20 Simple yet Effective Cleansing & Purification Techniques
This marks the fourth and final post in a series on Cleansing & Purification. This series has taken a surprisingly in-depth look at these two subjects specifically within the context of witchcraft and how they are relevant to witches. The first post in this series was What is Ritual Pollution? Understanding Miasma and Ritual Purity, looking at those activities in witchcraft that can cause the need for cleansing or purificatory work. The second was Signs & Symptoms of Miasma, helping you to recognize ritual pollution within yourself. And the third was Cleansing & Purification: What’s the Difference? providing a nuanced look at the function -and limitations- of these two techniques in order to accurately differentiate between the two. This post puts all of those words into action by providing you with twenty different cleansing and purification techniques.
There is much in magick that is made out to be overly complicated and inaccessible. From copious lists of “necessary” items that can only be purchased and not found naturally in your local area to the admonition that certain magickal activities can only be done beneath specific astrological events*, there is a lot of utter nonsense that is touted as truth simply for the sake of making that truth touter seem special and what they do difficult, if not impossible, to be achieved or replicated by others.
And that is such bullshit.
Witchcraft is largely based off European folk magic practices. These practices are rooted in the everyday lives of ordinary people who applied those practices to improve their circumstances. Whether that meant curing health concerns, warding off events that could lead to starvation for the family, or to protect children from harmful spiritual forces, those practices typically involved items that were common and attainable -though not always without some effort**.
With that same focus on common items to create change within our everyday lives this list of 20 Cleansing and Purification Methods is offered. To employ any of these methods you do not need expensive tools or a complicated ritual set up. These are standalone techniques to be used when needed, to be added to other rites as part of larger ritual formats as needed. May they serve you as well as they have served me.
Anointing with Oil
This is suitable for individuals as well as for indoor locations. In both instances, consecrated oil (made with appropriately corresponding herbs)*** is used. This is a purificatory act as it wipes the slate clean and then holds that state of purity. For individuals, the oil is often applied to their wrists, temples, jugular, and Third Eye, sometimes with an appropriate symbol or sigil (a solar cross is a good standby, as is a spiral, drawn either invoking -to bring in better energies with which to push out the unwanted energies- or a banishing spiral -to draw out the unwanted energies.) Other good places to anoint with oil include the solar plexus, inside of elbows, backs of knees, ankles, back of the neck, and lower back. For the interior of buildings or a room, the oil can be applied to the walls, tracing specific symbols and/or sigils to purify the space. Other highly recommended places include the inside of every doorway and window frame. For a more comprehensive approach, the ceiling(s) and floor should be included in conjunction with the walls, door frames, and window frames.
This is another simple yet highly effective way of purifying individuals or locations. It entails the sprinkling of consecrated water onto the individual or about the area and is often used in conjunction with censing. Consecrated means to make it sacred. This involves a ritual action to cleanse and purify the water and then bless it by a Deity (or Some.)
The sound of a bell has an effect of causing energy to scatter. In this way, it is a cleansing action and can also be used for clearing out transient spirits and some low-level parasitic spirits. A small hand-bell is ideal; simply ring it about the person (take care of those ears) and/or about the room or interior of the building.+
A besom is a ritual tool that resembles a common broom. It is made with an ash handle, broom (this is an actual plant,) and bound with willow. It’s movements break up pockets of stagnant or trapped energy, helping to scatter and relocate it. It is a cleansing tool used for locations, never individuals.
This is a simple yet effective method that can be used for individuals or locations. It involves smoldering incense (with a hand blended incense of particular herbs related to the purpose being most recommended) and wafting that smoke over the individual or about the area. This practice is commonly used for cleansing crystals and other ritual objects, as well, where one will see the smoke almost deliberately pool over the object for a time, then suddenly change direction, signaling that the cleansing is complete; it is the same here. Note that in the case of cleansing objects, the smoke must touch the object. It is not enough that the smoke be near it, it is the act of the smoke touching what is to be cleansed that performs the cleansing action. For example, it has become common with the magickal community to cleanse your workspace before doing divination by waving a stick of incense or smudge stick over the table that will hold the divination tool. This doesn’t work. This action literally achieves nothing but filling your room with smoke. The smoke must touch what you are cleansing for it to be cleansed.++ Personally, I have not found smoke to be effective for purificatory work. Cleansing, yes, but it does not appear to have the penetrative effect that marks a purificatory action, regardless of herbs used.
