This is a fascinating story behind how the tradition of throwing coins into wells and fountains came about. Never knew this at all. What was the most poignant was that Odin was required to pay a very steep price to drink the water of wisdom. Quite an interesting story. I need to read up more on Norse mythology.
When we went to Italy, we were merrily throwing coins into the wells. There's actually a well in Ambleside which is a charity well. You can throw in a coin to help a charity and also make a wish. Both winners.
The Ritual behind Wishing Wells: Buying Favors and Good Fortune
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The modern Western world is familiar with the concept of wishing wells, or bodies of water in which currency, most commonly in the form of coin, is tossed with the intention of making a wish. Some towns even host a fountain in the town square or epicenter in which passersby drop coins in hopes that their desires will be fulfilled. While this practice is common knowledge, the origin of the tradition is not. In fact, when and where this practice began is somewhat unclear.
As with many traditions that predate recorded history, pinning down one particular event or origin related to the wishing well is difficult. Many ancient practices spanned more than one culture, varying according to the practicing people. But in regards to the phenomenon of the wishing well, there are undoubtedly age old customs that correlate to the tradition of wishing over sacred water.
The dark pools in the Luray Caverns are filled with coins and other tokens thrown in by visitors and hopeful wishers. ‘Wishing Well’ of Luray Caverns, Virginia, USA. Wikimedia Commons
Though the wishing well is considered to be a European tradition, it is important to understand the worldwide significance of clean water before the advent of indoor plumbing and water filtration.
Water is the source and sustenance of life. All major civilizations developed around a source of water, mostly fresh, so that it could be used and utilized for drinking and other essential day to day activities, such as agriculture. These large bodies of water were also key in successful trade and defense. On a smaller scale, clean water that emanated from springs or streams were also vital to local communities. Structures often came to be built around the source of this clean water to protect it from contaminates. These ‘wells’ often became a common meeting place for residents.