A basic introduction of the deity
Water is the second of the Powers of the Three Realms – Land, Sea and Sky – and most like his adoptive brother-uncle, Wildness. Together with his wife Ocean, he rules over the Underworld, and thus is king of all things that swim, move through or touch the waters – rivers, lakes, rain, oceans, beaches/shores, harbors and ships. But he is also connected to the worlds above, ever competing with his brother Sky for the affections and love of their sister Earth. He is wise, caring, disposed to compassion and benevolence, a gentle protector and comforting father, but who has a bit of a mischievous and wild side. He directs the currents and waves, and keeps the order of the cosmos intact through his deep insight and sense of mercy, as well as a willingness to aid those in need. Of all things that swim, he loves dolphins the best, and of those earthly animals he loves, several are associated with water (otters and waterfowl), or wisdom and the depths (snakes). He is a lover of music, magic and good jokes. While he is less prone to violence than either his brother or his wife, he is as terrifying as them when angered, sending great waves and storms and shaking the earth itself, destroying cities and ships alike.
Symbols and icons of this deity
Seaweed, driftwood, sand dunes, rain, fishing net, boathooks, miniature/model boats, starfish, serpents, shells, sea glass, stones smoothed by the sea, salmon, boats/ships, trident/harpoon, anchors, swords, fishing tools, aquatic animals, dogs, otters, seagulls and other ocean or wading birds, waterfalls, rivers/streams, fountains and wells, musical instruments.
A favorite myth or myths of this deity
The Establishment of the Three Realms
When the Mother, the Twins and the Sisters set forth the bounds and the rules of existence, setting into motion the Great Pattern, the world was still formless and amorphous, potentiality still wrapped in chaos but enfolded within the Pattern. And so the Mother began to shape the next stage of the Pattern, forming the world tripartite. She took a lash from her eye and breathed upon it, and it became a man, full of sight and truth, far-seeing and able to control the powers of the heavens. She took a tear and mixed it with spittle, and held it to her heart, and it became another man, brother to the first, full of wisdom and compassion, deeply-knowing and able to control the powers of the deep. And finally, she took a hair from her groin, mixed it with her fluids and blood, and held it to her belly, and it became a woman, lovely and fertile, both nourishing and consuming, and able to control all the powers of the world. And she revealed these to her other children, and they rejoiced, and the divine twin of light took them to himself and named them his own.
And the man of sight took to the high places, and wed himself to the queen of heaven, the Sister of the seeing, and claimed all of the upper reaches as his kingdom, from the treetops to the mountains, from the dawn on the horizon to the very edge of night.
The man of wisdom took to the deep places, and gave himself to the queen of the waves, the lurker in the depths, and claimed all of the lower reaches as his kingdom, from the rivers to the ocean, from the waves on the shore to the bottom of the trenches.
And the woman surveyed all that remained, the hills and the valleys, the peaks and the caves, the forests and marshes and plains, high and low and in-between, and gave herself to herself, and named herself queen over all things, subject to no man or woman but Night and the Sisters and the Great Pattern itself, and she rules over all things that move and live upon this world, from the birds of the air, to the creatures of the deep, for her realm contains and touches the others. But over the creatures and beings of the land she rules alone.
And the brothers quarrel endlessly, desiring the woman for themselves, to woo her and gain her favor. And at times she chooses the first, at at other times she chooses the second, but she is bound to neither, for she is the Earth, and all things that live and move in this world are born of her, nourished by her, and shall be consumed by her in the end.
Members of the family – genealogical connections
Mother – Night
Father – Abundance (adoptive)
Siblings – Divine Twins, Weird Sisters, Earth, Sky
Consorts – Ocean, Earth
Children – Passion, Peace, Death
Other related deities and entities associated with this deity
Names and epithets
Catcher, Silver-Hand, Well-Keeper, Lord of Oceans, Great Serpent, King of Darkness, Calmer of Storms, Lord of the Shining Sword, Lord of Mystery, Giver of Riches, Friend of Sailors, Pure One, Lord of Taboo, Lord of Wisdom, Lord of Safe Harbor, Shelterer, Feast-Giver
Njörðr, Nuada, Nudd/Llud Llaw Eraint, Nechtan, Nodens, Nethuns, Ægir, Veles, Arawn, Velnias, Manannán mac Lir/Manawyddan fab Llyr, Lir/Llyr, Poseidon, Neptune, Pontus/Oceanus, Duberdicus, Nereus/Proteus, and Portunus are all Euro-American deities and spirits that can potentially work in this slot, for those pursuing specific cultures and mythologies.
