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First Page

156

Last Page

179

Document Type

Article

Abstract

[First paragraph] Water: The life force of all creation, the generative dynamism of existence. Long before scientific experimentation and quantifiable instrumentation verified the facts, human beings have perceived and understood water to be the essence of all life, both material and spiritual. From the beginnings of recorded history and even before, across the expanse of human settlement and migration, indigenous as well as extraneous religions and spiritual traditions have celebrated water as the primordial source: water was sacred before it was material and water took on for multitudes of generations until even today an expansive inclusivity that scanned the literal to the metaphoric. Human civilizations began and flourished along waterways and all first peoples identified both the miraculous life-giving but also the concomitant life-ending power of water: water falls and streams, longitudinal and lateral water-ways, rivers and other bodies of water, have been from earliest times demarcated as sacred topography.1 The Cherokee of the southern Appalachians mountain range in southern Tennessee know the river in their midst as Yunwi Gamahida or “the Long Man,” an abiding, benevolent spiritual entity whose waters were believed to be the source of wisdom and curative of all ills and whose “hands” nurtured all Cherokee lives (Nabokov 53-57).2 Across the geographical landscape, the Taos Pueblo people have always considered all lakes and ponds in the neighboring high mountains as sacred sites but they hold in especial regard the mystical Blue Lake (Ba Whyea) as the source of all creation (Nickens and Nickens 23; see also Nabokov 73-78). Blue Lake is the bountiful center of all existence, the liminal place of both birth and death, the eternal source from which living spirits emerge to animate all creation and to which the spirits return upon the cessation of physical life.

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