with the water of

In Judaeo-Christian culture, God is called "the fountain of living waters" (Jeremiah 2.13)

The ancient Mesopotamian people regarded the abyss of water as a symbol of the
unfathomable, absolute Wisdom.
In ancient China, the water of the fountain at Pon Lai was believed to confer a "thousand
lives on those who drink it," according to Wang Chia, writing in the Chin Dynasty (265-
420 BCE)

The Babylonian moon goddess, Ishtar, was associated with sacred springs, and her
temples were often situated in natural grottoes from which springs emanated.

In China, water is considered to be the source of all life and it is the specific den of the

In the Canticle of the Sun, St. Francis of Assisi praises God for water: "Praised be Thou,
O Lord, for sister water, who is very useful, humble, precious, and chaste".

In India, the sacred River Ganges embodies the water of life for Hindus. Legend has it
that the Ganges is the river that flows beyond its earthly bounds to Moksa, the realm of

In Japan, water incarnates the purity and pliant simplicity of life. A spiritual connection
with elements like water is a primary force in the life of a Shinto priest.

In the New Testament, 'living water' or 'water of life' represents the spirit of God, or
eternal life.

The Roman philosopher Seneca declared that "Where a spring rises or a water flows there
ought we to build altars and offer sacrifices".

In the Vedas, water is referred to as the "most maternal".

In Christianity, water is intrinsically linked to baptism, which in itself is a public

declaration of faith and a sign of welcome into the church of God. In baptism, water
symbolises purification and the cleansing of the original sin.

The lotus-stream of the Buddha (Boddhisattva) rises up from the waters of the soul, in the
same way the spirit, illumined by knowledge, frees itself from passive existence.

"Miracle" or healing waters have been discovered throughout the world and have been
responsible for thousands of otherwise-unexplainable healings.

For Hindus, water aids spiritual purification. Morning ablutions with water are an
everyday duty. All Hindu temples are located near a water source, as followers are under
strict obligation to bathe before entering the temple.

When the prophet Mohamed was asked what was the most praiseworthy deed, he
answered, "To give water to drink.." Hadith - Koran
Even before God brought forth a spring to Hagar and her infant Ishmael, precious,
cleansing water was a symbol of God's life-giving spirit. The Bible refers to "the water of
life," and the Koran is filled with references to the value of water and its abundance in

Dr Masaru Emoto believes that water initially held the conscientiousness of God, and that
souls that don't attain enlightenment transform into water.

Jews use water for ritual cleansing to restore or maintain a state of purity. hand washing
before and after every meal is mandatory.

In Shinto waterfalls are held sacred and standing under one is believed to purify the

The act of providing drinking water is seen by many cultures and religions to be one of
the most charitable human acts.