“When I’m near the sound of water,” Maril Crabtree writes in Part I of Sacred Waters, “I always pause and give thanks for something that calls me to a sacred sense of self, something that creates a connection with all of life” (p. 4). Crabtree, who is compiling a series of anthologies on the four elements (her Sacred Stones was published earlier in 2005), has gathered brief essays, stories, and poetry from sixty-five contributors. The book is divided into four sections: “healing and empowerment,” “recollection and reminiscence,” “sacred water sites,” and “magic and mystery.” Every contributor describes events and feelings familiar to readers. In “Surrender” (in the first section), for example, Shelley Ann Wake remembers herself as a self-pitying teenager who sees a man almost drown until he somehow learns to surrender to the waves and float on them until the rescue boats pick him up. “[My own] thoughts and insecurities,” she tells us, “did not disappear in a heartbeat, but I did surrender to them. I stopped struggling … and floated above them, letting the tide of [negative] thoughts drift past me.” This is a lesson we all need to learn in this life. In “The Great Universal Solvent” (in the last section), Jason Thomas Gomez writes about a river trip, a “bewitched guide,” and a miracle: “The sheer emotional terror and spiritual anxiety I felt was enough to make me want to leave the safety of my rock…. But I did not. I stood stern and steadfast and began to pray to the Creator for mercy and compassion…” (p. 241).

This is an inspiring book written by real people living real lives who understand the real powers of water, whether that water is our own tears or our planet’s mighty oceans.

The Holy Order of Water is an extraordinary, must-read book about the physical properties of water and how overpopulation and overdevelopment are polluting the water that gives life to us and our planet. Marks first learned about the powers of water as a child when he helped his father dig wells. As an adult he has traveled around the world to study the status of water and has testified before Congress on the effects of pollution. He’s an authentic expert on the subject of water. But he’s more than a scientist; he’s equally a poet of water. This book, which introduces us to the vast and watery interstellar Oort Cloud, the mysteries of vortex energy, dams and water wars, and healing with water, is probably the best book ever written on the subject. Here’s how it opens:

The mysteries flowing from water are with us in many ways—in the life surrounding us; in thoughts generated by our water-filled minds; the smells and rhythms of our oceans; the soothing sounds of gurgling streams and fountains; the beat of our hearts; the gift of sight from our watery eyes; the ever changing clouds above; the misty fog that lightly kisses our faces; the sight of an awe-inspiring tornado; the vortex swirl of water disappearing down a drain—the list is endless.

We are living in a time when the future evolution and health of humankind and all other life forms, as well as the future of all world economies, will depend upon how we interact with [water] (p. 1).

In Water of Life—Water of Death, folklore researcher Gary R. Varner (who has also written about standing stones) explores archaeology and ancient traditions and travels to oceans, lakes, springs, and rivers to find out about the world of faeries, water gods and goddesses, black dogs and ladies in white, and other magical beings associated with water. A companion book to the author’s earlier Sacred Wells, this book is a compendium of information about water and how people all over the world relate to it. But it’s not a pagan book; although he writes about gods and goddesses, he seems not to see the divinity in these beings, and he doesn’t seem to get it that the sites that people create (like a series of cairns on a sandbar in the American River near Sacramento, California) can really be sacred.

While Varner is obviously a careful researcher, what he writes doesn’t always make sense. The major value in this book is his inclusion of information about the American Southwest and the tribes of coastal California, about whom too little is known. Chapter 2 is titled “Water as Feminine,” chapter 3 is about water gods, two chapters deal with water healing, and chapter 9 speaks of endangered and vandalized sites like California’s Mono Lake and the ancient springs of the Nuraghi in Sardinia.

People have a fascination with water [Varner writes in his conclusion] that is much more than the romantic image of waves breaking of the beach with a glorious sunset on the horizon. Our ties to the living waters are, pardon the pun, much deeper than most of us realize. … Our physical nature contributes to our fascination with water but the archetypal relationships we have with water are directly connected to our psyches and the underlying meaning and satisfaction that water gives to us (p. 210). 

~review by Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.
Author: Gary R. Varner
PublishAmerica, 2004
pp. 247, $19.95