Water is a magical element, there is no religion in this world, there is no civilization, there is no people who do not have a sacred respect for water: in every corner of the planet there is a sacred river, a spring, a well, connected to the idea of the transcendence of life, and often these waters have miraculous and magical effects: they rejuvenate, restore health, give new life. Water is indissolubly one of the fundamental elements in every paradise, this is also the meaning of the image I have chosen for the cover of this page, a sort of sacred city where the abundance of water goes hand in hand with vitality, the purity, the spirituality and the wisdom of its inhabitants.
Often water also marks a border, if we look at our geographical maps, rivers often trace the borders of regions and provinces, but the border is not only material, it is also spiritual, water has a double meaning, it represents life and death, and it also symbolically represents the boundary between these two dimensions, and to go to the afterlife you have to cross a river, and for this there is Charon with his boat who offers his services, as well as to come to this world, you must break the waters. In all religions, every rite of passage is symbolically sealed by the presence of water, baptism is the best known example of this.
The depths, with its intense green and blue, dark and cold waters, the abysses of the seas and oceans, evoke and interpret our deepest fears and anxieties, the clear waters of streams, waterfalls and springs, evoke us vitality and purity, the thunder and bubbling waves strength and power, the smooth and reflecting surfaces of the lakes infuse peace and serenity, but they can also betray and hide death: there is almost no lake of which the legend of its unfortunate is not told lady! These are all universal states of mind and they make us perceive belonging to this planet and the universal roots of our feeling and perhaps of the culture itself.
The water cycle is very similar to the life of man, it is born from water, its time flows, its journey, on this earth like a river, leaving a trace of itself (it is desirable), and then goes up to heaven, and descends from heaven to be reborn in a new cycle, as the great poet Goethe intones in his Song of the Spirits above the Waters.
Human life has always been organized around the waters, be it a small well, a large river or the boundless sea. Water has created and always creates opportunities for exchanges, businesses and travels, it offers energy and nourishes the land that gives sustenance, villages, cities and communication routes are organized around the waters, therefore water is also and above all culture.
When a person is born and spends his childhood on the banks of a river, that river carries him inside for his whole life, just as for those born at the sea, or in the mountains, it is the landscapes of childhood that shape our sensitivity, I call them "roots". One day a friend of mine pointed out to me that she has no roots: "I'm not a tree" he said ... and this is true, we are not trees, we were born to move, life is a journey indeed, and even in this it resembles metaphorically to the river: it has a source, it flows and creates its path by continuously overcoming obstacles, at times placid, at times tumultuous, to then eventually die in the sea, but it always carries with it, in its waters, some of those peculiarities which he collected at the source, let's call them roots! But let us point out: more than dying, to say that the river joins and becomes sick with the vastness of the marine expanses, it expands, and all in all, it is a nice term, even symbolically speaking. It is not a death but it is a union with the whole, at the origins from which we started. Perhaps life is not a one way trip, but a return journey, a search for the roots..
Perhaps for all these reasons I feel the enchantment and the call of the rivers, and I love these places of water, Usually when I choose where to go for a walk or an exploration, I always look for places where there is water to see: a river, a stream, a waterfall, a pond. The panoramic routes that lead to the peaks and allow you to wander with your gaze towards breathtaking spaces are very beautiful and exciting, but the paths below, which wind through valleys, canals, rivers and canyons, are equally beautiful, and when season is sufficiently hot, I find it very pleasant and rewarding to walk directly in the cool waters: it is a physical but also symbolic immersion in nature, a profoundly rewarding experience, also due to the fact that to go in the water you have to take off the burden of clothes, which symbolically they also represent the burden of social conventions, the mask of identity, and sometimes getting rid is good for the body and the spirit.
Sometimes I think of the water that flows from the mountains and runs towards the sea, I think for example of the streams that arise from the Parma Apennines, only in the stretch of the Apennines between the Cisa Pass and the Lagastrello Pass, on both sides, Toscano and Emiliano, many rivers and streams rich in water are born, such as the Enza, the Baganza, the Magra, to name just a few, and the areas close to these mountains have a very luxuriant vegetation thanks to water abundance. But the same thing for example in Romagna, which I recently visited and I was amazed by the richness of the waters and the green of the forests. In Lunigiana there are wonderful streams, waterfalls and canyons, in Emilia a constellation of beautiful lakes, a huge amount of water that every day and every night, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, year after year, continues to gush copiously and incessantly , although the rains have been increasingly rare for years by them, and thunderstorms last for a maximum of half an hour. The question arises: where does all this water come from? Could it only come from the rain? How much water is there underground? Where does it come from? So by eye, and as a layman, the inputs/outputs balance does not convince me. Virtually almost everywhere, just dig, and sooner or later water rises from the subsoil, it's just a matter of depth .... I have the impression that our lands, our mountains, our cities, literally float on an underground sea! Just to give an example, huge underground rivers have recently been discovered in Hawaii that connect the aquifers to the sea, whose existence was not suspected.
