Sacred Water: Connecting to Water Through Ritual and Reverence
Water is an essential ingredient to life on this planet. Its necessity and dynamic capacities are recognized and revered by spiritual traditions across cultures. Water is a giver of life, a source of purification, and an element that can be infused with sacred blessings.
Religious traditions have long utilized water in their rituals from the washing of oneself before daily prayers (Islam); pilgrimages to sacred rivers (Hinduism); the baptism and admission of a soul into a religious sect (Christianity). This article explores how water is utilized in various spiritual traditions and how we can develop our own rituals to honor this sacred element of life.
Water: An Essential Element of Life
From the blood that carries nutrients through our body, to the rivers and oceans that feed the animal and plant kingdoms, water is crucial for the existence of life. It inhabits all areas of our lives. Our bodies are 55 to 75 percent water. We drink it. We bathe in it. The entire planet’s surface is over 70 percent covered by this essential element. The versatility of water allows it to move through land and sky. We find it solidified in glaciers, running freely through rivers, and floating in clouds before its molecules coalesce and fall as sacred rain.
Spiritual Traditions and Water
Water symbolizes regeneration, fertility, purification, and transformation. Across the globe, spiritual traditions revere water and use it in rituals of purification, blessing, and connection into divine paths.
Purification through Water
, or ritual washing, is a tenant in several religious traditions. In Judaism, ritual washing is intended to restore purity and takes two main forms: full-body bath in a , a bath used for ritual immersion, and where one washes their hands upon rising and before meals.
In Islam, ritual washing is referred to as “and is practiced to cleanse oneself for sacred practice, such as daily prayers. is a common ablution of the Christian faith. Here an individual has their head sprinkled with holy water or is partly or fully immersed in water. Through this ritual, the individual is both purified and admitted to the church.
A foundation of the Hindu faith is to seek purity of thought and being. Hindus believe that bathing in sacred water cleanses one of spiritual impurities and assists in the liberation from, the cycle of life and death.
Holy places are located along sacred rivers, coasts, and mountains, and it is common for Hindu practitioners to go on a pilgrimage to these sacred sites. Thes considered the holiest rivers in India. It is believed that the water of the Ganges has great spiritually cleansing properties and as such, is a common destination for devotees.
In Bali, water is an essential aspect of culture and spiritual practice. Their unique expression of Hinduism is referred to as temple which was built in 962 A.D around a natural spring. Here devotees come with prayers and offerings to immerse themselves in the sacred waters., “the religion of the holy water.” All holy sites on this island are accompanied by water from rushing rivers, waterfalls, springs, and streams, to spouts offering this sacred element. Many temples are devoted to water, such as the
Infusion of Blessings
The theory of “” postulates that water can hold the imprint or “memory” of a substance once diluted in it. This idea is further explored by Japanese author who suggests that human consciousness has an effect on the molecular structure of water. In his view, blessings and prayers can change the molecular structure of water and give it more vitality. Though theories of water memory have yet to be inexorably proven, this theory exists in spiritual traditions as well.
Examples of infusing water with holy qualities can be found in various traditions. Balinese priests/ priestesses imprint water through mudra and mantra so that it may effectively carry God’s blessing in the ceremony. In Christianity, ministers and priests may sanctify water through prayer and ritual so that it may be used for sacrament and protection.
Blessings of food and drink
Most religious traditions have a practice of giving thanks or blessing before taking in food or drink. Though not specific to water, such practices include gratitude for the gifts and bounty that nourish us; water included. In Judaism, aa blessing, is said before the enjoyment of food or drink. In Hinduism, chants of gratitude are commonplace at mealtime, as is saying “grace” in Christianity.
Creating Rituals of Water
Spiritual rituals with water vary from simple practices of gratitude to elaborate rituals of immersion and purification. Drawing inspiration from spiritual traditions, we can create our own rituals to connect with water in both simple and elaborate ways. The following section offers guidance in creating such rituals.
Rituals for drinking water
While holding a glass of water, take a moment to close your eyes and feel gratitude for the water of this earth. Feel into the oceans, rivers, rains, and streams, and sense genuine appreciation for the life that this element brings. As you drink, allow yourself to be nourished by this gratitude.
Infuse With a Written Prayer
Before going to sleep, take some time to write a prayer or affirmation that is particularly meaningful to you on a piece of paper. Take the paper and wrap it around your water bottle or glass. As you do so, imagine the water pulling in the vibration of your words and intentions. In the morning, take a moment to reconnect to your prayer. As you drink this water throughout the day imagine the vibration of your prayer/affirmation permeating every cell in your body.
