Water is formed in the clouds so our ancestors used to call the sky the sea of water. The souls of the
ancient Slavs could pass into the world of the dead only by crossing the mythical water. In fact, a large
part of the folk songs and tales that have to do with springs, brooks, rivers, seas and wells are actually
about the underground or mountain waters, waters of the clouds and fog.
Water has good qualities - it purifies, heals, gives life, strength and immortality. Our forefathers
believed that rivers were the nurturing gods (the ancient Slavic god of water was called Vodna, a name
derived from the Croatian word for water ''voda'') and that is why they liked to build their homes near
them, especially near lakes and seas. They avoided swamps.
The gods of the two rivers encompassing Medjimurje, Mura and Drava, were the male god Dravus and the evils
spirit, the godess Morana. Fairies always used to dwell near water. Slavs used to have ritual washing with
water or dew on certain days like Palm Sunday, Easter, St. George's day, Christmas, New Year's day,
Assumption, before or during wedding ceremonies, etc. They used to have ceremonial baths on St. John's day
because they believed in the purging of the sins of the soul and the body. That is why St. John was called
''the bathing saint'' or the Baptist.
Water is holy. If a person dives into it and then surfaces, he or she symbolically dies. This means the
return to their source, to the maternal protective principle through the rejuvenation of the body and the
soul with new life force. It is a return to the salutary heavenly water and its cosmic forces and a
beginning of a new life filled with goodness. In folk tales these principles were often embodied in the form
of the king's daughter. Similarities and connections to the ritual functions of fire are obvious. This is
the main reason why noble men, after their death, used to be set on fire on boats and sent to float on the
sea across which they will pass into the world of the dead. Poor people were buried near water.
The baptism or the purification with water that was given by John the Baptist was a ritual that preceded the
baptism or the purification with fire that was given by Jesus Christ. Springs are always approached from the
east and water rituals (e.g. during harvest or on Christmas Eve), rituals that were held near water (e.g.
during the solstice) or the bringing of water had to be done before sunrise or at dawn. The highest Slavic
deity, the god Perun, masters the thunder and lightning to create rain clouds although he was also the
protector from bad weather and storm.
The rejection, disappearance and death of the old is compared to the flood. Water destroys in order to
recreate. It hides evil forces in itself which only affect the sinners. (The name of the evil Slavic godess
Morana, also called Mokosh, and the words ''mokar'' and ''mokrina'' are derived from the stem ''mok''
meaning ''ugly'', ''horrible''.) If water punishes, it is ruled by the underground creature, a snake, a
dragon, a beast or the god Veles. This used to happen on the so called ''dog days'', Assumption, or in Hell
in the form of the three ominous rivers - Stupnica, Jahorika and Trusovina. With the help of the god
Perun water frees itself from the evil and transforms into the water of life for the just ones. These
''living waters'' are wells, springs, brooks and rivers. This was the reason why the stautes of pagan gods
were thrown into rivers at the foot of mountains when Christianity became the official religion.
Water used to overflow people with its lustrative force so even in the early days of Christianity, churches
were built near it. They used to sing ritual ''washing'' songs to it, danced in circles around it or near
it, hoping to charm it this way and prevent it from drying up. Before it was used for fishing, running of
mills, sailing, looking for gold in it, watering or digging of pebbles, people used to pray to it and offer
presents such as fruit, food, wine, flowers and flower wreaths, ribbons, jewellery and money.
When it flows towards the sun, when it is sanctified or taken on certain days before dawn, it has protective
powers (March water, Easter water, May water, St. John's water, millwater, midnight water, rainwater). If it
flows, it is good. If it is stagnant or if it is polluted, it is bad. There are different kinds of flowing
water: flag water (found on leaves and grass), water of forgetfulness (used when the ice is not hard),
unbroken water (that was taken from the well or spring in the morning), ''omaja'' water (taken from the mill
wheel), fairy or live water (the Christian holy water). All of them have special magical forces. On St.
Lawrence's day people frm Medjimurje used to say: ''On St. Lawrence's day all the holes in the ground become
wells.'' ('sveti Lovrenec, saka graba zdenec.'') It was said as a reminder that from that day on (5th
September) people shouldn''t bathe outside.
It is especially dangerous to bathe outside on Assumption because the river claims human sacrifices then. It
is poisoned by snakes, mutes, dragons and sinful souls. It is freed of its negative characteristics if onion
or bread crumbs are thrown into it. A good host will offer his guest fresh water upon his arrival in his
home. The Old Testament says that water is the symbol of life and the New Testament says that water is the
symbol of the spirit. Because, in the same way as thirsty land needs water, so a soul yearns for the
revelation of God. Water is thus a sign of the blessing. It is the blood of heaven, connected to the sun and
fire. Jesus bled water when he was crucified. It is also the milk of heaven and the rain cloud is a cow that
has to be milked. It is the element of love and union, the symbol of the subconscious and the dream.