Easter is a thought-provoking time, spent surrounded by nature awakening to life. Water is not only a resource that enlivens ecosystems, it is not only an element that brings disruptive disasters (floods or droughts) to us, it is also a source of special power that has been attributed for centuries. Over the centuries, the meaning of water in culture and customs has been different, its symbolism different. Sometimes it’s purification, sometimes fertility, sometimes immortality. It is not uncommon for us to wonder ourselves which role is merely assigned and which is a fact. We will not travel far, we will stay in the lands of the Slavs and look at the beliefs of our ancestors. In addition, we will tell in this issue of “Water Issues” a little about the traditions that have survived in popular culture to this day.

It all started with water

Cosmogonic myths are stories about the creation of the world. In most of them, water plays a key role. The story of the origins, handed down by the Slavs, was not written down until the late 19th century. The people reportedly had an extraordinary gift for storytelling, so the resulting culture, beliefs or myths were exceptionally colorful and filled with symbolism. In one such story, it all started with water – there was a sea, and above them circled Svetovit in the form of a swan. His own reflection in the taffy made him gasp for company, and so he separated his shadow from himself. Henceforth there was Perun, the most powerful god of the Slavs, and his worthy opponent Weles, the god of magic and the hereafter. It was he who, by pulling a handful of sand to the surface from the bottom of the sea and giving it to Perun, initiated the formation of the earth.

In Christianity, too, everything begins with water – the life of a child of God, through the symbolic three-fold immersion in water during the baptism ceremony. Man is born when he is cleansed of original sin. The sacrament of baptism is now administered in a modified form, mostly by pouring water on the head.

Deep respect for water

Water has found a special place in the folk worldview. The villagers, whose dependence on access to water and the amount of rainfall was great, held it in deep respect, both physically and spiritually. However, it should be noted that the symbolism here was ambiguous. Water taken from a well or spring was attributed with healing and purifying powers. Flowing rivers and streams depicted the passing of time, and swamps and marshes were equated with the harbor of evil. A destructive force in the literal sense – causing destruction, disease and death – was water during the great floods.

Recently, folk symbolism has been cited in numerous publications and statements emphasizing the importance of rivers to ecosystems. It views the watercourses as the blood system of mother earth. Rivers were also associated with crossing to the other side. Their shores separated two realms – the known and alien worlds, the living and the hereafter. To this day, many villages have retained a number of beliefs and beliefs, some of which have been imbued by tradition.

Folk wisdom and traditions

Our ancestors were excellent observers of nature and meteorological phenomena, as they based their future – farm and agricultural work – on them. The combination of beliefs and observations is a peculiar marriage still practiced by farmers. We write about what views guided the villagers and which of them are still valid in the article WWW, or what connects water, the village and Easter. A perfect example of the combination of folk beliefs and traditions that most of us uphold is the holy day. In the days of the Slavs, back in the pre-Christian period, the moment of the spring equinox was a holiday celebrating the rebirth of nature to life. Nowadays we carry baskets of holy food to churches to symbolically consecrate the foods with water. This topic, in the run-up to Christmas, also interested us, so we were told about it by Ewa Gondek, an expert who works at the Provincial Environmental Inspectorate. So is holy water tested and safe for us?

Contemporary perceptions of water

The Christmas reflection on water is worth complementing with our current perception of it. Recently, there has been quite a buzz about Ewa Ewart’s film with an expressive title: To the Last Drop . We undertook to write a short review. The documentary filmmaker herself speaks about the resulting production in the context of the need to see the problem of the world’s water crisis. Such a message was and is needed, but in our opinion, as water management specialists, it is necessary to go a step further. It is necessary to show not only the current state and consequences, but to direct attention to education. Indicate how to mitigate, how to adapt, what actions each of us can take.

Finally, going back to folk sayings, one of them is: When wet on Easter Sunday, the year goes dry. I checked the IMGW-PIB forecasts and it’s a twofer, as it’s supposed to rain on Saturday and they predict only cloud cover on Sunday. So we are waiting. I will get back to you in the autumn with information on whether this folk adage has come true.

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