Rituals for bathing and washing
Daily washing is an opportunity to connect with the purifying properties of water. As you wash, acknowledge that water is cleansing your physical body, as well as your spiritual and emotional bodies. Take your time and bring love and attention to each body part as you clean.
This ritual is a more in-depth water purifying and self-rejuvenating ceremony. It combines elements of Ayurvedic practices with sacred rituals. This practice can be used to support our hearts, soothe our minds, and purify our spirit.
Preparation: What you need
- A bathtub
- Offerings: Collect offerings for your bath that will infuse it with soothing elements for your heart, body, and mind. Examples may include essential oils (lavender, geranium, jasmine), flowers (rose petals, chamomile flowers, pansies, and dandelions), milk, oats, and any other supportive natural ingredients
- Incense: Incense serves as an effective way to set the space
- Candles: Candles serve to create a tranquil atmosphere
- Music: Chanting or prayer songs may serve as an effective way to clear the mind (Check out “Pray” by Sundari Studios)
- Natural massage oil
- Fill your bathtub with warm water
- Place offerings near the tub
- Light incense and candles
- Turn on music as desired
- Close your eyes and offer a short prayer or mantra. You will find additional options for prayers and mantras in the next section “Purification through Living Water”
- Add your offerings, one by one, into the bath. Infuse each offering with intentions of gratitude and blessing
- Slowly enter the bathtub, be mindful of every sensation in your body as you immerse
- Once in the tub, take your time washing and blessing each part of your body
- Lay back in the tub and take time for meditation. You may choose to observe your breath, listen to the chanting music, or repeat prayer or mantra
- When you are complete, get out of the bath and towel off
- Massage your entire body with natural oil and bless each body part as you do so
- Take a moment of stillness and gratitude for the water that cleanses you, and for taking this time of self-care
- You may choose to watch the water go down the drain and know that it takes the impurities back into the water system to be transformed
Purification through Living Water
The Hindu faith gives great reverence to the sacredness of water, particularly in natural sources of rivers or springs. In this ceremony, inspired by Hindu practices, we will use natural holy waters for spiritual purification.
- Choose a location
Whether it’s a nearby river or a day trip to a canyon, choose a location that inspires you and makes you feel connected to spirit. Consider how you want to connect with the water. If you wish to immerse yourself, ensure that the location you choose is safe for bathing or swimming.
- Prepare offerings and prayers
You may wish to make physical offerings to the water. Ensure these offerings are natural and will not adversely affect the ecosystem. Offerings may include; flowers, stones, leaves, rice (be mindful that food offerings will not negatively affect wildlife), and incense. Prayer is an individual practice. You may wish to prepare a prayer that is unique to your personal spiritual connection or choose a specific mantra or affirmation with which you resonate. Here are some options:
“Sweet spirit thank you for the water that nourishes this life into existence. I understand that the fluid of this body is that of the oceans and the rains. In water we are we are all connected. I honour the power of water to restore this body, spirit, and mind, to its eternal state of grace and peace. Thank you for this perfect gift, this giver of life.”
- The Ceremony
- Set out your offerings and preparations near the water
- Light incense and sit quietly by the water’s edge
- Take time to connect to the natural setting
- Recite your prayer or mantra either internally or aloud
- Release your offerings
- If staying onshore, place your offering into or near the water
- If you choose to immerse in the water, hold the offering at heart height and release them when you reach your destination in the water
- Submerge your body or cup into the water and pour it over your head three times
- With each submergence or washing, allow the water to cleanse your heart, spirit, and mind. You may choose to infuse this practice by offering specific personal challenges to the cleansing powers of the water
- Return to the edge of the water and sit quietly
- Give thanks to the water. You may choose to again recite your mantra or prayer
Water is the giver of life and is essential to existence on this planet. Spiritual disciplines across cultures have long revered water and utilized it for purification and blessing. Through water, we are all intimately connected to the wholeness of this life. The spiritual qualities of water may be harnessed in our own lives through ritual. From giving thanks as we drink to more elaborate ceremonies of purification, water offers us a gateway to the gift of life, transformation, and connection to the divine.
What is Gnosticism?
Whether or not you know it, you’ve probably been influenced by the beliefs of the Gnostics and their powerful grasp over aspects of Western spirituality. Many schools of metaphysics, the occult, mystical teachings, and even fraternal organizations and secret societies have borrowed heavily from Gnostic teaching. It’s impossible to do justice to Gnosticism in a single article, but I’ll do my best to introduce you to some of the basic concepts, leaving further research to those spurred on by the mysteries inherent in the Gnostic world. Any personal work done, if seriously approached, must serve to improve the understanding and knowledge of the student.
