Chapter 6

By Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr. and Cory A. Buxton

Water in Religion & Ritual




Photo courtesy of The Miami Herald



Florida Sunshine State Standards Benchmark
SS.A. 1.2.2The student uses a variety of methods and sources to understand history.
SS.A. 2.2.3The student understands various aspects of family life, structures, and roles in different cultures and in many eras.
SS.B. 2.2.2The student understands how the physical environment supports and constrains human activities.



Water in Religion and Ritual


Water is commonly included in the ritual and ceremony of most religions—typically having a purifying function. Religions such as Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Shintoism and Judaism, just to name a few, include ritual cleansing as part of their religious ceremonies. In Christianity, for example, people are immersed in water as part of the sacrament of baptism. In the Muslim faith, individuals proceed to their prayers only after they have ritually washed themselves.



Activity: Discovery of Themes of Water Religion


Have students talk to a local minister, priest, rabbi or other religious leader, or else a knowledgeable parent or adult friend, about how water is used in the services and rituals of a specific religious group in their community. Start off by asking students whether or not they have been involved in the use of water in any religious ceremony (a baptism, a blessing with holy water, etc.). Do they know why water was used in the ceremony?

*Note: Many teachers are reluctant to talk about religion in public school classrooms because they are concerned about issues of the separation of church and state. Discussing religion from a historical and cultural point of view is perfectly alright. What is not acceptable in a public school classroom is to teach dogma, or to pass judgment on specific religious practices. This is necessary as part of maintaining the religious freedom of students guaranteed as part of the Constitution.



Have students review the following summary questions:


  1. How is water used in different religious traditions?
  3. What role does art play in representing how religion uses water?




Exploring One Water


Look at the following clip of worshippers bathing in the Ganges River. How is water used as part of ritual in other religions?

In Christianity, for example, what role does water play in baptism? How is holy water used? In what way is water used in Judaism or Islam?




Water plays an important role in most of the world’s religion.




Thinking about the ways water is used in religious rituals provides insight into the role that water plays in shaping the religious and spiritual consciousness of different cultures. In the following activities, students will explore how water and water themes are incorporated into religion.



Consider the Quote


““Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water; she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.” ” —Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) Canticle of the Sun circa 1225




Extension Activities


Elementary School & Middle School Students


Middle School & Secondary School Students