So here’s another story about the dangers of bathing in unfamiliar springs. The cursed wells of the Middle Kingdom are of course the most familiar, but there are other stories as well, though (admittedly) less picturesque ones.

For example, in Phrygia there is a quarter-mile stretch of river that, besides being deep and swift enough to drown half a hundred Leanders, has the unfortunate property of gilding everything dropped into it. Many are the unwary travelers who have foundered and washed away diving for an illusory treasure suspended just below the surface.

Not all such ria are so homicidal, though. The spring at Tementium which was sacred to the Mother of the Gods was merely inconvenient. The Mother was said to bathe in its waters every May after giving birth to the new year for the purpose of restoring her ravished virginity — a property that fountain retained the year round. In those unruly days it was not much visited, virginity not being so highly prized as in later, more decadent ages. Now of course it’s big business, and it’s the rare Purity Ball that doesn’t have a bottle or two for sale. There’s always a few fathers pragmatic or cynical enough to want to hedge their bets.