The cult of water

text
Kyre Chenven

photography
Ivano Atzori

SANTA CRISTINA

How can a shape be so important, as to be repeated endlessly, everywhere it matters? The path of the sun in the sky, the ripples from a stone dropped in water, a ripe cherry, the shape of the full moon, the trunk of a tree, a nipple on a round breast, your eye, the pupil of your eye.

The Nuragic people built in circles. They lived in circular huts, met in large circular rooms, and built nuraghes, stone circular structures whose purpose is still unknown. There are ceramics from 6000 years ago - round bowls with a circle of carvings - that depict people dancing in a circle (much like the Sardinian traditional dance of today). They carved spirals in the walls of their necropolises - signs of their belief in rebirth. Their world and everything in it was round.

thesacredwellatsantacristina

Last week we walked down the stone stairs of a sacred well from 1100 BC. The stone was chiseled smooth and the walls were all one staircase. The ceiling was a staircase. It’s a unique place: mysterious, ancestral, structurally perfect and, therefore, extraordinary. Then - in the center of an architecture so hard and purposeful - is the softest of all things. A circular pond, a round depression filled with water, that most magical and mystical of elements.

sacredwells

Every 18.61 years, upon completion of a full lunar cycle, the full moon shines directly in the center of the round well of Santa Cristina. And two times a year, during the spring and fall equinox, when that precarious balance is achieved and the hours of daylight are equal to the hours of darkness, the sun shines directly down the staircase at Santa Cristina and reflects on the wall of the well. In other words, a person standing on the bottom stair sees his/her reflection both in the pond and upside down on the wall in a perfect mirror image.

thesacredwellatsantacristina

There can be no pictures of an experience: images are explanations. In search of images we fly over the earth, past hillsides, over roofs (down one road, no go back, follow that one) searching for information. What a thrill to see your garden from above, and there! The roof of your car! But there is a difference between information and experience, as if they were two paths diverged. One feeds us, fills us up and reassures us. It sets the mind down its wiggly path of connection.

The other startles us with its depth of feeling. It awakens us.

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