Around the world, over millennia, rivers have provided wondrous gifts – nourishment, mobility, irrigation, natural beauty.
In acknowledgement of those gifts, some cultures consider the rivers of their realms to be sacred – beseeching them with prayers, partaking of their waters for joyous and somber rituals.
MELIPEUCO, Chile (AP) — Mist suddenly arose from the Truful Truful River as it flowed below the snow-covered Llaima volcano, and Victor Curin smiled at the sun-dappled water spray.
A leader in one of the Indigenous communities by the river’s shores in the Chilean Andes, Curin took it as a sign that the waterfall’s ngen — its owner and protector spirit — approved of his visit and prayer that mid-July morning.
ALONG THE PILMAIQUEN RIVER, Chile (AP) — A ceremonial dip in the frigid waters of the fast-flowing Pilmaiquen River in southern Chile was the culmination of the multiday celebration of We Tripantü, one of the most sacred holidays for the Mapuche, the country’s largest Indigenous group.
OSOGBO, Nigeria (AP) — Yeyerisa Abimbola has dedicated most of her 58 years on Earth to the Osun, a waterway in deeply religious Nigeria named for the river goddess of fertility. As the deity’s chief priestess, she leads other women known as servants of Osun in daily worship and sacrificial offerings along the riverbank.
The sacred Osun River becoming increasingly toxic
ALONG THE JORDAN RIVER (AP) — Kristen Burckhartt felt overwhelmed. She needed time to reflect, to let it sink in that she had just briefly soaked her feet in the water where Jesus is said to have been baptized, in the Jordan River.
The Jordan River: rich in holiness, poor in water
KATHMANDU, Nepal (AP) — High on a mountain in the Himalayas, pristine drops fall from the mouth of a tiger statue installed at a stream thought to form the headwaters of the Bagmati River, long revered as having the power to purify souls.
THE DALLES, Oregon (AP) — Wilbur Slockish Jr. has been shot at, had rocks hurled at him. He hid underground for months, and then spent 20 months serving time in federal prisons across the country — all of that for fishing in the Columbia River.
ALONG THE COLUMBIA RIVER (AP) — James Kiona stands on a rocky ledge overlooking Lyle Falls where the water froths and rushes through steep canyon walls just before merging with the Columbia River. His silvery ponytail flutters in the wind, and a string of eagle claws adorns his neck.
WHANGANUI, New Zealand (AP) — Five years ago, the Whanganui River was recognized as a living person in a groundbreaking New Zealand law. For many who live along its banks, the official recognition validated the deep spiritual connection they feel with the river.