Rivers are the life-giving vessels of our planet. They bring water to nourish plants, animals, and birds, are a home for fish, algae, and water plants, provide travel and communication, and so much more. I have been blessed to live between two great rivers for more than 30 years now. From my home I can walk five minutes in just about any direction and come upon a river’s edge to sit quietly beside as it flows or find a bridge and witness its rushing below me.
I grew up in the midwest where the Great Lakes and other lakes shaped my worldview of water as deep and peaceful with gentle rhythmic waves keeping constant time, like breathing the landscape into being. I came to think of the lakes as the eyes of Goddess, watching and welcoming the ducks and loons, minnows and trout. Now, having lived by these rushing rivers for so long I have found many gifts in them also.
If you want to feel women’s power, sit by a river. For millennia, people all over the globe have associated rivers with goddesses and female divinity. The Celtic goddess Boann was worshipped as the power of the rushing river, as were her sister goddesses Coventina, Belisama, and Sinann, all associated with specific rivers. When the land was parched with drought, the Hindu Ganga became the Ganges river that now flows through India, blessing all those who bathe in it.
If you wish to create, sit by a river. River goddesses are often associated with creation, fertility and inspiration like the Roman Castalia and the Finnish mermaid Avfruvva who led fish upstream to spawn. The Indian Nimadi goddess was a goddess of fertility who filled all the rivers with a pitcher. The Celtic Sequana, goddess of the seine, was a goddess of healing. Oshun, worshipped across Africa and Afro-Carribean nations, is a goddess of passion and beauty, among many other attributes.
If you need to see your life beyond the present moment to solve a problem or gain new perspective, sit by a river. River and water goddesses are sometimes associated with prophecy, such as the Italian Camenae, a collection of a number of river and spring goddesses who were known as “foretellers.” I’ve often thought of rivers as a means of gaining the broad view necessary for seeing our lives with clarity and coming up with visions, plans, or solutions to problems. When we are in a river, swimming along, we only see a few feet ahead of us and nothing behind us. If we just step out of the river, we can view the length of the river and see where swimmers were and are going. To me this is much like life. Most of the time we plod on, seeing only the short term ahead and unaware of the vastness of possibility in front of us or of long eras of natural history behind us. When we think of ourselves as witnessing ourselves from the shore, we can imagine a clearer truth of this moment among millions in our lives, offering both solace and inspiration.
I used to cross a small bridge over a brook on my daily walk to work. Some days I would throw a rock into the water and watch it sink to the bottom, and there it stayed. Other times, I would drop some water from a bottle into the stream and watch the drops meld with the flow on their way down to the river. At one time I wanted to be the rock – strong, immutable, unmoving. As I have grown older, I am working on becoming the brook and its river. May you be blessed with the flow, the energy and power, the creativity, and the prophecy of the river nearest where you live.