One of the oldest forms of marbling ever referenced is called Suminagashi, which literally means "floating ink" and originated in East Asia during 825-850 CE. This form, unlike its Middle Eastern counterparts with more complex ingredients, is remarkably bare bones. Ink and water are the only elements in a delicate process that render patterns that reflect their surroundings. Air currents, noise, dust, waves, water pureness and temperature are just some of the environmental ingredient that make each sumi print unique.
According to legend, Jizemon Hiroba felt he was divinely inspired to make suminagashi paper after visiting the Kasuga Shrine, in the Nara Prefecture in Japan, and wandered the country looking for the purest water with which to make his papers. He finally arrived in Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, where he found water specially conducive to making suminagashi. He settled there, and his family carries on the tradition to this day.The Hiroba family claims to have made this form of marbled paper since 1151 EC for 55 generations.Other have proposed that it might have derived from an early form of divination called Hydromancy (also commonly called the Water Bowl), which originated in Greece and was also used by many ancient indigenous tribes. This technique was a favorite of prophet Nostradamus, who practiced it as a means of receiving messages and predictions through the movement of water in a bowl. He recorded what he saw and combined it with psychic messages.
This text by Marta Pia first appeared published on Intercourse Magazine #3
If you want to read more about the history and tradition of marbling around the world, Wikipedia has a very interesting entry, and if you're interested on learning marbling techniques come to my next class!