Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.
OCCC banner image with library photo

OCCC Reads 2015-2016: Water Matters: Chapter 16: Water in Myth and Religion

This guide provides a range of resources to use for OCCC Reads 2015-2016.

Chapter Summary


The significance of water cannot be underestimated, and “Water in Myth and Religion” reminds us that all life forms share an instinctive attraction to water. Ancient peoples journeyed along waterways and established significant cultural sites near water, and many of these rivers and lakes are still held sacred today. William Waterway begins the chapter with some of his personal experiences to demonstrate that both religious rites and mundane activities such as hand-washing can all inspire a “sense of well-being” and reverence when water is involved (173). In fact, religious rituals the world over have included water for millennia. Water is used symbolically to wash away sin, to purify religious adherents before entering holy places, and to prepare for solemn undertakings, such as handling a sacred text or flying a Kamikaze mission. Featured in creation myths, healing ceremonies, and death sacraments, water is constantly in motion and seems to possess mystical qualities. Like the divine trinities that appear in both Christianity and Hinduism, water is also three-in-one, alternately taking form as liquid, solid, and gas. Recently, concern for the “destructive changes” in their natural environment “caused by modern human activities” has brought the Kogi Indian tribe of Colombia out of centuries of isolation to warn us that the earth’s water must be nurtured for humanity’s survival (180). Waterway cautions readers that “without respect for water, there cannot be respect for . . . life” (180).

Why Use this Chapter?

Why Use this Chapter:

This chapter could be incorporated in the study of a wide variety of disciplines, including mythology, religion, philosophy, world history, anthropology, and geography. Students could conduct further research in any of these areas, individually or cooperatively, and share their findings to conduct critical comparative analyses.  Several general education outcomes could be addressed: Human Heritage, Culture, and Social Institutions; Critical Thinking; Writing; and/or Public Speaking.

Additional Resources

Miraculous Water: The Effects of Scarcity and Abundance in Benin, Ethiopia, Ghana, and Mali. Films On Demand. Films Media Group, 2004. Web.  <>.

Rojcewicz, Richard. "Everything Is Water." Research in Phenomenology 44.2 (2014): 194. MasterFILE Premier. Web.

Water and Its Powers. Films On Demand. Films Media Group, 2005. Web.  <h>.

Weiss, Jeffrey. "A River Runs Through Them: World Religions: How Water Shaped Our Beliefs And Rituals." Science & Spirit 18.3 (2007): 40-43. Academic Search Premier. Web.