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

ByCeleste Ray

part I|26 pages

Ancient influences

chapter 1|6 pages

Fons et Origo

Observations on sacred springs in classical antiquity and tradition
ByChristopher M. McDonough

chapter 2|9 pages

Water sources and the sacred in modern and ancient Greece

ByEvy Johanne Håland

chapter 3|9 pages

Life and death from the watery underworld

Ancient Maya interaction with caves and cenotes
ByNicholas P. Dunning

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
ByMichael Agnew

chapter 5|9 pages

The well of Zamzam

A pilgrimage site and curative water in Islam
ByAhmad Ghabin

chapter 6|15 pages

Sacrality and waterfront sacred places in India

Myths and the making of place
ByRana P.B. Singh

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
ByLiam M. Brady

chapter 8|11 pages

Inca shrines

Deities in stone and water
ByMarco Curatola Petrocchi

chapter 9|10 pages

Dragon wells and sacred springs in China

ByJean DeBernardi, Yan Jie, Ma Junhong

chapter 10|7 pages

Sacred springs of the Tewa Pueblos, New Mexico

ByRichard I. Ford

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
ByTerje Oestigaard, Gedef Abawa Firew

chapter 12|11 pages

Ori Aiye

A holy well among the Ondo of Southeastern Yorubaland, Nigeria
ByRaheem Oluwafunminiyi, Victor Ajisola Omojeje

chapter 13|9 pages

Sacred wells of Banaras

Glorifications, ritual practices and healing
ByVera Lazzaretti

chapter 14|9 pages


Korean sacred mineral spring water
ByHong-key Yoon

chapter 15|8 pages

Sacred hierarchy, festival cycles and water veneration at Chalma in Central Mexico

ByRamiro Alfonso Gómez Arzapalo Dorantes

part V|26 pages

Medieval Europe

chapter 16|7 pages

Between Fons and foundation

Managing a French holy well in the Miracula Sancti Theoderici
ByKate M. Craig

chapter 17|10 pages

Finnaun y Doudec Seint

A holy spring in early medieval Brycheiniog, Wales
ByAndy Seaman

chapter 18|7 pages

Gvendarbrunnar of medieval Iceland

ByMargaret Jean Cormack

part VI|46 pages

Contested and shared sites

chapter 19|7 pages

A higher level of immersion

A contemporary freshwater mikvah pool in Israel
ByRobert Phillips

chapter 20|10 pages

Waters at the edge

Sacred springs and spatiality in Southwest Finnish village landscapes
ByJohn Björkman

chapter 21|10 pages

Memory and martyrs

Holy springs in Western Siberia
ByJeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby

chapter 22|7 pages

Sacred and healing springs in the Republic of North Macedonia

BySnežana Filipova

chapter 23|10 pages

Water sanctuaries of Hatay, Turkey

ByJens Kreinath

part VII|28 pages

Sacred waterfalls

chapter 24|7 pages

Sacred waters of Haitian Vodou

The pilgrimage of Sodo
ByElizabeth McAlister

chapter 25|9 pages

The Olympic Mountains and the sacrality of water in the Klallam world

ByCailín E. Murray

chapter 26|10 pages

Back into the light

Water and the indigenous uncanny in northeastern Japan
ByEllen Schattschneider

part VIII|51 pages

Popular pieties

chapter 27|12 pages

With sacred springs, without holy wells

The case of Estonia
ByHeiki Valk

chapter 28|10 pages

The holy wells of Wychwood Forest, England

ByMartin Haigh

chapter 30|10 pages

Visiting holy wells in seventeenth-century Sweden

The case of St. Ingemo’s Well in Dala
ByTerese Zachrisson

chapter 31|8 pages

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

Sacred water and religious practice in Thailand
ByRachelle M. Scott

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
ByVykintas Vaitkevičius

chapter 33|9 pages

Where does the water come from?

A hydrogeological characterisation of Irish holy wells
ByBruce Misstear, Laurence Gill, Cora McKenna, Ronan Foley

chapter 34|9 pages

The holy springs of Russia’s Orel Region

Traditions of place and environmental care
ByJane Costlow

chapter 35|10 pages

Sentient springs and sources of life

Water, climate change and world-making practices in the Andes
ByAstrid B. Stensrud

chapter 36|13 pages

Flora, fauna and curative waters

Ireland’s holy wells as sites of biocultural diversity
ByCeleste Ray