A History of Gnosticism
The history of Gnosticism is well documented and was enriched by the discovery of the Nag Hammadi Texts, sometimes known as The Gnostic Gospels, in Egypt in 1945. These Christian documents, from the 3rd Century BCE, include apocryphal books of the Bible and alternative views of early Christian doctrine, some of them seemingly blasphemous and heretical to modern followers of monotheistic religions.
The Goddess in the Creation of the World
There are several unique aspects to the Gnostic system, many of them carried through into modern metaphysical doctrines, specifically many of the occult concepts dealing with The Goddess in the creation of the world, some of these being implicitly presented to the public in the guise of ritual, magical practices, and even Tarot cards. Aleister Crowley, the controversial but brilliant occultist, embraced certain aspects of Gnosticism and incorporated them liberally into his Thoth Tarot deck, even creating The Gnostic Mass, his spin on religious-magical ritual.
The Gnostic tradition has also been a powerful influence in the traditions of Alchemy. Although there were hundreds of different alchemical schools, almost all of them had ideas that were influenced by Gnosticism. Through alchemical allegory, the search to purify the human soul was exemplified in clever emblems, designed to cause the observer to question the very nature of existence itself and to strive for a deeper understanding, searching for the “gold” that is the essence of everything that exists. This is a delightfully complex subject all in itself.
Modern culture has been influenced by Gnosticism. Carl Jung’s, “The Red Book,” has been studied and embraced by Gnostic students. It is a wealth of information regarding the search within the physical for spiritual freedom, and through that, the realization of the true essence of God. Carlos Santana’s album, Abraxas, was the name given to an image revered by certain Gnostic schools, a being with a rooster’s head, a human’s torso and serpents for legs. These symbols, although seemingly bizarre, or disturbing, actually hold great meaning for those who are willing to contemplate them and allow the inner voice to guide them on the pathway to knowledge. Think it over and you’ll see what I mean.
Let’s look at some Gnostic essentials. Please remember, this is by no means in depth and not everyone will agree with my views.
What Does Gnostic Mean?
The word Gnostic simply means one who knows. Compare it to the word agnostic, meaning one who doesn’t know, usually as applied to a belief, or understanding, to the nature of God. Whereas the agnostic is not an atheist, she/he usually has no concrete idea about the existence or non existence of God. The Gnostic knows certain things, although that knowledge may not necessarily bring answers nor clarity. This may seem contradictory, but I can assure you it isn’t.
There is no one school of Gnosticism. It may be more correct to call the whole subject, Gnosis. It is a general term for an entire field of religious searching and belief, one that allows for great latitude in personal understanding, and often doesn’t adhere to any one sacred book of light.
What Does Gnosticism Seek?
Oversimplifying the answer, Gnosis seeks to reveal the truth of the supreme essence of the divine, thus overthrowing false beliefs of God, society and life in general. It seeks, through a long and arduous journey of self evaluation and constant introspection, to remove the veil of darkness and reintroduce that divine spark of light to the individual, thereby allowing the reconnection to deity in the Pleroma.
This word refers to what some might call heaven, but that concept falls short of what this truly represents. The main matrix of Gnosticism includes the idea of an absolutely pure concept of God. This way of looking at deity presents the idea of a singularity, The Monad. God is basically unaware of itself and is pure bliss. Anything united with that singularity is part of it, but there are aspects of it that can congeal and develop their own thoughts and agenda. The Pleroma is pure being and ultimately is beyond most thoughts of a creator god. Our version of a creator was a circumstance of Sophia.
Sophia means wisdom. Originally a part of the Pleroma, Sophia, a feminine aspect of the divine, became curious about the nature of existence and if there was more to the universe, or so the story goes. Through her investigations, eventually there came into being, through her, the Demiurge. Some consider Sophia to be a great hero; others are not so kind.
The Demiurge is probably one of the most controversial of all aspects of Gnosticism. The word Demiurge means common worker, and implies that he was not beyond making a mistake or two. (Some have said that Demiurge means half effort. I don’t agree.) In fact, when it comes to looking at the woes of our world, the Demiurge gets all the credit.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Have you ever asked yourself why good people suffer and villains thrive, survive and ruin things for the rest of us? Have you ever wondered how children become ill, why they die of terrible diseases or suffer at the hands of abuse? Why do tsunamis wipe out entire populations? Why is there savagery in nature, and more importantly, why does it exist in humanity? Why do we become ill? Why do we eventually die? Why can life be so incredibly difficult, yet so wonderful at the same time? The Demiurge, that’s why.
