Describing sacred waters and their associated traditions in over thirty countries and across multiple time periods, this book identifies patterns in panhuman hydrolatry. Supplying life’s most basic daily need, freshwater sources were likely the earliest sacred sites, and the first protected and contested resource. Guarded by taboos, rites and supermundane forces, freshwater sources have also been considered thresholds to otherworlds. Often associated also with venerated stones, trees and healing flora, sacred water sources are sites of biocultural diversity. Addressing themes that will shape future water research, this volume examines cultural perceptions of water’s sacrality that can be employed to foster resilient human–environmental relationships in the growing water crises of the twenty-first century. The work combines perspectives from anthropology, archaeology, classics, folklore, geography, geology, history, literature and religious studies.

chapter |31 pages

Holy wells and sacred springs

part I|26 pages

Ancient influences

chapter 1|6 pages

Fons et Origo

Observations on sacred springs in classical antiquity and tradition

chapter 3|9 pages

Life and death from the watery underworld

Ancient Maya interaction with caves and cenotes

part II|36 pages

Stewarding curative waters and caring for pilgrims

chapter 4|10 pages

“Go drink from the spring and wash there”

The healing waters of Lourdes

chapter 5|9 pages

The well of Zamzam

A pilgrimage site and curative water in Islam

chapter 6|15 pages

Sacrality and waterfront sacred places in India

Myths and the making of place

part III|43 pages

Genii loci and ancestors

chapter 7|13 pages

Freshwater sources and their relational contexts in Indigenous Australia

Views from the past and present

chapter 8|11 pages

Inca shrines

Deities in stone and water

part IV|46 pages

Temporal powers, social identity and sacred geography

chapter 11|7 pages

Divine waters in Ethiopia

The source from Heaven and Indigenous water-worlds in the Lake Tana region

chapter 12|11 pages

Ori Aiye

A holy well among the Ondo of Southeastern Yorubaland, Nigeria

chapter 13|9 pages

Sacred wells of Banaras

Glorifications, ritual practices and healing

chapter 14|9 pages


Korean sacred mineral spring water

part V|26 pages

Medieval Europe

chapter 16|7 pages

Between Fons and foundation

Managing a French holy well in the Miracula Sancti Theoderici

chapter 17|10 pages

Finnaun y Doudec Seint

A holy spring in early medieval Brycheiniog, Wales

part VI|46 pages

Contested and shared sites

chapter 19|7 pages

A higher level of immersion

A contemporary freshwater mikvah pool in Israel

chapter 20|10 pages

Waters at the edge

Sacred springs and spatiality in Southwest Finnish village landscapes

chapter 21|10 pages

Memory and martyrs

Holy springs in Western Siberia

chapter 23|10 pages

Water sanctuaries of Hatay, Turkey

part VII|28 pages

Sacred waterfalls

chapter 24|7 pages

Sacred waters of Haitian Vodou

The pilgrimage of Sodo

chapter 26|10 pages

Back into the light

Water and the indigenous uncanny in northeastern Japan

part VIII|51 pages

Popular pieties

chapter 27|12 pages

With sacred springs, without holy wells

The case of Estonia

chapter 30|10 pages

Visiting holy wells in seventeenth-century Sweden

The case of St. Ingemo’s Well in Dala

chapter 31|8 pages

The Buddha’s thumb, Nāga legends and blessings of health

Sacred water and religious practice in Thailand

part IX|54 pages

Hydrology, stewardship and biocultural heritage

chapter 32|11 pages

At the end of the field, a pot of Nemunai is boiling

A study of Lithuanian springs

chapter 33|9 pages

Where does the water come from?

A hydrogeological characterisation of Irish holy wells

chapter 34|9 pages

The holy springs of Russia’s Orel Region

Traditions of place and environmental care

chapter 35|10 pages

Sentient springs and sources of life

Water, climate change and world-making practices in the Andes

chapter 36|13 pages

Flora, fauna and curative waters

Ireland’s holy wells as sites of biocultural diversity