“I have purified my breast and body with clean water”– Temple inscription
This is in response to this post by Moon and Shadow: About Paganism. Her post explains the basic need for cleansing before ritual and the various ways it can be done.
Ritually cleansing the body has been an important part of many cultures. To the Egyptians it was immensely important and could be a complex process.
According to Clark the Ancient Egyptians believed that their human body was a “microcosm of cosmic life” . p151 Here are some more quotes from Clark’s book The Sacred Magic of Ancient Egypt:
“In ancient times, priests began the day in the great temples by bathing in the sacred pool, followed by the donning of new clothing and sandals.” p152
“Anointing rites serve an important role in theurgy. Besides purifcation, these acts empower certain forces to enter the center where invocations will be focused.” p 153
“Purification is the basic component of daily practice and temple rituals” p 154
“The body is washed, from head to feet in a circular motion, and dried. This anointing proceeds with the cleansing of hands and the body is purified, and the body is purified from the feet upward. ” p 156
Clark goes on to state the order of the “Great anointing” from pages 157-159
To the Greeks it was just as important. Here is a list of do’s and don’ts from Temenos Theon, the first one deals with Cleanliness.
In Neo-Wiccan ritual it is customary to wash the body within water. This is usually accompanied by sacred bath salts, oils, incense and possibly even done by candlelight.
At the circle gatherings at which I was present as a child, the Temple maidens and helpers would smudge each individual with a bunch of joss sticks, then on our forehead we were anointed with lemon grass oil. This is a further step of cleansing before entering into the ritual space, which would remove any clinging negative energy and raise psychic awareness as well.
Before cleansing my body physically and psychically I make sure that the room is properly physically cleansed and that the altars are properly set up.
Many of my cleansing baths employ the use of oil, incense, bathsalts, and candlelight. I run the salt and water over my body and smudge myself with incense in order to cleanse my body with each of the elements. I think only on the ritual that I am about to do, and remove all thoughts that might impede its progress.
Once I’m done with this, I change into some clean clothing and put back the necklaces around my neck. I then move the incense and lit candle to my room, allowing the heat and light of the flame and the scent of the incense to cleanse the surrounding area, from this candle (with incense), I light the five element candles in my room. Just before the casting of the circle I employ a broom cleanse where I sweep the area clean psychically. I then say a chant that lifts any remaining negative thoughts from me.
Once I cast the circle I say a prayer to my Patron deities and anoint myself with oil or salt water. The statues are anointed as well. Once this is done, the ritual may commence as now both me and the statues are ready for any further invocation.
This process might seem complicated, but it is actually second nature to me and it is a sacred ritual in and of itself. There is no real need for me to remember my lines during this process, as I know it so well.
If all I am doing is a meditation, the broom cleanse and what comes afterward is not carried out, except the anointing of my body with oil or water.
Many times I’ve conducted the ritual itself within the bathroom, using nothing but the basic tools of salt, candle, water and incense.
If it is not possible for me to have a full bath or shower, then I wash my hands, feet, and face with a little water and anoint myself afterward. My anointing starts from the feet and then goes upward to knees, chest, mouth, eyes, forehead and the backs of my hands.
Washing the body clean from all the psychic and physical muck of day to day life is important in my opinion, and a step that should not be left out before ritual, my reasons for this include that purification aids in releasing physical and mental tension, psychically attuning yourself to a ritualistic frame of mind, and allows your body to act as a temple for the gods and their sacred offerings. As communion is an important part of my rituals, to take into myself the blessings of the gods with a clean body shows respect.
Rosemary Clark- The Sacred Magic of ancient Egypt (2003) Llewellyn
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