Water in stories and mythology

Water is so important for all of us as a part of surviving as part of life on this Earth.

Water is so important for all of us as a part of surviving as part of life on this Earth. Ancient civilizations like Indus River Valley, Egyptian, Greek, Native American, etc. have created myths and legends to highlight the importance of this element for us all.

Within Hindu Mythology we hear odes to river goddesses like Ganges; within Roman Mythology Neptune is the Lord of the Seas, Aborigine tribes recall their totemic origins from water spirits, etc. In monotheist religions water constitutes a link with God.

In the Old Testament it is the instrument used by God to punish (the Flood) or save (the Crossing of the Red Sea). And even till now, water is a symbol of purity and rebirth for the Christians, hence the reason for baptizing children in the holy waters. For the Muslims the spring in which Ismaël, son of Abraham and Agar, quenched his thirst has become a holy place.

Water unceasingly changes shapes and transforms itself. It is thus a model out of which everything can be born. Water, consequently, becomes a symbol of fertility that can be found in all the myths and all the religions. Beings and things are born of water.

Water also possesses medicinal virtues. Some waters are recognized miraculous powers capable of healing the bodies. It is also a source of purification- for the individual beings but also for the whole of mankind. The Great Flood is a founding episode in numerous civilizations. Among Australia`s Aborigenes, a giant frog is said to have swallowed the Earth`s water to release it only when the other animals, dying with thirst, made it burst out laughing. The Flood is a re-creation of the world. One emerges from water in order to be reborn.

Greek /Roman Mythology: Poseidon or Neptune

Greek Mythology talks about the presence of three worlds- the Skies, the Oceans, and the Underworld and therefore accords a special and powerful God to each one of them, Zeus (Jupiter), Poseidon (Neptune), and Hades (Pluto). God of the sea, also called the Earth-shaker due to is violent temper and ability to caused earthquakes, Poseidon was the son of Cronus, a tyrannical Titan, and Rhea, and brother of Zeus and Hades. He was the husband of Amphitrite (a Nereid or nymph of the sea).

Originally, Poseidon was the god of water, but later became a sea-god as well as the ultimate master of the wells and rivers. His temples were usually situated by the sea; the remains of one of them can still be seen at Cap Sounion, near Athens, Greece.

In art Poseidon was pictured with a trident and the dolphin was his animal. Poseidon was also the horse-god as his chariot was drawn by golden maned horses. Moreover it was said that Poseidon himself created the first horse by striking his trident on the ground. To appease Poseidon, the ancient Greeks would sacrifice horses to him and sink them into the sea.
Ancient Greeks had patron deities for each one of their cities. Poseidon was the patron god of the Ionians.

However he wanted to be the protector of Athens, one of the most prosperous cities of Greece. In competition with Athena, the goddess of wisdom and a daughter of Zeus, Poseidon quarreled for the worship of the Athenians. He struck his trident into the ground and sprung out a hot water spring. When the people drank the water, they had to spit it out since it was salty sea water from the Sea-God. He then lost to Athena who had given Athens the olive tree they thought to be more useful.

Christian Word Noah’s Ark

The story of Noah`s Ark, according to chapters 6 to 9 in the Christian ‘Book of Genesis’, begins with God observing the Earth`s corruption and deciding to destroy all life.

However, God found one good man, Noah, "a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time", and decided that he would save him. God instructs Noah to make an ark for his family and for representatives of the world`s animals and birds in "whose nostrils is the breath of life".

Noah and his family and the animals entered the Ark, and "on the same day all the fountains of the great deep were broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened, and the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights". The flood covered even the highest mountains to a depth of more than 6 meters (20 ft), and all creatures died; only Noah and those with him on the Ark were left alive.

At the end of 150 days the Ark came to rest (on the seventeenth day of the seventh month) on the mountains of Ararat. For 150 days again the waters receded, and the hilltops emerged. Noah sent out a raven which "went to and from the Ark until the waters were dried up from the earth".