Non-Euro-American deities that work are Yam, Enki, Apām Napāt/Apąm Napāt, Varuna, and Wadj-wer
Euro-American (Finnish) deities that work but should probably not be used due to oppression/appropriation issues are Ahti
Euro-American deities that work but should not be used due to oppression/appropriation issues are Sugaar (Basque) and Tjaetsieålmaj (Sámi)
Non-Euro-American deities that work but should not be used oppression/appropriation issues are Agwé (Yoruba/Vodou), Chalchiuhtlatonal (Aztec) Kumugwe/Qaniqilak (Salish/Wakashan Pacific NW), Tangaroa (Maori), and Kanaloa (Hawai’ian)
Variations on this deity (aspects, regional forms, etc.)
Water has three main aspects – the Shelterer, the Wisdom-Keeper, and the King Below
The Shelterer is the face of Water that is beloved by sailors and those who live near the oceans. He is the lord of safe harbor, of protection at sea, calming the rages of his wife and helping to guide sailors and their ships safely home again. Master of the beaches and shores, he creates safe and secure places to moor even among the rocky cliffs, and sends his servants, the dolphins, to protect, guide and rescue those who travel across his realm.
The Wisdom-Keeper is the lord of the freshwater – springs, wells, lakes, and rivers. He is the keeper of the wells of wisdom, granting a drink from them only to the worthy. As such, he is distinctly connected to the Weird Sisters, particularly Winter, who is also a ruler over the Underworld and the wells of wisdom. He is a powerful magician, with magical clothing and in several instances, body parts that are either magical themselves or can live apart from his body.
The King Below is the wealthy ruler of the deeps, with all the riches of the oceans, caves, and mines at his disposal. Silver and gold pour from fountains in his halls, and gems adorn every object. He has countless herds of cattle and other livestock, and there is always music and merriment in his halls, even though they are inhabited by the dead.
To me, he most often appears as an older man, sometimes bearded, sometimes not, with the weathered and wrinkled features of a life-long sailor. He usually comes walking along the sand of a beach, or striding through the shallower waters which rise up to meet him.
Festivals, days, and times sacred to this deity
Festival of the Dead
Festival of the Sun
Dusk to dawn
Any mundane practices that are associated with this deity?
Playing at the beach
Visiting rivers and waterfalls
How does this deity relate to other gods and other pantheons?
Ruler/Granter of Wisdom
How does this deity stand in terms of gender and sexuality?
Water is masculine. He is a warm and comforting father-figure, a wise teacher, a generous host and a caring friend.
Sexually, as with all of the other Powers, Water falls into a multisexual spectrum. He is married to Ocean, is one of the consorts of Earth, and intimate with many humans and spirits of all genders and sexes. He also has a passionate love-hate relationship with his brother, Sky, and many storms are the result of their affair.
What quality or qualities of this god do you most admire? What quality or qualities of them do you find the most troubling?
I admire his care and concern, his gentleness, his friendliness, his safekeeping of wisdom and tempering justice with mercy.
Music that makes you think of this deity
Mare Undarum (Sea of Waves), Karl Jenkins
Lacus Lenitatis (Lake of Tenderness), Karl Jenkins
The Call of the Sea, Ocean Dreams
Beach Walk, Ocean Dreams
Hermit of the Sea Rock, Adiemus
Isle of the Mystic Lake, Adiemus
Vessel of Mercy, Annwn
Scottish Fisherman’s Song for Attracting Seals, Aryeh Frankfurter
Nymphs of the Sea-God Nereus, Daemonia Nymphe
The Sea-Angler, Faith and the Muse
Annwyn, Beneath the Waves, Faith and the Muse
The Minnow and the Trout, A Fine Frenzy
Neptune the Mystic, Gustav Holst
Moewe (Seagull) – Joe Hisaishi
A Town with an Ocean View, Joe Hisaishi
Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on a Cliff by the Sea), Joe Hisaishi
Day of the River, Joe Hisaishi
By The Sea, Sweeney Todd OST
Moonlit Beach, Anna and the King OST
The Grey Havens, Howard Shore
Into the West, Annie Lennox/Howard Shore
Moorlough Shore, Emm Gryner
Under Neptune’s Cape, Clannad
Precious Waters, Ah Nee Mah
Song of the River, Ah Nee Mah
Water, Brian Crain
Orinoco Flow, Enya
Over the Waterfalls, Helen Trevillion
As the Water, Memoirs of a Geisha OST
Kellswater, Loreena McKennitt
Sailing By, Dagda
I Saw a Ship A-Sailing, Natalie Merchant
River, Natalie Merchant
River, Joni Mitchell
River, Susan McKeown
El Río, Javier Navarrete
Njord, Leaves’ Eyes
A quote, a poem, or piece of writing that you think this deity resonates strongly with
“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” – Nikos Kazantzakis
“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.” – L.M. Montgomery
“My soul is full of longing
for the secret of the sea,
and the heart of the great ocean
sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“She loves the serene brutality of the ocean, loves the electric power she felt with each breath of wet, briny air.” – Holly Black
“That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,
Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.
