I’ve been struggling for inspiration for what to write about lately and so, inspired by Endless Erring‘s most recent post, part one of a 30 part challenge on Druidry, I thought I’d seek out some witchy/pagan writing prompts online to clear the cobwebs. Coming full circle back to where I started blogging so long ago that I believe the word ‘yonks’ would be apt, Live Journal had a community called Pagan Prompts, so I thought I’d mine that for inspiration when I can’t think of anything else to say. Scrolling through the posts, the first one that caught my eye was a question from ns_kumiho:
Do you believe it necessary to clean or ritually purify yourself in anyway before you perform a ritual?
This one caught my eye because I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately. To many pagans it seems to be a given that you would purify yourself, your tools or your space in some way before a ritual. Indeed, many cultures around the world have the idea of sacredness, from Judeo-Christian blessings to Buddhist stupas and statues. I’m fascinated by the Maori idea of Tapu, the innate sacredness of everything, while some things have greater tapu than others. The rules surrounding the transfer and physical handling of people and objects based on their level of tapu are elaborate and strictly observed. Many cultures have the practice of somehow purifying, blessing or consecrating people, places or objects before communicating with the divine or spiritual.
Indeed, it’s so prevalent that I’ve often struggled with the fact that I don’t believe it at all. By purifying yourself or something else for ritual, it’s implying that you’re normally impure, unclean, profane. The reason I’m fascinated by tapu is that, while I agree that everything is inherently sacred, I don’t believe that anything is more sacred than anything else or that anything is impure, much less that impurity can be transferred. If I approach my altar after a hard day of work and I’m tired and distracted, sitting there, touching the candles and crystals, does not tarnish that space but rather puts me back in touch with the sacred. But I can tap into that any time if I simply remember to. My altar is an external projection of my own connection to that which is sacred about myself and all living things; I don’t need it, I just like it.
Where I think purification does have a place is in psychologically preparing a person, focusing their mind on the intention at hand. While I don’t believe that you have to be at your altar, or grounded and centred, in order to connect with the sacred, I do believe it helps you step out of your daily life and create a different psychological space. Often I achieve this just by meditating for a little while or wreathing myself in smoke from incense or sage. Only very occasionally do I take a salt bath before sitting at my altar. It’s sometimes nice to mark that time out and it feels like an act of self-care. But I think it’s equally important to cultivate ways of connecting with the sacred throughout the day. When I’m walking I usually touch any plant I come within arm’s length of – a gentle bow of respect to nature. When I step outside I’ll often take a few deep breaths and appreciate the sacred act of breathing for a moment. Any time I see the moon, I greet it with a smile and often say aloud, “Hello, lovely!” There is something beautiful about connecting to the sacred when you feel messy and scattered and not even a little bit mystical.
I’m definitely willing to admit that I could be wrong about all of this. Perhaps I’m just a deplorably lazy witch who can’t be bothered following the proper protocol. Maybe I would be more powerful if I did observe purification rituals and charged my tools under the full moon every month and only performed rituals on the appropriate day of the week. But if your intention is simply to connect with the sacred, it’s all around you all the time. It’s inside you, whether you’ve bathed in rosemary or are covered in a layer of grime. It’s in the hedges and highways and bustling crowds as much as in your altar. You may observe certain practices to focus your mind on it, but it is always with you and you can always connect to it whether you’re surrounded by a circle of salt or sat at your desk at work.
Most of all, I don’t believe that we are ever profane. Just as we love what we love at its worst as much as at its best, we ourselves are sacred, whether messy or clean, angry or calm, focused or distracted. You don’t need to purify yourself because you are never, ever impure.