Folk Nuggets

Water of Life

For the Armenian people, all water sources – fountains, springs, rivers – have been and are sacred.

Armenia, other than for some brief periods in its 3,000-year-old known history, has been a landlocked country. But the Armenian plateau is the head source of waters for many of the life-giving rivers of the Fertile Crescent. The Euphrates and Tigris rivers of Mesopotamia – today’s Iraq – have their sources in the historic Armenian highlands.

Alidz Agbabian at Zeytoun
Alidz Agbabian at a fountain in Zeytoun

Armenian folk songs and poetry celebrate these bodies and sources of water. Many fountains are designed in the traditional style of Armenian stone architecture, adorned with ancient symbols representing the beliefs of this ancient Indo-European people.

In May 2006 I visited the fountain in the historic Armenian village of Zeytoun (now called Suleymanli on Turkish maps).

This life line for the villagers of the area – a three-arched, three-spring fountain (assumed to be about 400 years old), is adorned with symbols of eternity, trees of life, fertility, symbols of the feminine and masculine in nature, pairs of birds symbolizing parenthood, symbols of seeds, flowers and vegetation as well as the four elements of antiquity: water, fire, air and earth.

The fountains of Armenia were gathering sites for many rituals, especially for the summer festival of Vartavar that commemorates the Great Flood and Noah’s ark landing on the sacred mountain of the nation – Mount Ararat (now in Turkey).

Lake Van at Sunset

During certain church and folk rituals and especially on Christmas Eve (January 5), the fountains and rivers of the land were blessed in a ceremony called Churorhnek (Blessing of Water), hence by faith ensuring the purification of the waters. The importance of the awareness of keeping the waters of the planet pure, passed on to us by this ancient tradition, is definitely true for our times today in the 21st century.