Water is Sacred and Holy in South Sudan

The following essay was written by WFSS Compound Manager Abraham Majur.

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Since time in memorial, South Sudanese beliefs, norms, and values have considered water to be sacred. A "water point" as referred to in this narrative includes: pools, rivers, hand pumps/boreholes, hand dug wells, swamp, and lakes, among others.

Holiness of Water Points and Water

The South Sudanese Dinka traditionalists believe that God resides around water points, and that water is “god.” Water has a spirit that can curse people if evil things are done at Water Points. In earlier days, Dinka elders advised young people to avoid going to rivers, swamps, pools, hand pumps/hand dug wells at late hours of the night and early mornings. Elders told that late at night, the spirits and ghosts gather along river and in swamps at those hours.

This perception has protected water points for a long time in South Sudan, even during the two wars of Sudan.

When Dinkas are making their traditional sacrifices to their “gods” the Spearmasters or Sectional/Clan elders first give water to animals to be sacrificed. The notion is that the animal will urinate and there would be enough blood. They consider this as a sign of acceptance of their sacrifice by their “gods” and ancestors. During sacrifices amongst Dinkas when animal meat is consumed, clan elders would spray young people and clan members with water, which they believe it has blessing for their “gods” and ancestors.According to the Dinka tradition, you cannot kill anything while drinking at a water point, be it wild or domestic animals/birds. Even at points of conflict, a defected enemy would not be denied access to a water point or killed while drinking. Killing enemies while they’re drinking water is believed to attract a curse on the doer and his family in present and future. 

Traditions and Stories About Water Points

There are a good number of tribes and sections of Dinka clans who sacrifice for sacred Water Points, usually to rivers and other specific Water Points in their respective localities. For example, in Yirol East, currently part of Eastern Lakes State, a section called Dhiem of Ador offers sacrifices to Lake Shambe and Ajiek sacrifices to River Payii. There are many others but those are a few examples.

 From left to right: Abraham (author), and Associate Country Directors  AJ  and  A ter

From left to right: Abraham (author), and Associate Country Directors AJ and Ater

Water for South Sudan's Wells

WFSS has drilled over 300 wells, and none of the wells have been reported vandalized or destroyed by any parties (government or rebel forces).

We are assured of the protection of the wells by users and local authorities in those respective areas.

In this regard our donors and supporters should know that their efforts, talents, resources, and time are not at waste but in service of local communities in South Sudan who have been disadvantaged by two wars of Sudan for years and current conflict.