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