Many assume that the term "Holy Water" indicates church-based water only. This is an oversimplification of a complex concept. The Roman Catholic Church did not invent the concept of Holy Water but adopted it from earlier Pagan use. Various Pagan shrines possessed virtually identical Holy Water fonts. Holy Water is a crucial component of many magical, religious and spiritual traditions, although what constitutes Holy Water and how it's made varies greatly.
Holy Water may refer to any one of a variety of products:
- Jordan River Water
- Church blessed water
- According to British folk tradition, rain falling on Holy Thursday - Ascention Day - may be gathered and used as Holy Water. Any other day held sacred to the spell caster may be substituted: Summer Solstice, May Eve, New Year's, Samhain, your birthday, a saint's day, etc.
- Holy Water may also be made via astrological correspondences. Some believe that waters synchronized with a lunar eclipse or a Full Moon are holy and charged with extra magickal power.
- Balinese tradition uses a variety of Holy Waters. These may include the water found within unripe coconuts or young bamboo. Ocean water is sometimes used as well.
- Modern Wicca has evolved the notion of Holy Water. Various formulas exist. At it's simplest, Witch's Holy water is spring water with salt added. Different covens may have personal recipes, including infused herbs (rosemary, thyme, and vervain are particularly popular), or cyrstals.
- Pow-Wow also features various recipes but the mainstay is water with salt and vervain added. Christian Pow-Wow may choose church-blessed waters instead.
Holy Water is most commonly used for:
- Cleansing and purification, both for individual bathing and for space-cleansing (sprinkle in corners).
- Altar cleansing and blessing.
- Healing spells. Holy Water is also believed capable of magically transmitting physical relief especially for headaches and tention. Use in compresses and massge.
- Cleansing and empowering materials and tools: annoint roots and crystals or let roots and minerals soak in Holy Water.
- Exorcism and banishing spells.
Balinese Holy Water, Church-blessed Holy Water and Wiccan Holy Water (among others) are consecrated via sacred ritual: the ritual activates the water. Other magical traditions consider that the sacred, magical power of Holy Water is such that no further ritual or consecration is needed and may in fact be interference. Obtaining Holy Water may thus be as simple a gathering rainwater or adding sea salt to spring water. Complex rituals may also be designed.