Spring Mythology
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Springs were important places for our Ancestors.

Springs have always been treated with great admiration. This has shown itself through the diversity of myths they inspire. Even in pre-historic times springs were treated as culturally significant, as excavations show. The Celts paid respect to the Earth mother here and even the later Christianisation did not manage to destroy the spring culture.

Washing eyes in Spring water

Today there are still many places with names such as ‘Holy Virgin’s Well’ or ‘St Marys Well’ where Pilgrim Churches can be found which possess a ‘holy’ well. The practice of ‘Eye washing’ or ‘Coin throwing’ is still practiced at many wells.

Sacrificial Offerings

Archaeological finds at springs prove that these areas were believed to be something special, even in prehistoric times. In Tunisian stone tools were found at a now dried up spring, which were dated back to the Stone Age (100,000 – 30,000 BC). It is believed these were offerings. The culture of bringing offerings to springs continues back throughout the Iron Age and the Bronze Age till the early Stone Age.

In the Antiquity

The honouring of Water gods played a very important role for the Romans. The extravagant fountains created by them are evidence of this. A holy Roman spring was found in Hochscheid in Hunsrueck. Statue pieces of the honoured gods of that region and age were found near to the buildings. In the shrine, which was surrounded by a Gallo-Romanic Temple, a spring-fed stream was created; adjacent was a public bath with three buildings.

It seems that the shrine was a much visited pilgrimage site. A group of hostels, with several rooms, were built in the vicinity of the bath.

The Worshipping of Springs

In 1898 Weinhold wrote; ‘The culture of wells and springs can be seen throughout the history of our people in the form of ancient god worship, with changes taking place in the recipient of the worship, but with the same general outline, it has continued from unknown beginnings to the present day.

Springs were and still are special places. Springs as sanitarium, springs as a place of judgement or springs as a place of sacrifice. Animal sacrifices were the most common in order to ask the Water gods for mercy, but also food, the most common being bread, were offered. The traditions of decorating springs with flowers and the giving of plant offerings are still upheld today in Upper Franconia, through the Easter Well decoration (Osternbrunnen Schmückens). The throwing of coins is also still practiced at some of the more impressive springs and wells, and is itself a throwback to the worshiping of sacred springs.


For the Catholic Church the practice of spring worship was an act of profanity. For hundreds of years the church fought hard against this Nature worship, which had been in existence since before Christ. In the year 731 AD Pope Gregor III commanded the princes and the people to give up the profane use of springs for divining purposes. In 789 AD Karl the Great forbad the placement of lights at springs. However all of these restrictions made little difference and so the old uses were taken up by the Christians. The old sacred springs were Christianised. Crosses or chapels were erected. The name of the worship had changed but the object was still the same.

During the Roman period the transfigured sight in the clear spring water of a lovely spring nymph or spring god became once again a favourite motif in drawings and poetry. Later the theme was also taken up by such artists as Pablo Picasso or Aristide Maillol, and has been continually revisited to this day.

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