Summary

Water and its natural resources stand at the center of the articles in this anthology. Water (Hock et al., 2001) is equally a material and spiritual element of religions and doctrines of salvation. Teachings and rituals of all religions mirror the basic importance of the commodity for man, animal, and plant. This view is prevalent in an immense number of liturgies, rituals, and uses. It is promulgated in typical fashions in a multitude of myths, mythologies, epics, legends, tales of miracles, or it is rationally explained in epistles and theological accounts. It is heard as well in hymns, mantras, psalms, litanies, and prayers of all kinds. Washing (Bowker, 1999) constitutes basic ceremony in many religions. "Water - Source of Life" was the motto of the United Nations International Decade. "Water is life" wrote Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. Water is practically "a culturally universal symbol." It stands not only for biological but also for spiritual existence.

It will be remembered in the "Year of Darwin" that the conception of the development of life belongs to age-old traditions of man. It took the "minority theory" of Anaximandros of Milet (first half of the sixth century BC) (Mayerhöfer, 1959-1970) a long time before it became a common belief. He believed that present oceans were the rest of an ancient ocean and speculated that modern land creatures had aquatic ancestors. Thus the basic assumptions of modern science were anticipated by an ancient philosopher.

Mythic-religious thought is mixed with real knowledge, particularly regarding water. Rivers and sources, therefore, have been and continue to be seen as holy places. Water is most frequently related in connection to the beginning of the world. In the Indian "Bhavishyotara-purana" (31,14), water is described as the source of all existence. According to the Babylonian "Enuma Elisch," the earth came from chaotic waters. Accordingly in the bible, Yahweh floats "above the waters" (Roth, 2008) before water and land were separated from one another.

This brings to mind, likewise, sources regarded as holy places (i.e., Lourdes) and holy rivers like the Ganges, the Jordan, and the Euphrates as one of the four paradise rivers of the bible (Gen 2, 14) and the four ruin-bringing angels (Rev. 9, 14).

Water is a basic element of liturgies and ceremonies. Baptismal water is used in all Christian denominations. Easter vigil is celebrated with water sanctification. On the twelfth night after morning mass, water of the three kings is accepted. There are similarities to other religions. Holy water is also a significant part of the Yasna ceremony of a Gahambar in Zoroastrianism (Arbeitspapier, 2008).

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