The Ageless Current of Water

Graduation Date

Fall 2005

Document Type

Master's Thesis

Document Form


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy

Degree Granting Institution

Notre Dame de Namur University

Program Name

Art Therapy


Lizbeth Martin, PhD

First Reader

Richard Carolan, EdD, ATR-BC

Second Reader

Arnell Etherington, PhD, MFT, ATR-BC


The symbol of water is a very ancient and powerful symbol of timeless origin that has acquired many forms in the way it has been seen and expressed throughout the world. The central focus of this thesis is to establish the symbol of water as an archetype of the human psyche by comparing the views from both ancient and modern civilizations and thought. In this way, evidence may be gathered to support the idea that present day views on water are similarly connected to the way ancient cultures related to water in the past. Four main cultures have been selected as a basis for the historical research. These cultures are the Aztecs, Egyptians, Celtics, and Hindus. The Japanese and Navajo cultures are also discussed in the research. Each culture selected varies in global location and time period.

The research conducted for this thesis consisted of a survey and was done in varying locations that were convenient for the population sampled. The population consisted of three groups. These groups consisted of school teachers, and the employees of a local outpatient clinic of which the clinical and non-clinical workers were divided into two separate survey groups. The survey questionnaire was designed to compare the way people in present day society view water to the way water was viewed by past cultures.

The initial hypothesis is that there are definite distinctions between past and present day views due to scientific and technological advances of a more secular world that has moved away from culturally homogenous concepts that were based more on religious and spiritual principles. The outcome of the survey results suggests that the way society views water now has changed from the way water was viewed by societies of the past. Of the entire list of words relating to ancient references to water, only four words were chosen by fifty or more subjects from the total population of 117. These words were calming, purification, ice, and strength.

By administering the survey, a better understanding has been made in how the meaning and expression of water has evolved throughout history as an archetype of the human psyche. Acquiring both a historical and present day awareness of water may serve as an effective tool in the art therapy setting to aid in a better understanding of the unconscious meanings behind an image of water when it appears in the artwork of clients.

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