This is a means where a short phrase is repeated, thereby raising energy through repetition, the controlled breathing, and the construction of the chant (the words used, the rhythm of their recitation, and the vocalization of the letter sounds.) That energy can then be directed to a goal. This is a useful means of energy raising for a variety of magickal goals, but it works particularly well for cleansing a room or interior of a building.
One of the most effective ways to spiritually cleanse a room or building is to physically clean it. As with any deep cleaning job, start at the top and work your way down, taking care to thoroughly clean all of the places that tend to get missed. The cleaner a house or room is, the more difficult it is for any unwanted energy or low-level spirits to stick within the home.
Although often used to raise energy, dancing can be used in general to manipulate the energies in a space. Rhythmic movements involving sweeping arm movements, stomping, and clapping are most effective as they pull in the surrounding energy and then scatter it, thereby cleansing that area.
Being able to send energy without the use of any tool is a foundational skill for the witch. Its use is applicable in all areas of your craft and, more than any other skill, learning to work with energy will significantly increase your functionality and efficacy. There are two sides of energy manipulation: push and pull, being able to project and deliberately receive energy. Being able to send/push energy is commonly used when we charge something: when we align the innate energies of an object to correspond to our magickal goal or when we fill a receptive object with a particular flavor of energy (i.e. protective, healing, calming, etc.). But a little known yet highly effective application for this is to cleanse the interior of a room or building by projecting energy out your dominant hand, filling the room, and pushing everything unwanted out. This can be followed by sealing the room with a ward, either a physically constructed ward or an energetic ward as described in my book By Rust of Nail & Prick of Thorn: The Theory & Practice of Effective Home Warding.
Fire and Light
Within some religions, fire and light are used as offerings, however, they can be used for purificatory purposes, too. With an individual, seek to shine the light so that it touches every last inch of them, moving slowly across the body. Indoors, take a candle about to literally banish the darkness from every corner, metaphysically driving out impurities and unwanted to energies. This is my personal go-to method for purification that I use prior to bone readings, ritual, and, honestly, when I feel myself being so miasmic that it's causing problems with concentration. It takes nothing more than a small candle that I use in conjunction with a chant, passing the candle, slowly, about myself until I can feel the release and resulting lightness and relaxation. It takes maybe five minutes to complete.
Grounding and Centering
These are two fundamental skills in witchcraft that are frequently equated thought they differ in function and execution. In grounding, one makes a connection with the Earth in order to remove unwanted energies from themselves and then completes the circuit by making a connection with the cosmos, the greater Universe and Divine (in whatever sense that means to the individual) to fill themselves with lighter, purer energy. Keeping in mind that energy bears a strong resemblance to electricity, the necessary action of creating that complete circuit becomes clear. Energy then moves unburdened within the individual, from both the Earth and the Universe, leaving the individual purified and balanced, ready for other energetic or religious work. With centering, the individual moves their seat of consciousness to that very innermost part of themselves that lays where all aspects and levels of themselves meet: body, mind, and spirit. The individual then moves forward from that place, focused. This exercise of moving one’s seat of consciousness to other areas of their physical body (as opposed to keeping it in one’s head, near to their eyes) is effective in gaining greater control over the physical and spiritual bodies, as well as one’s thoughts. These two exercises are often falsely equated as they produce deceivingly similar results (i.e. reduced stress, clarity of thoughts, physical relaxation, more balanced flow of energy within the body, etc.) However, they are different and those differences matter. Conjoined use of these techniques is recommended for a more effective personal purification.
This is a purificatory action, found within a few religions, that removes any residual energies that may have been picked up through day to day activities (i.e. we use our hands for nearly everything, if any single part of our bodies were to be ritually impure, it would be our hands.) This rite ideally involves two people, a pitcher of water, and a bowl, with one individual pouring the water over the other person's hands as they rub the water over their hands, allowing it to drip into the bowl. This can be done just as effectively with one person using a bowl filled with water, wetting the hands, and removing them from the bowl. The water is disposed of appropriately, either down the drain, in the toilet, or outside in a place where it will not affect any plants. This water should be ritually purified prior to use. This can be done by projecting energy into the water for the purpose of purifying it or by alighting a sprig of purificatory herbs and then extinguishing the flames in the water.
In this rite, one draws a bath, adding appropriate herbs and a handful of salt to the water as the tub fills. This rite can be adapted to use in the shower, with the use of a salt scrub (made by adding essential oils to salt) or by rinsing with an infusion of appropriately suited herbs. Note that there is a notable difference in function and result between a bath and a shower, but similar results (i.e. purification) can be achieved. Note also that making a strong infusion of appropriate herbs in a large bowl, straining, and then pouring this finished brew into the tub is a less messy and perfectly acceptable option.