Aleister Crowley portrayed the Demiurge as The Fool in his Tarot. Within his grasp are all the elements for the creation of anything and everything that exists, and yet he is empty of thought and without any true plan. His is a mishmash of creative fury. It’s almost as if he blunders his way through the creative process, leaving us to be stuck with the miserable consequences of his creations.
A Spark of Divinity
The idea that we live in a world created by a flawed creator naturally brings to mind the thought that life is, or can be, miserable. In fact, this was one of the basic views of many of the Gnostic groups. In their eyes, life is misery and is the real hell. Everything is an illusion and nothing more than a trapping, designed to keep us from realizing the immense lie that we play a part of. This negative view of life, as a form of bondage of the soul, isn’t very uplifting, but to the right devotee, it can be a wonderful opportunity to bring home the idea of turning inward, making the most of this existence and finding that spark of divinity within us that allows us to transcend simple physical being and move into the realm of the spiritual.
For the Open Minded
The Demiurge is often linked to our concept of a creator God. In other words, the very deity worshiped all over the world every day and considered to be the supreme God in many religions, is viewed by the Gnostics to be the creator of all misery and the father of trouble. It’s easy to see why it takes a certain type of person to take on Gnosticism, one with an ability to be open minded and un-phased by dogma, culture or fear. Through the ability to investigate and accept, comes a certain freedom.
The Three Types of Individuals
In Gnosticism, there are three levels of personal existence.
The first is the Hylic and is the most physically bound, being trapped in desire, a need for love, possessions, and physicality.
The second of these is known as the Psychic, and relates to those who are mentally based, concerned with those realms that although not seen, can certainly be conceived of and felt, but are also partially spiritualized.
The third type is the Pneumatic, the spiritual individual who connects to higher levels of consciousness, thereby giving the opportunity, through inner searching and meditation, the ability to again unite with the real God rather than the illusions held by most. This is the desired spiritual level of attainment for humans. Through understanding, through gnosis, they become essentially incorruptible and are immune to the perversions and misery of the world.
Although it is possible to move from one spiritual level to another, there is nothing easy about it. In part, this was the great aim of spiritual alchemy and the reason for the immense secrecy involved in its symbols and teachings.
Spiritual alchemy has been a fascination in the metaphysical and occult world for hundreds of years.
As Above, So Below
The basic axiom, “as above, so below,” lends itself to the idea that whatever happens at any level of the universe must also take place within the individual. This becomes the concept of the macrocosm and the microcosm. As certain sets of rules apply to everything that occurs, it follows that if we view nature and science, we should be able to get a good idea as to what is happening inside us.
The search for alchemical gold, or the philosopher’s stone, is a common theme throughout occult lore. The idea of gold being the perfect metal, in that it never tarnishes, links it to the sun, the giver of life on this planet.
It was presumed that within each and every one of us there is a divine spark, that connection to the Monad, God, that once seen, is freed and allowed to transform us, essentially changing us completely and influencing the world.
It was also assumed that all metals started out as gold, but due to their surroundings, became corrupted and devolved into other minerals. For example, in an area that was filled with angry, violent energy, the gold might become iron. In another area, it might become lead, tin, or copper. Through the use of base corrosives and acids designed to break down the constituent parts of the minerals, and through a specific set of carefully defined processes, the lesser aspects of the minerals would eventually be shed and the gold within released. So it must be with us.
If we spend time evaluating, meditating and working on ourselves in a constant effort to release the dross from our spirit, mind, and body, the inner gold of divinity will also be released. The aim was to improve ourselves and free us from pettiness, illness, misery, greed and even death.
Archon means ruler, and under the main Archon, the Demiurge, was a legion of lesser rulers. Some might consider them to be the gods of the ancient world. Some have linked them to angelic forces, however this is not necessarily a flattering light to be illuminated by. Like their fellow Archon, the Demiurge, they are well removed from the original energy of the divine and thus prone to flaws, causing misery.
In Deep Thought
Far from being a depressing philosophy, Gnosticism is a discipline of deep thought, realistic observation of the world, and ultimate hope. At least, that’s my point of view. Some might think Gnosis to be a cynic’s delight, others simply a frank depiction of life. I urge you to do your own research and make your own decisions. You certainly don’t have to embrace, nor believe in it, but you might find that parts of it resonate in a way that you don’t expect, and will certainly make you think.
Until next time, I wish you all peace and love.