HD Photos of Russia: sacred springs and holy wells
Sacred springs & holy wells in Russia
By Andrew Dachnik.
Before the introduction of Christianity Russian people belived that God was identifiable with the forces of nature and with natural substances, such as Sun, Moon, Wind, Earth, Tree, Stone, Water etc. The traditional Russian pagan worship admitted all gods of Mother Nature. At that pagan times the Russians did not pray in temples, but in natural world. Water was one of the most important element in Slavic mysticism. The ancient Russians honored various bodies of water (seas, lakes, rivers, springs and water wells) through a host of spiritual practices. Water bathing used in magical practice of summoning rain and for the body purification and healing.
Christianity became the religion of Russia in 988 AD. The pagan temples were demolished and churches erected on the same sites. But a lot of pagan traditions were accepted by the Russian Orthodox Church. New Russian faith was becoming the unique combination of Christianity and the beliefs and practices of pagan primitivism. Officailly paganism came to an end in Russia at the beginning of the thirteenth century. But even nowadays Russian people still continued to believe in their natural surroundings, the deities of nature, though old gods had got new names as Christian saints. Having adopted elements of stubborn Russian paganism, the Russian Orthodoxy became one of the most mysterious, mystical, and magical Christian faith in the world. Belief in animistic, spirit-infused beings, which took on human qualities and possessed supernatural power, coexisted in Russia with the Orthodox Church. That blending of Christian faith and paganism would picture the unique religion landscape in the hearts and souls of Russian people.
The Russian sacred springs and holy wells were frequently pagan sacred sites that later became Christianized with Orthodox church. The adaptation of the pagan water cult had created Russian Orthodox ritualistic and mystical experience. The sacred springs and holy wells were newly said to have been made to flow by the action of a local saint. The healing and wonder-making water qualities were attributed to the presence of Holy spirit or Christian saint.
Due to the Christian adoption the sacred springs and holy wells cult successfully survived in Russia. Those sacred placed suffered only during the Soviet time in XX century. Guided by the aggressive communist ideology Soviets started to demolished sacred places of Russia: thousands of churches and chapels were demolished, and the priests were arrested or killed. At the beginning of 1960-th Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev made a decision to remove the last survived sacred miracles of Russia. Communists, police and KGB destroyed last well houses and chapels, put oil, dust and stones into the sacred springs and holy wells. A lot of sacred places piligrims were arrested.
The new sacred springs pilgrimage reborn took place after the U.S.S.R. has been collapsed in 1991. The freedom of faith was officially announced in Russian constitution. The old sacred springs and holy wells has been cleaned up and reconstructed by local Christian communities with the Russian Orthodox church support.
Nowadays thousands of pilgrims visit the sacred springs and holy wells in Russia. Most of them are looking for the spiritual magic healing and curing of various illnesses. Each sacred water body has a history of certain kind of illnesses healings, attested by local priests. Some holy wells are famous for curing eye problems, the other are helpful with fertility problems. There are sacred springs to solve life problems, to find a good spouse. The other are helpful to cope alcohol and drug addiction.
The mystic Russian sacred spring and holy wells pilgrimage ritual usually includes 3 days of strict fast, the worship to the local saints at the water body, and water drinking, spraying water over and bathing or immersing into water body (3 times with a pray). Sometimes Russians are tying a piece of clothing to a nearby tree branches to perform ancient pagan magic ritual with the idea being that as the rag rotted so the disease or illness withered until it had gone. Some people are trying to pay for one's renewed health by leaving an offering for the spirit of the holy well or sacred spring with few coins thrown into the water. Less religious people are visiting sacred springs to draw drinking water as "it can be healing and curative". Being restored and rejuvenated well once with the sacred water body people are returning back with the hope of spiritual refreshment.
The ancient Novgorod republic area (North-West part of modern European Russia) is very rich with the sacred water bodies. There are hundreds of sacred springs and water wells around St. Petersburg, Vologda, Novgorod and Pskov. For myself, I am being a devotee of holy wells and sacred springs. Now I did pilgrimage to more than 50 locations, made a lot of photos and described sacred water bodies on my Russian web site. Now I would like to share most impressive sacred waters photos.
I would be happy to answer any questions you might have about Russian sacred springs. If you will have an idea to take a tour around Russian sacred springs and holy wells - you are welcome! My contact information.
Photos: © Andrew Dachnick.