Oceanides, Gustave Dore (1860-1869).

The Secret of Long Life? It’s All in the Water: Sacred Springs & Holy Wells

(Read the article on one page)

The belief in sacred springs and holy waters goes far back into the earliest religious myths of humankind, and is ubiquitous across every continent. An ancient primordial connection between water and spirituality has always existed in some form.

It’s thought that one of the earliest shrines ever built by human hands was probably a rock-cairn to mark the site of a bubbling spring. And even in our modern era, you would be hard-pressed to find a church or temple which does not have a water-shrine occupying a place of special reverence, whether it’s a fountain, a pool, a holy well, or a natural spring.

Ney Springs (Mount Shasta), photograph copyright Dustin Naef. “Ruins of an old spring hidden in the wilderness around Mount Shasta, California”.

Ney Springs (Mount Shasta), photograph copyright Dustin Naef. “Ruins of an old spring hidden in the wilderness around Mount Shasta, California”.

Something in the Water

The traditions of ancient religions and water cults gave birth to a vast expression of folklore, spirits, deities, and occult beliefs which are intimately connected to bodies of water; it is still widely believed that occult forces are concentrated in places where waters bubble up from the depths of the earth, which become mirror-like windows and portals where one might glimpse something of another reality, separated from us by only the thinnest of barriers.

The Sorceress, Jan van de Velde II (1626). “The imagery of a witch’s cauldron may relate back to ancient pagan beliefs surrounding springs as being repositories of occult power and conduits to another world”

The Sorceress, Jan van de Velde II (1626). “The imagery of a witch’s cauldron may relate back to ancient pagan beliefs surrounding springs as being repositories of occult power and conduits to another world”. ( CC BY 4.0 )

In the old countries throughout Europe, some sources of water have been venerated for untold generations, sometimes to the wonderment of modern people, as noted in the following quote by a nineteenth-century traveler:

“The unnoticeable smallness of many of these consecrated wells makes their very reminiscence and still semi-sacred character all the more remarkable. The stranger in Ireland, or the Highlands of Scotland, hears rumors of a distinguished well, miles on miles off. He thinks he will find an ancient edifice over it, or some other conspicuous adjunct. Nothing of the kind. He has been lured all that distance, over rock and bog, to see a tiny spring bubbling out of the rock, such as he may see hundreds of in a tolerable walk any day. Yet, if he searches in in old topographical authorities, he will find that the little well has ever been an important feature of the district; that century after century it has been unforgotten; and, with diligence he may perhaps trace it to some incident in the life of a Saint, dead more than 1200 years ago, whose name it bears.”

Castle Rock Well, photograph copyright Dustin Naef. “A bubbling mineral spring located along the Upper Sacramento River, south of Mount Shasta.”

Castle Rock Well, photograph copyright Dustin Naef. “A bubbling mineral spring located along the Upper Sacramento River, south of Mount Shasta.”

The belief in supernatural powers latent in bodies of sacred waters—their curatives, rites, charms, and the lore of water-worship picked up from elders living near them—has been a preoccupation of wise men and women of every religious faith throughout history. Over the centuries, countless secret quests and lonely pilgrimages have been made in search of a lands legendary healing waters, and its redolent fountains of youth. Some of these ancient springs and wells are still in existence today, bubbling vigorously; while others have been destroyed through neglect and lay stagnant and barren, their naiads and magic depleted.

Woodcut: Hans Sebald Beham - Fountain of Youth and Bathhouse (1536)

Woodcut: Hans Sebald Beham - Fountain of Youth and Bathhouse (1536). ( Public Domain )

The Fountain of Youth

The poet Y.B. Yeats famously said that an old man is but a paltry thing; a tattered coat hanging upon a stick. A recent article published in Business Insider revealed that many of the world’s leading tech-billionaires are generously funding life-extension technologies in a gambit to try to defeat death—or at least delay its onset for as long as possible. This should come as no surprise, because youth is the one thing that cannot be purchased with all the wealth in the world; and with each passing moment, a little bit more of it is taken away from us forever.

The yearning for immortality is nothing new in the annuls of history and exploration, the eternal quest for the fountain of youth has been an obsession of Kings, nobles, and Rulers for thousands of years, and many oceanic voyages have been launched in search of fabled lost Edens—most often ending with much bloodshed, and the further spreading of human misery.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

The Achievement of the Grail.
Leah Tether works at the University of Bristol. She received funding for this research from Anglia Ruskin University, Ghent University, Somerville College, Oxford and the Stationers' Foundation. Type “Holy Grail” into Google and … well, you probably don’t need me to finish that sentence.

Human Origins

Kalash girls with traditional clothing.
The Kalash (known also as the Kalasha) are an indigenous people living in what is today Pakistan. Although Pakistan is an Islamic Republic, with more than 95% of its population being adherents of Islam, the Kalash hold on to their own religious beliefs, along with their own identity, way of life, and language.

Ancient Technology

10 Innovative Medieval Weapons: You Would Not Want To Be At The Sharp End Of These!
Long before modern warfare, there was a time of knights in shining armor atop equally armored horses fighting for the hand of a maiden or in pitched battle. However, the weapons that these knights wielded expanded far past that of an ordinary sword and shield.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article