Short Summary on the Mythos of Water
Updated: Jan 2
A short summary from what is a big topic:
Water, when reading the folktales and myths, is many times revealed as the original mirror of the world, not the artificial mirror which is there to flatter us, but instead, the mirror which shows us “what is.” It’s a mirror because it reflects the life around it - water reveals the earthly life, from the simple reflection of a tree, to the shape of continents. This water-mirror is depicted, in many stories, as a “well of wisdom”, or a deep pool, and looking into it is the first step towards an inner life. In the Icelandic Eddas, the All-Father (Odin) sacrificed his eye into the deep well of wisdom and it was there that he learnt a hidden knowledge. Also when Sophia (wisdom) was looking for Bythos (The One), she sought the dark water at the deepest part of the well, there she entered and her descent into that darkness precipitated her ascent into wisdom. In addition, Narcissus was transfixed and fell in love by an image in the water which he could never address or possess, which led him to despair. All these stories tell us that the path to the hidden well is fraught with challenges and dangers. In the darkest water, we have created frightening symbols such as sea-monsters and dragons to keep us away and to warn us to enter at our own risk.
In Carl Jung’s words which say: “water is the commonest symbol of the unconscious,” these words resonate alongside the words of myths and folktales - the primal images arise from deep water, these images are a form of anatomy, or bare bones, of our psyche.
Where I live in Sussex, the local mythology of water also eludes to this point and many stories evoke “deep wells, where dragons sleep”. For example, in Lyminster, West Sussex, there is a story of a knucker (a Sussex word for dragon) who resides in a “knucker hole.” These are very deep small water holes fed by spring water. In this story two young men test the pool’s true depth and awaken a dragon sleeping within the pool. They unleash a terror, the mighty dragon flies to the nearby Arun castle and devastates the entire area with a wall of fire. Hundreds of valiant knights try to stop him, but perish violently in his jaws. The dragon, in the end, is overcome through cunning.
As the mighty ocean’s depths, our unconsciousness resides in the deepest part of our psyche which the light of the intellect cannot reach.
The dragons of our unconscious can drag us down, as the ocean swallows titanic ships into its abyss, our unconscious can batter our orderly lives, like a tsunami. This power belongs to the giants and titans of the ancient myths - it’s an uncontrollable and unknowing power, even to the Gods. But engaging with these powers in our unconscious, and daring to enter there, is the path of transformation: leading us to hard-earned wisdom.