13 Purification Rites to Eliminate Ritual Pollution
In a continued effort to put Paganism in its rightful place as just another of countless religions found throughout the world, no different and certainly not any more "special" or "unique" than any other religion, this piece examines a common component of many religions, citing examples from various religions, as well as Paganism, to not only give further explanation of that concept but to give further credence to the idea that religion is a choice, with no religion nor its members being above any other religion or its members, and certainly not above in depth examination and criticism.
It is also important to note that while Paganism is not itself specifically a religion, rather it is a term referring to numerous modern religions with seemingly little in common other than shared history and inspiration, for ease of communication this distinction will not be made within this article, however, it is frequently addressed in other areas, such as the previous articles What is Paganism? and Whitewashing Paganism.
A common idea found in numerous religions is that of ritual pollution. This is the concept that there are certain activities, situations, actions, and biological functions that can leave one in a state of impurity, impacting one's ability to perform certain religious functions and rites. Often, there are certain prescriptions given to rectify this state, i.e. purification rites that must be performed or a certain time period that must pass for the state of ritual pollution to correct itself.
As stated, this idea is prevalent within many religions and is found even within Paganism, though it is often less explicitly stated or discussed. Within Hinduism, a religion that bares remarkable similarities to modern Paganism (to the point that many erroneously categorize it as one of the many Pagan religions,) there are numerous examples of ritual pollution that help to better elucidate this concept. Such things as wearing shoes or dirty clothing create a state of ritual pollution, easily solved by removing the shoes and putting on clean clothing. Other states require more drastic measures, such as full body bathing after having used the bathroom, or are unable to be remedied by anything but the passage of time, such as with menstruation or in the event of the death of a blood relative, which creates a 10 day state of ritual pollution. Purification rites are also employed prior to such acts as cooking and preparing food, which carry a profound, if understated, sacredness, as well as more explicitly religious acts such as reciting mantras and chants or performing pujas (standard worship ceremonies that are conducted daily and for specific religious observances.) Even Christianity holds to the idea of ritual pollution, although it is not so prevalent within Protestant denominations (as the idea of priest as intermediary has been abolished.) Within Catholicism, the idea is demonstrated clearly in the the rite of confession, with adherents being unable to take communion without having purified themselves through the rite of confessing their sins, being counselled on what must need be done to atone for those sins, and then receiving that forgiveness by God as transferred to them by the priest.
Within Paganism we see this idea frequently expressed in the concept of nondescript "negative energy." This energy results from various actions and situations, however lacking in biological origination, i.e. there are no religious restrictions placed on menstruating or pregnant women, the elderly, or individuals who are sick (recommendations for not doing magick while sick are not the same as ritual pollution; ritual pollution must be cured by ritual means, being sick has a consequential trait of reduced energy levels making it more difficult to properly raise and manipulate energy. One is religious protocol, the other is practical advice.)
This negative energy is a ritual obstacle that must be removed from individuals and locations prior to religious ceremonies and worship. Stress and the lingering effects of an argument are one such example of ritual pollution. With individuals, we see this expressed in the idea that two people who have quarrel with each other cannot Circle together until that conflict is resolved, thereby not bringing that ritual pollution into the Circle and inhibiting the subsequent worship and working. However, even if the quarreling individuals are not present, the location where the argument took place may still have been negatively impacted, with lingering disruptive energies present that must be ritually purified in order to be removed.
Places in nature rarely require ritual purification as the conditions and functions of nature have an intrinsically purifying affect on a place and upon those who live openly therein. However, if that place has been subjected to deforestation or heavy polluting and/or littering, the inherent balance of the energies there will be disrupted. Ritual purification allows for those energies to more easily return to a balanced state, though only temporarily with heavy pollution. Extreme change, such as heavy pollution and deforestation or other habitat upheaval will require sustained effort to correct this state, removing garbage and replanting trees and native plants to restore the habitat and appease the spirits of place before regular religious use of that place can take place again.
Within Paganism, there are numerous methods that may be employed to deal with and eradicate ritual pollution. However, it must note that purification rites are not the same nor produce equivalent results to cleansing or banishing rites, and certainly are not comparable to exorcism rites. In the cases of where specific malevolent energies/entities are suspected, purification rites can serve to only obscure their presence for a short while, being the equivalent of a room deodorizer as opposed to taking the trash out (as one would do with a banishing or exorcism rite.)
Here are 13 purification rites that you can use to remove ritual pollution:
What are your preferred purification rites? What tried and true techniques have you created to eliminate ritual pollution and achieve ritual purity in your life and rituals? Feel free to share your rites as well as any observations you've noted with the above techniques in the comments below.
Throwing the Bones
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