Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Why the Wellspring?: The Influence of Water

You may wonder where the name for my blog came from. 

Well—pardon the pun—the explanation is a lovely liquid tale, to be sure. 

Over the past couple of years the idea of wells and wellsprings, rivers and oceans—of water in all its fluid forms—has been very close to me, welling and bubbling up from those deep inner places, washing much negativity away, bringing new life and fruitfulness. 

Water is a feminine element, associated with women, with fertility and abundance, cleansing and healing, and emotion, depth and time (the words ‘time’ and ‘tide’, for example, are etymologically related). 

As Jay Griffiths, one of my favourite writers, says in one of my favourite books, Wild: An Elemental Journey:

The wildernesses of waters, rivers and oceans are linked to the female. In many cultures, probably most, women are associated with what is “wet” and men with what is “dry” . . . In Chinese thought, fire is yang, male, active, phallic and conscious. Water is yin, female passive and unconscious. Freud and Jung, too, through analysis of folktale and ancient literature, concluded similarly: water is fertilizing, a place of regeneration; it represents what is potential and female. (212)

The first life on this blue Earth originated in water. As does all creativity—in the Rio Abuja Rio, as Clarissa Pinkola Estés calls it in her classic book, Women Who Run with the Wolves—‘the river beneath the river’.  

I have come to think of my own creativity as arising from the gushing flow of a river. Indeed, being a river—the River of Creativity. It is always flowing (though there have been times in the past when it became blocked and slowed to a mere trickle). Yet though it streams constantly, it still has its ebbs and flows, like the ocean—high and low tides—calms and storms—seasonal changes. The wide and fathomless ocean underlies the river, exerts its own fluid influence from below, as it is pulled upon from above, by the moon. 

Water Nymphs by Alan Lee
When I was pondering what to call this blog I was led to think of a little poem I had written in October 2014:

A deep well, 
ocean of memory, 
springing up 
blue and pure, 
the parched place 
inside me.

This is deeply symbolic, and a favourite poem-gem of mine. 

It seems that water, wells, and the flooding of dry, parched places, bringing the return of life and creativity and all things wild, are ideas and images that will not let me go.

I recently read a brilliant book by Sharon Blackie—If Women Rose Rooted: The Power of the Celtic Woman. Chapter 2 is entitled ‘Wells and Waters: The Wasteland’, and Sharon writes:

Wellspring. The word, like a good well, runs deep. It conveys so much more than simply the source of a stream or spring: it says something about the source of life itself. According to the Collins English Dictionary, a wellspring is ‘a source of continual or abundant supply’ – which tells us why wells, along with certain rivers and lakes, have been recognised as sacred by nearly every culture on the planet, and throughout every age. (27)

It seemed like a kind of synchronicity. All of my thoughts about water and wells echoed here, in this very powerful book; and in Celtic culture in particular, in the voices of the maidens who once guarded the wells, the sources of life. The silencing of these wise voices, after the violation of the well-maidens, as told in the story of ‘The Loss of the Voices of the Wells’, and the subsequent coming of the Wasteland, is partly what inspired me to begin this blog. Sharon says:

Each of us has our own unique set of stories to tell: the story of the years we spent in the Wasteland, the story of our awakening, and then the story of the path we took out of it. Telling those stories helps us to understand ourselves – not just the place that we’ve come from, but where we might be heading. Similarly, telling our stories to others can help them to work through problems they are facing in their own lives. (60)


The Voices of the Wells were lost, long ago – but the Voices of the Wells were women [who represented Sovereignty, the spirit of the Earth itself]. We were the voices of the Wells. We can take up that old mantle. We can take up our golden grails again, and offer their life-giving drink to the world. (62)

Lady of the Waters by Brian Froud
I know from past experience how powerful, transformative and healing telling my story can be, and I would like to tell some of it here—even if I do ‘tell it slant’, to quote Emily Dickinson. And too, I would like to be one of the voices that speaks for the Earth, if I can. 

After much thought, I decided to create this blog to be an outlet for my creative work, and to call it Offerings from the Wellspring, for all the ‘offerings’ I post here will be drawn up from my own personal well, from my River of Creativity. These offerings will be poured out into the world to express something of me, and, I hope, to inspire and influence others. 
(Of course, it must be said that offerings were also made to rivers and other bodies of water, back in the old days when people lived in close relationship with the land, so the giving and receiving goes both ways.)

Interestingly, the word ‘influence’ itself is associated with water. According to the Oxford English Dictionary it originates in late Middle English, from Old French or medieval Latin influentia ‘inflow’, from Latin influere, from in- ‘into’ + fluere ‘to flow’. The word had the general sense of ‘an influx, flowing matter’, also specifically (in astrology) ‘the flowing in of ethereal fluid (affecting human destiny)’.

Influence is flow is fertile. And from fertility comes new life, growth, abundance.

So, like a well that never runs dry, I hope my work here will flow abundantly, and become an offering back to the Earth, to the sources of life, and to any visitors who come this way. To bring regeneration and renewal back to the wasted lands that we inhabit in this modern world. To bring the same back to my own life.

I leave you with an excerpt from ‘The Well’, by Irish poet and writer Cathal Ó Searcaigh, that prefaces that water-filled chapter from If Women Rose Rooted. Let us all find and go back to the source: 


  1. In the dry, parched, times of my life when creativity seems to have come to a permanent halt, I have always turned to find water. A walk on the beach, along a river, sit at the bank of a fenn.
    I have more books by Julia Cameron on creativity on my shelf but 'Finding Water' is the only one I did use and very well too.

    1. I've read a couple of Julia Cameron's books, but not 'Finding Water'. I must see if I can get it from the library. And it's so nice to know that the way I feel about water is reflected in the way other people feel too. That whole idea of creative flow and constant movement. Thank you Cath!


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