Holy Ponce de Leon! Is There Really A Fountain Of Youth?
Throughout history, explorers ventured into uncharted territories to source a body of water that could turn back biological clocks, but how seriously did they take their quests for curing waters? Here is the perplexing, sometimes tragic history of the search for the Fountain of Youth.
Across many cultural origins, the mythical Fountain of Youth is said to possess the power to cure sickness or restore the youth of those who bathe in or drink from its waters. It has been represented as a spring, waterfall, well, or a pool. And these eternal waters are floral-scented in some stories, or described as sulfuric from their mineral-rich contents in others.
Water iconography often represents restoration or awakening. In Christianity, baptism is a spiritual rebirth, and in Hinduism, bathing in the Ganges River cleanses the soul and washes away sins. It seems almost natural then that sources of water, like a fountain for instance, became symbols for rebirth and immortality. Even today, you can find people touting miracle cures from blessed or magically imbued waters.
Interpretations of the Fountain of Youth have made appearances in art through the centuries. French ivory carvings from the 14th century depict an old bearded man entering magical waters where young, amorous couples bathe. A 1546 painting by Lucas Cranach the Elder portrays a fountain in which the aged enter on the left and exit, lithe and young on the right. These images were taken from European romance literature during the medieval period and spread throughout the age of colonization and exploration.
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