Water and religion
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Some faiths use water especially prepared for religious purposes (holy water in most Christian denominations, mambuha in Mandaeism, amrita in Sikhism and Hinduism). Many religions also consider particular sources or bodies of water to be sacred or at least auspicious; examples include Lourdes in Roman Catholicism, the Jordan River (at least symbolically) in some Christian churches and Mandaeism called Yardena, the Zamzam Well in Islam and the River Ganges (among many others) in Hinduism.
Faiths that incorporate ritual washing (ablution) include Christianity, Mandaeism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Islam, the Baháʼí Faith, Shinto, Taoism, and the Rastafari movement. Immersion (or aspersion or affusion) of a person in water is a central sacrament of Christianity (where it is called baptism); it is also a part of the practice of other religions, including Mandaeism (masbuta), Judaism (mikvah) and Sikhism (Amrit Sanskar). In addition, a ritual bath in pure water is performed for the dead in many religions including Judaism, Mandaeism and Islam. In Islam, the five daily prayers can be done in most cases (see Tayammum) after completing washing certain parts of the body using clean water (wudu). In Shinto, water is used in almost all rituals to cleanse a person or an area (e.g., in the ritual of misogi).
Immersion of deities
In Christianity, the baptism of Jesus is an important moment in Christian theology and is celebrated in Western Christianity as Epiphany. In the Christian East this feast is celebrated as Theophany on January 6.
Water deities are usually a focus of worship at specific springs or holy wells, but there are also more abstract ocean deities, and deities representing "water" as an abstract element, such as Aban in Zoroastrianism.
Example for local tutelary water deities include Celtic Sulis, worshipped at the thermal spring at Bath, or Ganges in Hinduism, personified as a goddess. The Hindu goddess Saraswati originated as a personification of the Saraswati River in the Rigveda, but became a more abstract deity of wisdom in Hinduism. African examples include the Yoruba river goddess Oshun, the Igbo lake goddess Ogbuide (Uhammiri), the Igbo river goddess Idemili and Agulu Lake (Achebe).
- Z. Wahrman, Miryam (2016). The Hand Book: Surviving in a Germ-Filled World. University Press of New England. p. 46-48. ISBN 9781611689556.
Water plays a role in other Christian rituals as well. ... In the early days of Christianity, two to three centuries after Christ, the lavabo (Latin for “I wash myself”), a ritual handwashing vessel and bowl, was introduced as part of Church service.
- Ian Bradley (2 November 2012). Water: A Spiritual History. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 978-1-4411-6767-5.
It was probably out of the Jewish rite that the practice developed among early Christians, especially in the east, of washing their hands and feet before going into church. Early Christian basilicas had a fountain for ablutions, known as cantharus or phiala, and usually placed in the centre of the atrium. They are still found in some Eastern Orthodox churches, notably at the monastery of Laura at Mount Athos, where the phiala is an imposing structure in front of the entrance covered by a dome resting on eight pillars. In several Orthodox churches today worshippers take off heir shoes and wash their feet before entering the church just as Muslims do before going into a mosque.
- Bingham, Joseph (1840). The antiquities of the Christian Church. W. Straker. p. 396.
In the middle of which stood a Fountain for washing as they entered into the Church, called Cantharus and Phiala in some authors. It is further to be noted, that in the middle of the atrium, there was commonly a fountain, or a cistern of water, for people to wash their hands and face, before they went into the church.
- Sehgal, Sunil (1999). Encyclopaedia of hinduism: (R - S)., Volume 4. New Delhi, India: Sarup & Sons. pp. 1082, 1087. ISBN 81-7625-064-3.
- "The Theophany of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ". Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. Retrieved 7 January 2012.
- Sabine Jell-Bahlsen, The Water Goddess in Igbo Cosmology; Ogbuide of Oguta Lake. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2008.
- Robin Horton, "African Traditional Thought and Western Science." Africa (37) 1967.
- Judith Gleason, Oya. In Praise of an African Goddess. New York: Harper and Collins, 1987.
- Badejo, Deirdre. Osun Seegesi; The Elegant Deity of Wealth, Power and Femininity. Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 1996.
- Chamberlain, Gary (2008). Troubled Waters: Religion, Ethics, and the Global Water Crisis.
- Eliade, Mircea (1996) . Patterns in Comparative Religion. Chapter V: The Waters and Water Symbolism. pp. 188–215.
- Larbi Bouguerra, Mohamed (2005). Water: Symbolism and Culture. Institut Veolia Environment. (archived)