When we talk about the cult of waters in Sardinia, we must inevitably refer to the sacred wells, a distinctive element of Sardinian Megalithic heritage. They are temples called “hypogea”, dating back to the last years of the Bronze Age (about 3500-1200 BC) and the beginning of the Iron Age (about 1200-900 BC). Their architectural structure reminds that of the nuraghi, but with an important difference: they were built underground.
If you want to travel across Sardinia in search of the sacred wells, first of all you must look for the numerous sanctuaries built during the Christian era: in most cases, in the soil under them, or in a very close area, you may find springs of water that are traditionally considered as having miraculous powers.
At present, several types of wells are still visible, and it is possible to reach them through a monumental staircase that leads to the atrium, where the water is contained.
Many symbologies are usually referred to the sacred wells, but one of the most important theories associate them with the worship of the Mother Goddess, because their structure resemble the female reproductive organs: according to this theory, they would be a sort of way to enter and leave otherworldly places, passages to get down and then come back, two-way communication routes through which people could descend to, and ascend from, the other world. The presence of water makes it even more likely this interpretation, that considers the sacred wells as the metaphorical uterus of the Mother Earth, a passage through purifying waters whose power leads to a rebirth, from darkness to light. Some wells have also a particular astronomical orientation: the most representative of all is certainly the Well of Santa Cristina, located in Paulilatino, in the province of Oristano, in an area near the west coast of the island.
Seen from the air, the Well of Santa Cristina has an external structure that resembles to the female organ, the source of life, a reflection of the divine world, the terrestrial copy of a heavenly archetype and a cosmic image. The hole in the center of the “tholos” (that’s how the circular vault is called) seems to have been built to follow the lunar phases, allowing the Moon to be reflected in its interior every 18 years or so. On the contrary, the stairway that leads to the well seems to have been built to allow the Sun to be reflected in it, especially at the autumn and spring equinox. The stairway may also represent a means of connection between man and the Earth.
From these brief news relating to the sacred wells, it is easy to understand that ancient Sardinians had a deeply religious spirit: they worshipped Sardus Pater (a latin expression that means “Sardinian Father”) as their only god, and, unlike other civilizations, they didn’t represent their god in statues, but they venerated him in the nature, the climate, the trees, the flowers and fruits, but especially in the waters, an essential element for life.
According to the ancient people, the water collected inside the wells had therapeutic properties and it was thought to be the home of the divinity, and for this reason there were various rituals and cults of fertility and purification.
The water of the wells was used in the course of the centuries to treat the sick and make specific requests to the gods leaving as a gift various objects, usually consisting of bronze statues depicting the gods themselves or different personalities of prestige belonged to the community of the time.
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