The photograph on my oracle card is of a well I have visited a number of times. It's not in a secret place, and I have not heard that it is even dedicated to a saint or goddess, or that it has reputed healing properties. It is in a small village in a somewhat remote part of a modern, developed European country. The people who live there are well educated and in some ways enjoy the best of both the modern world and an idyllic rural lifestyle - though not without its challenges. Their instinctive care for this small well, and their continued use of it into the 21st century, when every house has modern plumbing and piped water, is a testament to a deep knowing that is still within us. We are not only connected to the divine, we are the divine, but we easily become disassociated from the wholeness of the divine. Visiting the Well is not only about drinking of her waters, but about returning gratitude to her.
Well - A pure source of deepest understanding and healing. A knowing beyond words. Divine connection.
I look at the words above, which form the definition of the card Well in the Go Deeper oracle, and I wonder what more there is to say. Water is such a wonder to me, in any form. To have it welling up out of the ground, unbidden, is surely a kind of miracle. I actually believe that all water is sacred - the dirty river, the stuff in a plastic bottle - even in all the places we fail to see the sacred, water is there. We are mostly water. The earth is mostly water. We may ignore, defile, dirty and desecrate the sacred, we may buy it and sell it and even imprison it, but it remains sacred.
Water is a divine connection. You only have to look at the myth of the well at the centre of the world, where the salmon of knowledge swim, where the hazel trees drop their purple nuts for the salmon to eat, to know that this is both a great metaphor and a truth that we understand instinctively as water beings. Every well is a tributary of the great well, and so it is natural for sacred energy, or sacred beings, to gravitate to these places, just as it's natural for humans and animals to do so. We are thirsty - but not just for H2O. Our souls are thirsty, too, as is our energetic body.
I'm sure you know that wells are associated with knowledge and wisdom, with healing, with divination and with the granting of requests. They are a place of power. Water that has been purified by the earth carries many important minerals. However, it must also have a special energy. Just how powerful the energetic memory of water might be is getting more interest these days among scientists. The following documentary is long, and I would be the first to suspect that it contains a fair dose of pseudo science. However, I believe that nevertheless, these scientists are following what Einstein said is most important - their intuition. There is immense food for thought here, and I really recommend taking the time to watch this, even if you consider one part or another of the whole to be questionable.
Just in case you didn't watch the video right away, it features a number of scientists who are doing research into the memory of water. Into how the molecular structure of water changes when it is influenced by all kinds of different things. Everything from human emotions to music to modern forms of water transportation and treatment are considered, and a few religious scholars and philosophers add in their thoughts along the way. The video constantly reminds us that not only is our existence defined by water, but that we have an influence over it. Perhaps that's why positive thinking works -- or prayer, or holy water and holy wells.
We know enough about how our world works to understand that water circulates. It evaporates and falls as rain, it works its way into the ground and comes up somewhere else as a spring, it flows down the sides of mountains to end up in the sea, where the process is repeated in an ancient cycle. To some extent, the scientists in the film tell us, water cleanses itself of the negative memories it acquires through things like freezing and evaporation. It wipes the slate clean. However, this also made me think that when we visit a holy well, when we bless food or drink (even the food contains water) when we bless the earth and when we bless ourselves and each other - we have the opportunity to connect with the divine in a way that is similar to that physical circulation of water. If the water heals us, perhaps this is also because we help to heal the water. If we lavish love and care on the earth and on her well-shrines, and other waters, we become part of a circulation of healing, of wisdom and knowledge, of love and gratitude.
Of all the Pagan practices that have survived many centuries of Christianity in Europe, the veneration and recourse to sacred wells is high on the list. The Roman church found it easiest to create new, saintly stories around these places, and let the traditions continue in slightly modified forms, but even in Scotland, with its long history of protestant Calvinism and accompanying concerns about "idolitry", sacred wells survived, and are visited to this day. What we perhaps lost, to some extent, was the worship and veneration, the gratitude for sacred energy that completes the circle of divine connection. In the past few centuries, the cultural climate might have been willing to allow a visit to a well to ask a favour or to say a prayer, but to be seen to be actively worshiping there was not always safe. In this way, as we moved into modern times, I think our culture perhaps lost a little of the best these places have to offer. The awe, the reverence, the holiness of these places was slowly replaced by a sense of a transaction. A place to tie a clootie, throw a coin, leave a bent pin. I am not making light of any of these traditions per se, so much as saying that there is potential, without worship, love and gratitude, without a sense of the two way working of the divine connection, to lose our place in all this.