Animism - The Seed of Religion

WATER WORSHIP

The healing, cleansing qualities of the mysterious fluid, notably where impregnated with mineral substances, have given rise to a group of superstitions and customs whose vitahty has been secured by common sympathy.

Hence the tender treatment of this old phase of nature-worship by the Church in discreetly adapting what it was difficult to abolish, substituting the name of Madonna or of saint for the pagan deity of the spring.

The barbaric lustrations reappear in the rite of baptism; the brush of the pagan temple sprinkles the faithful with holy water; the leprous Naaman, repairing to the Jordan, and the sick waiting their turn on the margin of Bethesda, have their correspondences in more ancient times among the Babylonians, who bathed in the Euphrates, beseeching the river
to carry away their disease; and, in modern times, in the persistence of old customs in the children dipped in wells to be cured of rickets, and in the cripples who still flock to St. Winifred's Well, in Flintshire, to which every year adds its stock of crutches as votive offerings, as the rescued sailors hung their clothes as thankofferings in the temples of the ancient sea-gods.

In this old water-worship, the old and the new

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meet; the Nile, the Ganges, and the Tiber are of the company of the great river-gods. The ancient Peruvians of the coast regarded the ocean as the most powerful of the gods, calling it mamacocha, or "mother-sea," for it yielded the fish on which they largely depended for food. 56 If the Romans had their Neptune, and the Greeks their Poseidon, the Celts of Britain had their Nodens and their Ludd, which latter name may survive in Ludgate, while a temple to the god, it has been suggested, once stood on the ground now covered by St. Paul's Cathedral.
For the sacred sites of the world have so remained from immemorial times.

Objection may here be made that, in dealing with water-worship, examples from historic, rather than from primitive, sources have been drawn upon. But these later examples are of value as proving the persistence of primitive ideas, and as illustrating the fact that in the rituals of all religions we have no inventions, but only survivals. And since what has been said regarding any one cult applies, mutatis mutandis, to other cults, we may pass to that department of Animism which 'is concerned with the rela-

56 Payne, ^p. 461.




Animism - Seed of Religion

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