Reflections on water


Throw your pain in the river
Leave your pain in the river
To be washed away slow. P J Harvey

After work I walked down by the river. Walking by water has assumed a mythical symbolism for me. Some of my most spiritual memories – times when I felt that surge of connectness and knowing my place in the world – have come walking beside a river.

May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back, the way it is with children. Rainer Maria Rilke

At times when I have felt most lost in life, the river has imbued me with a sense of life force. As a teenager wagging school taking refuge by the Yarra River. In Ireland, feeling lonely walking by the River Shannon. Walking by the Thames, feeling the weight of human history that has sailed that river.

Fresh out of rehab, riding a bike beside the Mississippi River in Minnesota, suddenly all the colour returned to my world. My vision changed from sepia-toned to vivid hues of blue and green, and yellow and brown. My heart bursting with life force after years of chemical anaesthesia.

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea. E.E. Cummings

So I was reflecting on water. Is it just me, or does everyone find water incredibly inspiring and soothing? I don’t think it’s just me. We are more than half water, it makes sense that at some level our beings just resonate to it, long to be near to it. Submerged in it.

Rivers have always reminded me of the magic of life. Sandra Ingerman

Ever since the earliest of recorded times, people around the world have been drawn to the therapeutic qualities of water to cleanse, heal, and relax the body. Water is crucial to life – humans, animals, and plants dry up and die when they do not have water.

Water is considered a purifier in most religions. In the Buddhist tradition, water symbolises serenity, purity, and clarity of thought.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Empedocles believed that water is one of the four classical elements along with fire, earth, and air, and regarded it as the ‘ylem’, or basic substance of the universe.

Our first relationship was with water. Sandra Ingerman

Nurtured in the watery world of the womb, it is easy to surrender to the subtle healing powers of water.

As Sandra Ingerman explains in her book, Medicine for the Earth, most of us receive comfort from water – who hasn’t been hypnotised by the rhythmic sounds of the ocean, or soothed by watching a river flow by? “Water stimulates the body’s natural ability to relax, and the only way a body can begin to heal is when it is in a relaxed state.”

feet effects

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Margaret Atwood

The sound of water – waterfalls, babbling brooks, or ocean waves, soothes the binaural rhythms of the body.

Last weekend I went swimming in the ocean. The water was so cold that I splashed and shrieked and groaned and swore, and in making these spontaneous sounds felt a huge emotional release. It was so cold my whole body throbbed and tingled, making me feel invigorated and fully alive – every cell in my being singing out.

I swam around the cliff to a hidden cave I know of. I sat there and meditated for a while, supported by mother earth in the rock cavern, soothed by the sound of the water, and the blue of the sky.

I wish I had a river so long,
I would teach my feet to fly.
Oh, I wish I had a river I could skate away on. Joni Mitchell

Water plays an important role in many legends and myths. There are stories of mythological water beings and gods, stories of heroes that feature water in some way, and even stories of isles and continents forever lost, submerged in water.

Water deities were especially sacred to the Celts as they were believed to control the essence of life itself. To the ancients, the movement and life-giving power of oceans, springs, rivers, and lakes represented the supernatural powers of the deities who lived within, and as such offerings to appease these deities were commonplace.

The Celts regarded rivers as bestowers of life, health, and plenty, and offered them rich gifts and sacrifices. J. A. MacCulloch


Water is the most primal of all archetypes. Across all cultures, water is seen as the element that drives creation.

Water is the commonest symbol for the unconscious. The lake in the valley is the unconscious, which lies, as it were, underneath consciousness, so that it is often referred to as the ‘subconscious.’ Carl Jung

Jung believed the archetypal nature of water was a reflection of the emotions and the unconscious. Water represents the often unknowable depths of our inner life. It can both sustain life and be a threat to it when it rages out of control.

A lake carries you into recesses of feeling otherwise impenetrable. William Wordsworth

Like the duality of water itself, water gods and spirits could be benevolent or malevolent. Lakes and springs were often ruled over by gods of warmth and healing. Rivers, wells, and streams were often ruled by goddesses. Over time, the darker aspects of those deities became more prominent.

Morgan Le Fey, Nematona, and Nimue, are water deities associated with the legends of King Arthur and the Holy Grail. The Lady of the Lake is a powerful deity of life, death, and regeneration who appears across British and Northern European folklore. She is the guardian and holder of the sacred sword Excalibur, which she gives to Arthur, and takes back at the end of the Arthurian and grail stories.

