Water is everywhere, in our bodies, in our world. Water is the original source of life and all life contains water. Water is sacred -- entitled to reverence and respect. All people's have venerated water. Many have seen the source of rivers as being in the Otherworld or in Heaven. Rivers have been seen as sacred channels funneling blessings to earth. Ganga came down from heaven and became the Ganges. Boann became the River Boyne. Sionnan the Shannon. Hafren the Severn. The rivers of Europe bear the name of Danu, the Mother Goddess. We have the Danube, the Donn, the Dneiper. All echoes of Her life-giving presence. In Africa, Oshun, Oya and Yemanja gave their names to rivers. Mulan, a Chinese river Goddess, is said to hover over the entire length of Her river, day and night, guarding its purity and ensuring its abundance. And those are universal water themes -- abundance, fertility and purity. Whatever Pagan tradition we follow there are probably River Goddesses in our pantheons. We have Sea Gods and Goddesses also... but the sea is not drinking water. Of all the water on our world, only 2.5% is freshwater. And of that 69% is in glaciers, 30% in groundwater and only one third of one percent (.3%) in renewable supplies in lakes and waterways. So little. And yet we pollute it with inadequate sanitation, with industrial waste and with our lack of care in using water as a dumping ground. This is not the way to treat a sacred, life-giving element.
One of the themes of the last three Parliaments of the World's Religions has been the re-sacralizing of the Earth. There has been a recognition that our modern world has lost that sense of sacredness and that our survival as ecological beings demands that we find a way to bring a sense of veneration and respect back into our World. I believe that, as practitioners of Pagan traditions, we should be in the forefront of that effort. We have a history of regarding the Earth as sacred and now we need the will to step forward and walk our talk. At the Parliament last year in Barcelona, they asked each of us who attended an Assembly to commit to a "simple and profound act" to further one of four agendas. I chose "Access to Clean Water" and this presentation is my action.
Since committing to learn and teach about access to water I have read many things, from ancient sacred texts to modern religious writings, from the writings of activists and ecologist to declarations by the United Nations. It is clear that there is a looming crisis around access to potable water in this world. Over one billion people, about one sixth of the world's population, are without access to clean water today. And this is not just a third world problem. Yes, the greatest problems of bad sanitation and poverty are in the third world and with rising population it will only get worse. But industries and agriculture, citizens, cities and governments around the world pollute and mis-manage water. And there is a new and growing problem -- water is becoming increasingly privatized and commoditized. When water is held as a commodity for profit, rather than a human right and sacred trust, the problems can get much worse. Access to water and adequate sanitation must be handled responsibly for the benefit of all... humans, animals and the waterway ecology.
So, what am I advocating? We, as Pagans, need to be aware of the issue of access to clean water. We, as citizens of the world, need to be aware of where our own water comes from and who controls it. At the 2004 Parliament a number of Pagans attended the Water Assembly at Montserrat and they have called for Pagans around the world to accept a special relationship to water in their own regions - adopt a well or spring, a creek or river, a lake or reservoir -- do ritual, clean the area, defend its purity and advocate on its behalf. Speak to the Goddesses, the spirits of the waters, remind them of their sacredness and remind your communities that the waters are sacred.
I have vials that contain sacred waters from 43 countries on all seven continents and from all Seven Seas that have been gathered by the Rt. Rev. David Ponedel and others for the Waters of the World Project. Rev. Ponedel says, "As an event in an interfaith setting, using water gathered at sacred sites from around the world, is a powerful act. It brings together spirituality, faith traditions, histories, beliefs, stories, rituals, and miracles attributed to the places where the water has been collected. When this water is combined, a singular pool of energy is created, representing both the highest aspirations of the human family, and our shared understanding of the sacred relationship we hold with Life." People in the interfaith movement around the world are aligning themselves with his words and their own vials of water. The Waters of the World have been part of ceremonies at: UN50, San Francisco CA, June 1995; MerryMeet, Saratoga CA, August 1997; URI Global Summit, Stanford CA, June 1999; Parliament of the World's Religions, Cape Town, South Africa, December 1999; Earth Day, Berkeley CA, 2002; URI Global Council Meeting, City of 10,000 Buddhas CA, May 2004; Montserrat Assembly, Parliament of the World's Religions, Barcelona, Spain, 2004; Goldin Institute for International Partnership and Peace, Taipei, Taiwan, 2004 and probably in other places we don't know about. We are not alone in our prayers for water!
I have begun a practice where I hold the water and think pure and loving thoughts at it, along the lines of the work of Dr. Emoto's "Messages from Water". This aligns the water in a positive way. I then see my blessing going out to all the sources of water contained in the vial, plus to all other sources of water on the planet. I am sure that there are many other ways you might do workings around water in your own practice. This is important because, whilst we have the same tools of activism and engagement with the world that the next person has, we also recognize that we have access to magic and energy working. I believe that we must work on all levels for our planet and all who live here today and in generations to come.
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