If then the waters and rivers mark a boundary, then there are the bridges that allow you to cross them, some are stone bridges, often very old, but which still amaze today for the daring of their arches, others are thinner bridges, let's say invisible, are dimensional bridges that unite parallel worlds that usually do not cross over and never come into contact with each other, except in particular conjunctions or with particular people, who have developed a soul advanced enough to be able to "see" beyond the visible, beyond the "real", beyond appearances, If you have this gift, this sensitivity, then it may happen that you meet someone, or a multitude, of those characters of which all the legends of every people, of every culture and of every place narrate, in particular that people of beings who live "trapped" on the borders between the different dimensions, and who love to revel in areas rich in water, such as rivers, springs, lakes and waterfalls you precisely. They are manifestations of the Divinity and of Nature in its many aspects.
Water is associated with strictly feminine connotations, between water and femininity there is great affinity, water is life, and life inexorably gushes from the dark labyrinthine paths of the female womb. Venus itself is born from the frothy waters of the sea, the water itself is a female divinity, the deep and inscrutable water has an affinity with the female soul, with its perhaps more lunar sides; it is also commonplace to say that in the eyes of a woman you can see the sea! Also for this reason the aquatic creatures are all female, there are no male nymphs, there are no mermaids! As I tried, perhaps a little confusedly, to explain in my description of the Straits of Giaredo (>>>), there has existed since the most remote times, a whole fairly intuitive symbology, which connects springs, caves and narrow valleys with the intimate anatomies feminine and with the sacredness and the feeling of the divine. Dark and humid places that inspire reverential respect for the origins of life and its sacred mystery. Places whose charm cannot be reduced to the aesthetic beauty of the landscape, a different energy is perceived at a profound level, a mysterious suggestion.
Each lake has its Lady, each waterfall its nymph, each river its procession, each place of nature its stories that intertwine tears and laughter.
Look at the images of my lady of the lake, photographed in the marshes of the Taro river >>>
Perhaps it is only a matter of terms, but there are in nature subtle forms of energy and manifestations of phenomena that we do not know and do not understand, perhaps we call "magic" what could only be a natural mechanism that we cannot understand or have not yet explained " scientifically ", perhaps we call fairies, nymphs or elves certain vital or energetic manifestations that our sciences ignore and with which we are get not used to relate, or do not want to. If in addition to the physical body there is an unsubstantial soul and a spirit, nothing prevents me from thinking that there could be a fairy or a particular manifestation of life or vital energy without a material body, similar to the principle of our soul. I think we often confuse our limits with the limits of reality, life or the universe: the universe has no limit, it is we who have a limit, not understanding it.
Not that I am an expert on these topics, but I am quite fascinated by them, and I do not want to preclude myself from any possibility, so I want to mention, to share this curiosity, all this multitude of creatures which bear the most varied names, depending on the environments that frequent, the subject would in itself be enormously vast and I certainly cannot expect to exhaust it in this few lines.
Thus we have the fairies of the woods, which bear the name of Dryads, those who live in the trunks of trees, those who live in the seas and bear the name of sirens, and then the Naiads, the Undines, the Nereids, the Fates, the Potamids and so on. Going into the rivers, the most likely to meet are the Nymphs and the Undines, nymph literally means "young girl" but this etymology is not synonymous with chastity, despite the apparent innocence of these little creatures in their modern iconography, which tends to trivialize them, remember that the adjective nymphomaniac derives from the ternime nymph, and the ancient artistic representations offer us a colorful sample!