Scattering a Powder
Appropriate herbs should be chosen, their use determined by traditional use, intuition, or because the spirit of that plant has conveyed that this is something it will help with. The dried herbs are powdered (not ground, powdered, like dust), mixed, and empowered/charged. Sprinkle the herbs about the interior of the room or building. As the herbs fall, their energy is released, scattering unwanted energies and clearing them from the room or building. Depending on the herbs used, this can be a cleansing or purificatory action with the final results being difficult to distinguish between which has been achieved (so just choose herbs of either use and go with it.)
Sigils and Symbols
As mentioned above in the first point, Anointing with Oil, sigils and symbols may be applied to the walls, ceilings, or floor of a room for purificatory purposes. However, they can also be applied using consecrated water or a purificatory potion (brew a strong infusion of appropriate herbs.) Alternately, these symbols and sigils can also be traced onto the walls without any such liquid or simply traced into the air, sending energy alone (as described above in the eighth point, Energy) which is still quite effective.
This is an effective way to purify both individuals and especially a place. It also serves the purpose, in groups, of helping create the group mind so crucial to magickal workings. Generally, ascending scales build energy, with descending scales removing energy. Experiment with tempo and sustained notes to craft your own trusty purification songs. Words aren’t essential but should you choose to use them in your song, consider the advice of the sixth point above, Chanting.
A very simple yet effective means of cleansing the interior of a room or building. Scatter salt across the floor, thereby scattering unwanted energies and preventing them from returning until the salt has been cleaned up. In this way, salt is also useful for warding your home, as you can lay a thin line of salt inside window frames, above door frames, along the bottom frame of mirrors, etc.
Stomping and Shouting
While these can be readily used along with dancing or chanting, both stomping and shouting have the effect of scattering energies and driving out low-level spirits. Rhythmic stomping serves to raise energy, while accented stomps can serve to send the energy and clear the interior of a room or building.
While also a potent tool for cursing and throwing back curses, the witch is useful for cutting through tight, clinging energy that impedes freedom and clear thinking. In this way, it is a tool for cleansing a room or building of unwanted energy. Traditionally, only 13 bramble branches are used, but I have had very good results adding in other very specific herbs to supplement the brambles (such as the stems of burdock leaves.)
Spiritual washes are an herbcraft that is becoming more prevalent within witchcraft due to the popularity of Hoodoo within the magickal community. While traditionally, they are made through a combination of herbs, spiritual colognes, and other ingredients, you can make something similar -but without the appropriation- by making a strong infusion of appropriate herbs. The resulting liquid is then used to scrub the floor of your home and also the doors, door frame, and window frames. It can also be used to scrub the ceiling and walls for a more comprehensive cleansing.
*It is always so disappointing to see the way that some people’s baggage from religions they claim to no longer believe are thrown at other people, condemning them for no other reason than that the condemner is insecure, frightened, and spending more time on presenting the “right image” than on doing the necessary personal work to actually know what they’re talking about or to be free from that religious baggage.
**Such as bathing in water collected from seven different streams. Some travel would be required, but water from a stream is still a genuinely attainable item in many areas.
***A consecrated oil is a natural oil that has been appropriately consecrated, i.e. made sacred -charged to a specific magickal purpose and blessed by a Deity or Some. Here’s how to make a natural oil using medicinal herbalism standards.
+Places in nature rarely require ritual purification as the conditions and functions of nature have an intrinsically purifying effect 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.
++And why in the world would anyone think their table needs to be cleansed? What nefarious acts have you done at that table that could cause it to somehow interfere with divination? There is this obsession regarding “negative energy” and needing to cleanse oneself and one’s life of “negative” energy, objects, and people for the sake of spiritual health when the reality is that these erroneous ideas do little more than promote fear (“oh, no! Don’t let the bad vibes get you!!) and give that individual a false sense of control in their life. See Intention is NOT Enough for more on why “negative energy” doesn’t exist and the first and third posts in this series, What is Ritual Pollution? and Cleansing & Purification: What’s the Difference?, for further on what one cleanses and purifies themselves of and why.
Many of the techniques in this article were previously noted in the article Ritual Purity: 13 Ways to Eliminate Ritual Pollution. However, they have been expanded and edited to better fit the specific context of this article and provide greater value to you, dear reader.
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