Purification: my least favorite topic. As a Pagan, I can understand the need for ritual purification, and the ideas surrounding it. I used to study Ceremonial Magick, and purification was a primary way for the mind to set aside the mundane and continue in the sacred world. In Paganism, purification is a necessity to come before the purity of divinity. It is the practice of removing the energy sticking to you that is antithetical to the performance of and participation in the coming rite. It is separating yourself not only from the mundane, but also from negative thoughts and emotions, such as hatred, anger, suspicion, fear, and worry, which do much to hinder most ritual.

As an animist, however, I’ve always seen purification as a futile exercise. The spirits are always around us. They live here, too. They already know you delve in the muck and mud to earn your daily bread, they already know that you travel through the mire to get to the ritual space, and if they are paying attention, they’re already aware of whom you have helped, whom you’ve wronged, whom you’ve had sex with, whom you have upset. If the Gods and Spirits want your attention, they tend to make themselves known, whether you’re “pure” or not. As much as I understand the purpose of purification, there’s always that part of me that rebels against the need to do so.

That said, I still have a part of every ritual devoted to the washing of hands or the asperging of a participant. It certainly seems to help others that I perform ritual with. So, with another rite coming up, and this one done in a very different way than I am used to, I am going to compare and contrast my traditional method for purification with what is proscribed in Deep Ancestors.

First, a typical asperging ceremony for my Neopagan Animist rites:

  1. Fill the ceremonial bowl with water.
  2. Sprinkle a pinch of salt into the water. Chant over the bowl,
    Water, sanctify, purify,
    Water washes away all impurity.
  3. When beginning ritual, come to the first participant. Sprinkle the water upon the participant. Say, while sprinkling,
    Hail to you, [name of participant],
    You come to this space whole and holy.
  4. Repeat with each participant until all have been sprinkled with water.
  5. Have an assistant sprinkle you with water. She says,
    Hail to you, [name of officiant],
    You come to this space whole and holy.

And now, we come to the purification ritual of Serith’s PIE rituals. I pull this one from the ritual of sacred space, as it is the only ritual on his site that matches the book’s rituals.

If the group is small enough, a bowl of water is now passed around for each person to purify themselves as they desire. If there are too many for this to be done easily, the Fire Tender asperses them, saying:

Pṛ-óntṃ supós púrōs sīme.
Xṇkʷóntṃ ḱwéntom séupṃ pṛ-īme.
Wesubhos ḱwéntom ṇḱime.

[May we be pure that we might cross through the sacred.
May we cross through the sacred that we might attain the holy.
May we attain the holy that we might be blessed in all things.]

Other than the PIE wording, honestly, they’re not that different, but there are some noteworthy points. The water in the PIE rituals is assumed to be a cleansing agent, whereas a prayer is said over the bowl of water in my tradition. Salt is added, as well, in my tradition; the reason for this is two-fold:

  1. Salt is a purifying substance in many cultures, both Indo-European and non-Indo-European, and represents the earth in the tradition of my first teacher of magick, who has largely studied Wicca.
  2. Salt is a common offering in Greek and Roman religion, and the idea is that you are offering to the water – and saying the prayer – in order to invoke its aspects of purity.

However, there is something more notable in the PIE rituals that bears pointing out: while in my tradition, the subject is merely cleansed and said to be so, in Serith’s PIE rituals, that purity is stated with a specific purpose: purity is not a goal of the purification, but a means to an end, that end being crossing through the sacred, attaining the holy, and being blessed in all things. This stated goal adds a dimension to the purification lacking in most other rituals I have participated in. Mind! I am not saying that those goals are lacking from those other rituals, but they certainly aren’t stated during purification.

Purity seems to be a mainstay of PIE ritual and, indeed, a major part of aligning oneself with  the *Xartus. I get the feeling that purification in the bath might be along the level of the ritual purity required for Kemetic Orthodox rituals, as well. This means all orifices are cleansed, as much as can be done. The idea here would be, just as the body is cleansed, so too is the soul cleansed and purified in the same breath. To borrow a Judeo-Christian analogy, washing both the inside and outside of the cup. In order for this to be done properly, a certain amount of visualization and energy work would need to accompany the process of the bath or shower.

With this practice I am embarking on, I am going to have to get used to a higher level of ritual purity than I am used to in dealing with the Celtic and Norse Gods.

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