Water on Water’s the Way » No Unsacred Place

In my latest post over on No Unsacred Place, I explore the relationship between the Druidic element gwyar and the classic elements more familiar to most modern Pagans, as part of a larger discussion about the tragedy of water pollution and the inaccessibility to clean drinking water for millions of people living in poverty all over the world:

It’s no surprise that the general numbness and disconnection of our modern culture — our alienation from gwyar as the expression of sacred connection and exchange with the planet and its many beings and gods — can be poignantly seen in our damaged and dangerous relationship to the element of water. The tragic poisoning of our oceans, rivers and lakes with pollution, refuse and oil spills; the almost one billion people across the planet without access to clean, safe drinking water and basic sanitation; the wasteful and exploitative use of water in well-off countries, where people carry around artificially-flavored “vitamin water” in trendy plastic bottles that ultimately end up in landfills leaching chemicals into the earth, or floating in a huge continent of trash in the middle of the Pacific… All of these are just some examples of how the illusion of our separateness from the earth and the other beings who live here with us lead to relationships of disharmony, imbalance, sickness and harm.

Yet to redress this dis-eased relationship, it is not enough to imagine clean water as a finite resource that must be equitably allocated throughout the human population, as though it can be manufactured, packaged and shipped in discreet bundles to where it is needed. Water — the blood of the earth — has its own vital part to play in the circulation of the other elements, and it would be as foolish to disrupt or override this process of movement and exchange as it would be to try to reorganize our own internal organs in the hopes that we could do without our liver or kidneys. Such an attempt would be to completely miss the lessons of gwyar, to ignore the deeper implications of connection, relationship and flow. Gwyar teaches us, for instance, that the problem of clean water is also the problem of clean air, as wind currents carry our smog across the oceans or fall in polluted rains into our rivers and lakes. The problem of clean water is the problem of clean energy, as our oil spills coat the seas with a film of sludge and new technologies like hydrofracking inject poisons into the skin of the earth in order to extract natural gases, leaving waste-water thick with chemicals to leach into the groundwater of the surrounding landscape. The problem of clean water is, too, the problem of clean soil, biodiversity and balanced ecosystems, as our petrochemical fertilizers and pesticides covering miles and miles of monoculture crops run off to taint our drinking water, and natural habitats like wetlands that once helped to filter out and break down harmful chemicals are being overwhelmed or destroyed by over-development.

How do we quench our thirst for connection? What can we do to help confront these problems of pollution and inequality and find healthy, balanced solutions? What can the element of gwyar teach us about the spiritual role that water plays in our lives?

You can read the full article here.


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Alison Leigh Lilly nurtures the earth-rooted, sea-soaked, mist-and-mystic spiritual heritage of her Celtic ancestors, exploring themes of peace, poesis and wilderness through essays, articles, poetry and podcasting. You can learn more about her work here.