Ritual Cleansings

Ritual Cleansings

If you live in the US you've probably just finished celebrating a long Thanksgiving weekend with family and friends and now it's time for the after-party clean-up, but even once the dishes are washed and put away, the guest bedding laundered and folded neatly in the linen closet, and all of your visitors hugged and sent on their way – chances are something still feels a bit off in your home that perhaps you just can't quite put your finger on. Human beings, and indeed all living things, are vessels of energy. This isn't metaphysical superstition, it's scientific fact. Within our carbon-based bodies of water, we are walking, talking, batteries with individual electromagnetic signatures that can be sensed by those around us. Many people, myself included, believe that we tend to leave a taste of our individual energy traces in places that we've been and with large gatherings common around this time of year, it's possible that your house is still full of the residual energy of your guests long after they've gone. For some of you, this may be a comfort but for others it may feel like a strange disruption in the natural flow of your home. If you're in the latter group, here are some tips to help you cleanse your home and yourself to restore balance.

NOTE: One common misconception about ritual cleansings is that they're reserved solely for banishing or warding unwanted spirits and while this certainly can be one use for them, it is definitely not their only function. I developed a habit of cleansing every new home or apartment I moved into before I bought my house and settled down because it seemed like there were always strange resonances left behind by previous residents and I always felt more comfortable and at-home faster in a new place after it had been cleansed. Here are the steps that I take to cleanse a space and my personal self as well.

a bundle of dried sage, an abalone shell, and a feather

What You'll Need

  • 1 Small hand bell
  • 1 Stick of tightly bundled, dried sage and something to light it with (alternatively, if you can't find dried sage you can also use sticks of sage or sandalwood incense)
  • 1 Bowl, basin, or abalone shell to safely contain the burning sage bundle while cleansing or an incense holder if you plan on using incense sticks
  • 1 Bottle of essential oils for anointing (see below for a list of oil types that are ideal for cleaning rituals)
  • 1 Small fan or smudging bundle for directing the sage smoke (this is optional and if you don't have one you can certainly just use your hand instead but if you have a pet bird, consider making one by fastening naturally discarded feathers from the bottom of his or her cage together with some sewing thread!)
  • 1 Wand, athame, or other energy channeling tool of your choosing or, if you don't have one, you can simply use your hand by holding your dominant arm in front of you fully extended, raise your fingertips toward the ceiling so that your palm is facing out, and keep all of your fingers tightly together as you might if you were about to take an oath of some kind.


Cleansing Your Space

There are many different ways that one can cleanse their space using the tools above and, indeed, it is perfectly okay if you want to personalize or modify the words to suit your own personal tastes and beliefs. As a solitary pagan, these are the words that work for me, but cleansing is not limited to pagan homes and many Christians and members of other religious walks of life create their own cleansing words using inspiration from their beliefs, their holy books, and their chosen deities. The most effective cleansing for you and your home will be one that reflects your values and beliefs because your path to the divine is uniquely your own and, in every way, of utmost importance. Still, if you're not sure where to start, here are the words that I use. Feel free to modify them or even completely write your very own from scratch.

 

an open window looking out over a garden with cherry trees in full blossom

Step One: Open every window and door in your home if you're able to do so. If you have pets and you're worried about them escaping, you can cleanse one room at a time, opening the windows and doors in one room while containing the pets in another temporarily. Alternatively, if the weather conditions are not cooperative to opening all of your doors and windows, you can leave them closed but you may feel an intensifying of energy weighing on you as you cleanse, being pushed from corner to corner and room to room with nowhere to go until you reach the end of the ritual. Don't let this disturb you – most energy is willing to accommodate your will, especially if it's energy left behind by your friends and family after a holiday visit. It just needs a way to get out. Let it build and try not to let it affect you, once you reach the end of the ritual you can open your front door and send all of the energy on its way out into the world beyond your stoop.

Step Two: Light your smudge stick or incense and take it, along with your smudge bundle if you have one, to the front door of your home. Standing inside your home but facing the door, use your fan, smudge bundle, or hand, to waft the smoke rising from the bundle toward the door and begin moving in a clockwise direction along the wall. If you're cleansing your whole house at once, continue following the natural flow of your home's floor plan, always facing the exterior walls when possible but two-to-three feet from them, always wafting the smoke from the sage with your bundle, fan or hand. Stop in each corner of the room and at each door or window (residual energy, like dust, loves to pool in corners where it's less likely to be disturbed) and waft three times while reciting these words or your own chosen variation:

Smoke of Air and Fire of Earth -
Cleanse and Bless this Home and Hearth.

Step Three: Once you've come back around to the front door of your home, open it (if it's not already opened) and waft smoke toward the opening while repeating your chosen words of cleansing once more. Find a safe place to set your sage or incense bundle and then open and close the door three times quickly (it doesn't need to latch each time, think of it as using the door as a fan to push the energy away from your entryway). Finally, close the door along with all other doors and windows that you may have open and move on to sealing your home against further intrusion.

Sealing Your Home

Cleansing your home is a good way to get the unwanted energy out but it is also a good idea to seal your home to prevent that energy from finding its way back inside your home as you and others you may live with come and go throughout your normal daily routines. In the steps below, I use a pentagram to seal my home because it is a symbol of protection (albeit a highly misunderstood one) in my chosen faith but you can use any symbol that has meaning to you such as a cross, a star of David, or a triquetra. Be sure to choose your symbol in advance but keep it simple – something that you can quickly and easily draw with the tip of your finger is ideal.