The word Fairy, on the other hand, was a term used in the Middle Ages to indicate women of the woods, waters and nature in general and derives from faunoe and fatuoe, which in ancient pagan cultures indicated the companies of fauns. In fact, next to them, in classical representations, we find a whole host of satyrs, fauns and Dionysian creatures who, when the god Pan begins to play his magical flute, evoking primordial harmonies, they are unleashed in dances, banquets and licentiousness celebrated near sacred places such as woods, springs, rivers, caves and pleasant pools of water, and in the shade of the greenery, invigorated by the fresh waters, you can experience all the pleasures of mystical ecstasy, which has its expressive tool in the body. And I think that anyone of you has experienced the revitalizing and invigorating power of fresh waters, of the fragrances of the forest and of the wind on the skin, of Nature in short. These creatures are also the personification of these emotions.
Not all fairies and nymphs, however, are beautiful young and handsome, nor benevolent, some have monstrous aspects and are hostile in nature, are vindictive and can kill or cast spells and curses, as can be seen well in the painting of the Diabolical Nymph by Pieter. Bruegel the Younger. However, even the most good-natured sprits ones love to set traps and jokes to human beings who venture into their territories with impunity; it may happen that some fairy or ninph fall in love with them, but they risk losing their immortality from this profane union. But in general, they are benevolent spirits anyway, ready to rush to the aid of the persecuted and the innocent who have suffered unjust wrongs.
The legends about fairies represent a very curious cultural element, because they tell of creatures and events that cross the cultures of all peoples, in all continents and in all times (except perhaps the current one): we find echoes of them in the myths of ancient Greece, as in the stories of the Celtite peoples, in the legends of King Arthur as in the ancient druidic culture of the Tùatha Dé Danann, as we find the echo in African, Chinese and oriental cultures, and in the Americas.
It seems from ancient paintings that one of the best ways to meet these beings is to indulge in a deep sleep on the banks of a river. For my part, it has happened to me several times, going up very beautiful but very isolated and inaccessible streams, to hear playful voices and whispers in the distance, but I don't know if it is suggestion or simply the gurgling of the water, the border between voices that resemble the sound of water and the sound of water that resembles voices is faint! The fact is that when I am in the midst of nature, I never perceive loneliness, even if I am alone in the most isolated place in the world! On the contrary, I perceive solitune when I am among others human beings!
Being this site essentially focused on photography, I cannot fail to mention an episode that took place in Yorkshire in 1917, where two girls managed to immortalize some fairies, who lived near a stream, on their photographic plates. Photographs that put in serious difficulty even experts in the sector, called into question to evaluate the veracity of what happened, including some Kodak technicians and Arthur Conan Doyle himself, inventor of the famous character Sherlock Holmes. Despite the late confession of the two girls, which took place in the 70s, many shadows still remain on the question, and even today, after more than a century, the debate is not at all dormant, and to find out it is enough to type on a search engine "fairies of cottingley" to get over 249 thousand of results!
Although it may make us smile, very illustrious thinkers of every age have spoken of these creatures, from Ovid to Wiliam Blake, from Paracelsus to Sigmund Freud. And then sorry, if there are people who believe that the earth is flat, if there are people who think that the pyramids are tombs, if there are people who believe that we have been to the Moon and others that the universe in its complexity is born of a random explosion, and mostly if there are people who believe in our politicians, well then I think it is legitimate to also believe in fairies, elves and unicorns!
It is certainly a fascinating world that has inspired a vast artistic, cultural and musical production, an inexhaustible source of suggestion, poetry and mysticism, a form of sensitivity that not even modern society, which engulfs and trivializes, commodifying it, every phenomenon, with all its "experts" have managed to completely eradicate this sensitivity! And perhaps it will be precisely this sensitivity, between the mystical and the poetic, which will probably save us, which will save man from becoming a machine, from transforming people into an army of soulless automatons, all the same, switched on and off at command (of others)!
To conclude, as numerous studies also demonstrate, which do nothing but confirm what ancient cultures already knew, only with a different use of terms, if it is true that thought creates, then everything we call fantasy is not exactly fantasy, it could exist, maybe it exists, or maybe it will exist. Surely these magnificent creatures live in my fantasy and dreams, and this is already a form of existence in itself.
I have collected in an album, which I will update from hand to hand, some of the best artistic works regarding fairies, faun, nymphs and companions, come in and take a look at the wonders of this timeless parallel world >>>
After this mythological parenthesis, let's go back to water and rock, two primordial elements, two fundamental elements of our material world, two fascinated elements that, when they come into contact, know how to create works of true magic, and this is what I will try to illustrate in these my waterscape pages. You will see that there are places around us that are truly corners of paradise, where it is not difficult to be influenced and also imagine the secret unfolding of invisible lives ...