The Soul of Water


“Water is the source of life”

Water is of major importance to all living things. It is a critical resource but not unlimited. Water covers 71% of the Earth’s surface. The volume of all water would be about 332.5 million cubic miles (mi3), or 1,386 million cubic kilometers (km3). 3/4 of our body is water.

Water holds an important role to human. It is a symbol of life, purification and regeneration. Philosophers have long considered water as one of the four elements that compose matter. Perhaps the most notable philosopher that believed in this was Empedocles – the Greek pre-Socratic philosopher and a citizen of Akragas.

According to Eastern philosophy, all physical matter is composed by five basic elements: Fire, Earth, Water, Metal, and Wood.

Water is the symbol of fertility and abundance. Vietnamese often see water as a God-given gift to grow crops and to bring fortune. They value the regeneration ability of water. To them, water is a medicine and a drink of immortality. They have a saying that “First water – then fertilizer – then diligence – then breed”, through which we can see the importance of water in agriculture, in rice and coffee farming. Statistically, one coffee tree needs 120 liter of water for the first year, 240 liters for the second year, and 320 liters for the third year.

Water is a big part of people’s lives from the day we were born to the day we return to dust. In Central Highlands, there is a Naming Ritual within Ede community. When a baby is born, the presence of two midwives are required. One to hold the back of the mother (pê giang). One to hold the baby (this one is called mạ bôi). Mạ bôi has an important role in cleansing and protecting the baby from evil spirits, but most importantly, in naming the baby. When the baby is born, she is to yell Kao dê! Kao dê! (Mine! Mine!) immediately to let Dang Bơ-riêng (The Evil God) know that the baby is taken, so he would leave the baby alone. One day after the baby is born, its family will organize Pơ-răp Dun Ritual (possessed ritual, naming ritual). Before this ritual starts, they will perform another ritual called Yang hah Buê (the name of The Good God who protects babies. For this ritual, they will prepare a copper bowl that filled with dews gathered from coffee leaves. These dews are the embodiment of ancestors’ spirits that will enter the body of the baby who hasn’t yet got a soul. After praying, the shaman holds a berry dipped in coffee dews near the baby’s mouth. She then will call out ancestors’ names, one after one. If the baby sticks its tongue out to lick a berry when she’s calling a name, that would be its.

Water resources are vital because they are the reason of wars between villages and countries. Approximately, 330 millions of people are affected by serious droughts in the last few years. World Bank’s latest report on physical impacts of climate change on water resources and the economy finds that water scarcity, exacerbated by climate change, could hinder economic growth, spur migration, and spark conflict.