Year 2 - n.3 - June 2002


The Symbolism of Water  (the second part)


According to the Greek philosopher Talete, water is the primitive element present in all things. In the Bible, at the beginning of the Genesi, we can read that God’s Spirit (Ruah Eloim) hovered on the waters: the water is the primitive element, the unique thing which God did not make because  coexisted with Him. Actually in the Genesis, God separated only the waters which were above the sky from those one below it, while about the other elements of nature we can read clearly that He made the stars, the creatures and finally man. But in the Bible, in the Greek mythology and in other people there is also the tradition of the flood. By the Flood, God destroyed mankind judged guilty of too many crimes. This tradition shows the ambiguity of this symbol: the water, image of life, is also an instrument of destruction. But also in this case, the Spirit reverses the situation: the flood, essentially negative event, changes into the positive event of the origin. After the Flood there was a new mankind with which God stipulated an alliance putting the seal of the rainbow in the sky.



In the Greek mythology a new mankind was made by Deucalione and Pirra who, throwing behind their backs stones which changed into men and women, populated again the world. So we can understand the meaning of the blessing with water: it wants to take back the blessed thing to the original condition, to the birth or rebirth, from the primordial waters. The same symbolism is present in the Baptism sacrament which in the past (like the word shows from the Greek baptízo baptizw “dip”), happened by immersion, that is by a sort of drowning: the neophyte, the new Christian disciple, by this “drowning”, died like old man and was born again like new man. This symbolism is present also in Saffo’s legend who threw herself into the sea from the rock of Leucade to forget the not returned affection for the beautiful Faone: to run the risk of drowning means to get over the crisis and feel like a new man. 


Italo Sarcone