Her story exaggerates the archetypal aspects of the feminine: life-giver, nurturer, seductress, lover, manipulator, and destroyer. She represents the feminine nature of water – its fluidity, sensuousness, and seductive nature.

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style some day
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker
Wherever you’re going, I’m going your way. Andy Hamilton

The Norse God Odin gained his great wisdom from a fountain known as Mimir’s Spring, ‘the fountain of all wit and wisdom’. Odin asked the old man who guarded it to let him have a drink. But Mimir, who well knew the value of the request (for his spring was considered the source of all wisdom and memory), refused unless Odin would consent to give one of his eyes in exchange. Which he did.

In “Brother and Sister,” a Grimms’ fairytale, a witch curses the streams of the forest so that anyone drinking from them will change into an animal –  with the aim of cursing her two stepchildren. The spring itself warns the children of the danger, so that they can avoid drinking from the cursed water.


For us modern folk, children of science, it may seem childish to give stock to such myths and legends, and to see spirits in nature. Yet as I practice Chakradance and teach it to others, as I read Jung, and become fascinated with shamanism and druidry and ancient nature-based religions, I keep returning to these archetypal beings, the spirits of the elements, of water and earth and sky.

There is another alphabet, whispering from every leaf, singing from every river, shimmering from every sky. Dejan Stojanovic

As a child I climbed trees and found solace there, nestled in strong branches, hidden by its leaves, this bridge between worlds, connecting earth and sky. In the ocean, and rivers, and lakes, I found nurture. My body suspended, free of the heaviness of gravity and the hard bitumen I played on at school. I could float, suspended, as if flying. Under water was another world, with the sounds of the ‘real world’ dulled and distorted by the breathing of the waves.

The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Stories, myths and legends hold great wisdom. Their words operate at a psychological and spiritual level. Storytelling was a way of both transmitting great truths, but also keeping the energy inherent in the story alive.

According to Stefan Stenudd, myths are the instruments to discover and utilise the collective unconscious. Jung’s collective unconscious is “an inherited part of the psyche, a fundamental driving force, a container of great truths, and the only trustworthy guide to self-realization.” The unconscious with all its wisdom is hidden in the depths of the mind, and it is myths and stories that hold the key to it’s discovery.

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters. Norman Maclean

In Chakradance, the element of water comes through the sacral chakra. This is the feminine centre, a centre that holds the key to our emotional life, to our sensuality. In the dance we visualise stepping into a stream and being washed clean of any stress or tension. Then we dance from the hips, our bodies undulating like water. Stimulating the natural ebb and flow of our being.

Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface. Santosh Kalwar

Water soothes our emotions when they run over, tears flow and the water cleanses and purifies us. I have not cried this week. I know the tears will come, in their own time. Like the rains that fill the river, and the droughts that dry it up. Nature has her cycles.

Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river
I cried a river over you. Arthur Hamilton


Waterfall Relaxation Meditation by

A beautiful waterfall of white light is flowing down on you. It flows down on your head, helping your head to relax. You feel your head relaxing. It moves down over your neck and shoulders. Your neck and shoulders are relaxing. Now it flows down over your arms. You feel your arms relaxing. It flows down your back. Your back is letting go and relaxing. It flows over your chest and stomach, helping your chest and stomach relax. You feel your chest and stomach relax. It moves down over your legs and feet. You feel your legs and feet letting go and relaxing. The beautiful waterfall of white light is flowing over your whole body. You are very peaceful and relaxed.

Affirmations on water:

Dr Masaru Emoto, in his books “The Hidden Messages in Water” and and “The True Power of Water”, describes the effect of positive affirmations on water molecules. He suggest the most beneficial affirmations are those of love and gratitude, and who better to affirm those than Louise Hay, taken from her book, “You can heal your life.”

So get down to some water, and everytime you drink a glass of water, say something positive to it first. Maybe just say thank you in recognition that clean, drinking water is not a reality for everyone.

In the infinity of life where I am,
all is perfect, whole and complete.
I support myself and life supports me.
I see evidence of the Law working all around me
And in every area of my life.
I reinforce that which I learn in joyous ways.
My day begins with gratitude and joy.
I look forward with enthusiasm to the adventures of the day,
Knowing that in my life, “All is good.”
I love who I am and all that I do.
I am the living, loving, joyous expression of life.
All is well in my world.


winter summer



Stefan Stenudd Myth

Celtic Gods and Goddesses

The Religion of the Ancient Celts

Water Spirits as Fairies

Medicine for the Earth: How to Transform Personal and Environmental Toxins by Sandra Ingerman (Three Rivers Press 2001)


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