Next, Noah sent a dove out, but it returned having found nowhere to land. After a further seven days, Noah again sent out the dove, and it returned with an olive leaf in its beak, and he knew that the waters had subsided.

Noah waited seven days more and sent out the dove once more, and this time it did not return. Then he and his family and all the animals left the Ark, and Noah made a sacrifice to God, and God resolved that he would never again curse the ground because of man, nor destroy all life on it in this manner. Man in turn was instructed never to eat any animal which had not been drained of its blood.

In order to remember this promise, God put a rainbow in the clouds, saying, "Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

Hindu Mythology: Matsya Avatar or Hindu Version of Noah’s Ark

The core concept of Hinduism is that there is no beginning or end, only transformation. When Man abandons his dharma and ventures into the territory of Adharma, Nature starts its destructive transformation. Matsya, the one-horned fish, is the first among, the Dashavatar, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu was created to preserve humanity for this very reason.

However, this avatar has no temples and no significant independent representations in art and literature, yet it remains significant for many reasons.

It is the very first incarnation and establishes a prototype for all the various incarnations of god that follow. Secondly, it shares with the rest of the religions a belief that at one time the planet was threatened with a great flood and a savior preserved all life forms.

Thirdly it establishes the concept of Manus for each Great Age as defined in Hindu Mythology. The Manu is a proto-Adam, responsible for overseeing the first hesitant stages of all life forms in the new cycle of creation and he lives for the entire cycle as some sort of cosmic warden. The Manu and his wife become the First Parents for each cycle. In the Fish Incarnation Vishnu chose a great and pious king named Satyavrata to become the next Manu.

Matsya, the miniscule one-horned fish, swam into the hands of a pious man, King Satyavrata, who was bathing in the oceans and asked him to save it from the bigger fish. The pious man took the fish home and placed it in a small vessel. The fish kept on increasing its size.

It was then transferred from the small vessel to a big vessel; from it to a well, from well to a pond, from pond to a lake; and finally it was transferred to the ocean but it still kept growing.

Satyavrata realized the fish is Lord Vishnu himself and prostates before it. Matsya then told him that there will be a Mahapralaya (or catastrophe) in seven days. Matsya requests him to gather the seeds of all plants and a pair each of all living beings. He furthermore asks him to collect the seven Great Sages to save the Brahmanical Knowledge. He is asked to put them in a ship and wait for the deluge.

Matsya also tells the pious man that it will again appear during the deluge and he will need to tie the boat to its horn using Snake Vasuki, the King of Serpents, as the rope.

When the flood occurs, Satyavrata is ready with all the required items. He loads them on the ship. Vasuki wrap himself on the ship and the one horn of Matsya as the Lord guided them safely through the flood waters.

Native American Folklore: How the Fly Saved the River

Many, many years ago when the world was new, there was a beautiful river. Fish in great numbers lived in this river, and its water was so pure and sweet that all the animals came there to drink.

A giant moose heard about the river and he too came there to drink. But he was so big, and he drank so much, that soon the water began to sink lower and lower.

The beavers were worried. The water around their lodges was disappearing. Soon their homes would be destroyed. The muskrats were worried, too. What would they do if the water vanished? How could they live? The fish were very worried. The other animals could live on land if the water dried up, but they couldn`t.

All the animals tried to think of a way to drive the moose from the river, but he was so big that they were too afraid to try. Even the bear was afraid of him.

At last the fly said he would try to drive the moose away. All the animals laughed and jeered. How could a tiny fly frighten a giant moose? The fly said nothing, but that day, as soon as the moose appeared, he went into action.
He landed on the moose`s foreleg and bit sharply. The moose stamped his foot harder, and each time he stamped, the ground sank and the water rushed in to fill it up.

Then the fly jumped about all over the moose, biting and biting and biting until the moose was in a frenzy. He dashed madly about the banks of the river, shaking his head, stamping his feet, snorting and blowing, but he couldn`t get rid of that pesky fly. At last the moose fled from the river, and didn`t come back.

The fly was very proud of his achievement, and boasted to the other animals, "Even the small can fight the strong if they use their brains to think."

This is how the fly saved the river.

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