No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, ‘O sea-starved, hungry sea” – W.B. Yeats
“Hark, now hear the sailors cry,
smell the sea, and feel the sky
let your soul & spirit fly, into the mystic…” – Van Morrison
“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.” – e.e. cummings
“The cure for anything is salt water – tears, sweat, or the sea.” – Izak Dinesen
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world’s great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs.
I am haunted by waters.” – Norman MacLean
“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can’t go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.” – Margaret Atwood
“Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell: Ding-dong
Hark! now I hear them,—Ding-dong, bell.” – William Shakespeare
“We clear the harbor and the wind catches her sails and my beautiful ship leans over ever so gracefully, and her elegant bow cuts cleanly into the increasing chop of the waves. I take a deep breath and my chest expands and my heart starts thumping so strongly I fear the others might see it beat through the cloth of my jacket. I face the wind and my lips peel back from my teeth in a grin of pure joy.” – L.A. Meyer
“What she really loved was to hang over the edge and watch the bow of the ship slice through the waves. She loved it especially when the waves were high and the ship rose and fell, or when it was snowing and the flakes stung her face.” – Kristin Cashore
“She watched the gap between ship and shore grow to a huge gulf. Perhaps this was a little like dying, the departed no longer visible to the others, yet both still existed, only in different worlds.” – Susan Wiggs
“The river is everywhere.” – Herman Hesse
“They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming.” – Herman Hesse
“I thought how lovely and how strange a river is. A river is a river, always there, and yet the water flowing through it is never the same water and is never still. It’s always changing and is always on the move. And over time the river itself changes too. It widens and deepens as it rubs and scours, gnaws and kneads, eats and bores its way through the land. Even the greatest rivers- the Nile and the Ganges, the Yangtze and he Mississippi, the Amazon and the great grey-green greasy Limpopo all set about with fever trees-must have been no more than trickles and flickering streams before they grew into mighty rivers.
Are people like that? I wondered. Am I like that? Always me, like the river itself, always flowing but always different, like the water flowing in the river, sometimes walking steadily along andante, sometimes surging over rapids furioso, sometimes meandering wit hardly any visible movement tranquilo, lento, ppp pianissimo, sometimes gurgling giacoso with pleasure, sometimes sparkling brillante in the sun, sometimes lacrimoso, sometimes appassionato, sometimes misterioso, sometimes pesante, sometimes legato, sometimes staccato, sometimes sospirando, sometimes vivace, and always, I hope, amoroso. Do I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain? Will the I that is me grow and widen and deepen? Or will I stagnate and become an arid riverbed? Will I allow people to dam me up and confine me to wall so that I flow only where they want? Will I allow them to turn me into a canal to use for they own purposes? Or will I make sure I flow freely, coursing my way through the land and ploughing a valley of my own?” – Aiden Chambers
“We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” – David Brower
“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans; in one aspect of You are found all the aspects of existence.” – Kahlil Gibran
“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Always be like a water. Float in the times of pain or dance like waves along the wind which touches its surface.” – Santosh Kalwar
“The places where water comes together with other water. Those places stand out in my mind like holy places.” -Raymond Carver
“I sometimes think that people’s hearts are like deep wells. Nobody knows what’s at the bottom. All you can do is imagine by what comes floating to the surface every once in a while.” – Haruki Murakami
Any suggestions for others just starting to learn about this deity?
Help clean up the beach, play with dolphins, go fishing, teach a child about the ocean, study the hydrological cycle, work with your emotions, care for a local river or stream, swim in the ocean, a lake or a river, visit the shore and walk along the sand, help care for and protect sand dunes and shore habitats.