Sacred Water Medicine
Sunday, July 1, 2012
If there is one time when Atlantan’s feel the importance of water, it’s high summer. Sizzling pavement and parched lips make us grateful for a glass or a dip. But water is more than coolant; water has the power to heal. The water that sustains us, the water which grows our food also washes our wounds, suspends medicine in a cup of tea, soaks away our aches and pains, releases our grief in the form of tears and toxins as sweat.
Hydrotherapy is the use of water for medical treatment. Each week at the Open Door Foot Clinic, we soak feet in herbal solutions to heal the skin, relieve pain, and balance the nervous system. Hot foot soaks can also relieve menstrual pain, or boost the immune system to fight off a cold. Herbal waters can be used internally and externally for a variety of complaints. We use water to create douches, enemas, nasal flushes, eye washes, teas, and compresses, all powerful means to heal. But water, as the source of life, also has the power to heal the emotional and energetic body and so has been used in sacred healing rituals around the world.
Jews have ritual bathing for women known as the mikvah; ancient Greek and Roman life revolved around the public bathhouse; Muslims perform ablutions with pure rainwater before entering the Mosque; Hindus believe water is energy in liquid form and pilgrims flock to the shores of India’s great rivers for sacred cleansing; Christians Wade in the Water and affirm their devotion through baptism; Voodoo ritual floor washings rid the house of evil and can bestow love and luck.
I worship water while sitting on the banks of Ripplewater Creek in the backyard, watching her textured current winding past me, washing away worldly woes. A little further from home, I’ve given thanks to the mineral rich thermal baths in Hot Springs, NC and the seaweed soaks in Sligo, Ireland. Once my luck found me on the other side of the equator, on a pilgrimage to receive blessings at Las Huaringas, a collection of lakes at 13,000 feet in the Andes. We traveled from bus to van to donkey to foot, and finally to the healing shores of Laguna Shimbe for la limpia, a ritual cleansing by the family shaman who blows perfumed flower water over us before we dip under Shimbe’s chilly waters.
The ancient Incan understanding of water humbles me. They built temples along the water passages from the source to the villages. All the water was blessed and charged with healing energy as it flowed past priests, priestesses, and through nature herself. Imagine a community where not only the temple water was sacred and blessed, but the tap water itself– the water for your fields and with which you brush your teeth.
Imagine if the Atlanta Water Works piped water charged with intention and respect instead of just chlorine and fluoride. Imagine if the foot tubs we fill to heal the wounded feet of our friends on the street had the blessing of our civic leaders. Imagine if we rejected a combined sewer system and kept our municipal and industrial wastewater separate from the storm water to protect our creeks from contaminating overflow. Let us always remember that water is a precious gift, which we can repay by standing as her guardian.
First appeared in Sevananda Co-Options Newspaper July/August 2012