Symbols in Stories from Around the World
I am mesmerized by the sound of waves crashing against the shore, carving into cliffs, and then receding back into that vast ocean. The ocean is both inviting and foreboding.
Many cultures believe that water existed first before any kind of creation. Out of the void came water and then from the water came land. Even a baby is surrounded by water in the womb. Water is a symbol of febrility and the hope of life to be.
Our bodies are mostly made from water, and our bodies thirst for water. We can live only a few days without water while we could survive many days without food. Water is nourishment, replenishment, and renewal to our bodies and souls.
Islam sees water as the most precious of substances and is used for ritual ablutions. The Well of Zamzam is symbolic of Allah’s unconditional love. Jesus Christ was known as the Living Water.
Rituals often include water as a purification or of a washing of something or someone. Many religions have baptism whether by sprinkling or being completely immersed.
The Ancient Egyptians revered water as they lived in a dry land and most people lived along the Nile River. A vase of water was always carried at the front of the procession at the festival or Osiris. This vase represented Isis, the wife of Osiris. As Osiris was god of the underworld, Isis was goddess of life.
Suijin, Japanese water deities, were often prayed to for the rice crop to flourish. The Greeks had nymphs who were spirits of the water upon the land (and often chased by satyrs). These nymphs were beautiful and desirable much as water is beautiful and desirable to all living things. While European dragons were fire-breathing beasts, the Chinese dragons always were strongest by and near water whether in the sky or upon the land. These Chinese dragons were well-loved by the people whereas knights in shining armor were sent to vanquish the fire-breathing dragons.
Whole lakes could cover an underwater kingdom. These lakes could contain mystical beings such as the Lady of the Lake and the sword Excalibur. Lakes in Scandinavia could contain water sprites that are as big as a human, have long scaly arms, and have sharp beaks.
Stories that feature water:
- “Why the Sea is Salty,” Icelandic tale, two millstones could grind whatever the King Frodi wanted and he ground out gold but then the sea king killed the King Frodi
- “Peder and the Water Sprite,” Scandinavian tale, Peder’s father dies but leaves him three things that help him to capture a squirrel and a rabbit and then outwit the water sprite (who then gives the boy a huge amount of treasure from the bottom of the lake)
- “The Smiling Rabbit,” Mexican tale, a couple own a jaguar and a rabbit and the couple boils the water and the jaguar tells the rabbit that the rabbit will be eaten while the rabbits believes the boiled water is for hot chocolate and the rabbit tricks the jaguar several times afterward
What stories do you know that feature water? A body of water? Please comment below and share with others.
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