The symbol will most likely not be visible, but the oil can attract dust and discolor so I like to draw the symbols small and near a corner where they're less likely to be noticed. The first time I did a cleansing ritual after my husband and I moved in together, I did the ritual while he was at work and drew large symbols on the doors right in the center at eye-level. Several days later as my husband was preparing to go somewhere, the light from the window was hitting the door before him in just the right way and he could vaguely see the outline of that big pentagram on the door. His voice sounded slightly concerned as he asked, "Did you draw a pentagram on the door with invisible ink?" It wasn't the pentagram that bothered him, he is the same faith that I am, but it was the barely visible and unexpected ghostly appearance of one that had him a bit confused. Once I confirmed that I'd drawn it in oil during a cleansing several days earlier, he chuckled and relaxed but I began making them smaller and putting them in less obvious places near the upper corners after that.

a bottle of generic essential oil

Step One: Take the bottle of essential oil and the bell to the front door of your home and move in a clockwise direction, just as you did before, stopping at the next door or window that you encounter. Wet the tip of your index finger with the oil and draw your chosen symbol on the door or window while reciting these words or your own chosen variation:

Seal this space from harm and fear –
Only good may enter here.

Step Two: Ring the bell as clearly as you can. It is only necessary to ring the bell one time, but some hand bells work best if given a little jiggle and permitted to ring several times. Either method is perfectly acceptable.

Step Three: Continue in a clockwise direction to each door and window of your home, anointing each one while reciting your words and then ringing the bell. Upon returning to your front door, anoint it last, say the words, and ring the bell a final time.

Replacing the Energy in Your Home

With the cleansing and sealing of the home complete, you can certainly skip the replacing of energy in your home, but I wouldn't recommend it. Energy is not fond of voids and any place that has been ritually cleansed of unwanted energy becomes just that, a void yearning to be filled. A void is far more likely to attract unwanted energy as you or members of your immediate family come and go from stressful days at work or school, have friends over for a brief visit, or even experience emotional effects from movies or TV programs. Long after your own emotions have returned to a more neutral and natural state, those negative emotions that you were feeling can leave negative traces of energy throughout your home and the best way to prevent that is to fill your home with positive energy immediately following a cleansing.

 

A silhouette of Peter Pan on a purple background

Step One: Approach the front door of your home and extend your wand, athame, dominant hand, or other tool in front of you. Close your eyes and think happy thoughts. Be your very own Peter Pan for a moment, it if helps, and imagine that you're trying to fly and all you need is that happiest of all happy thoughts or even a big collection of happy thoughts. Think of your family, your fondest memories, or your deity. Fill yourself with precisely the type of thought, energy, and emotion that you want to fill your home with. Let it bottle up inside of you, feel it flowing through you from the tips of your toes to the tip of your nose and beyond until you could possibly burst with it. If you find that you're crying or on the verge of crying, this is a perfectly normal result of filling yourself up with energy, but it doesn't happen for everyone so please don't feel like you have to cry to be 'full'.

Step Two: Once you feel full with positive energy, imagine that energy being directed through your dominant arm, down to your dominant palm, and – if you're using one – out into your wand or other tool. Imagine the energy being released like a beam of light from the tip of your tool or the center of your palm and flowing out into the space between your hand/tool and the wall of your home like a fog machine. Move in a clockwise direction around your home, taking extra care at the corners of the room where energy, like dust, loves to pool. Take time to stop and close your eyes and restore your internal positive energy reserves as often as you feel is needed. Alternatively, you can say a few words asking your deity to fill the space with good energy or their presence for you.

Step Three: Return to the front door of your home, take a moment to close your eyes and imagine putting a mental plug in the palm of your hand that keeps all remaining positive energy inside your body. This is important because without this step you could become a type of psychic sieve, leaking psychic energy everywhere you go and while this may seem like a good thing (especially for the people around you) it will eventually leave you feeling drained and depleted. Instead, crouch or squat if you're able and place your palms flat on the floor for a moment, allowing the excess energy to leave you naturally through grounding rather than leaking from you at random. You don't want to keep it bottled, however. Bottled reserves of energy can cause headaches, anxiety, and a whole host of other uncomfortable and in some cases even dangerous maladies.

 

a man splashing water on his face in black and white

Cleansing Yourself

I always like to cleanse myself after I've conducted a cleansing ritual in my home and, fortunately, cleaning yourself is an easy and incredibly enjoyable affair if you have a bathtub! If you don't have a bathtub it can still be an easy task but instead of taking a bath in the solution described below, you can use a soft cloth or towel dipped in the solution to give yourself a sort of sponge bath, if you will. Be sure to undress prior to the cleansing and dress again in fresh clean clothes afterward, with either cleansing method.

What You'll Need

  • 1-2 Pinches of sea salt or table salt
  • 1 Pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2-3 Drops lavender or other cleansing oil from the list below
  • 2-3 Candles as desired for mood (optional)
  • 1-2 Sticks of sage or sandalwood incense or, if you still have some of your sage bundle remaining from the cleansing of your home, you can leave it burning in your bowl or abalone shell nearby.

 

a pair of hands in black and white ringing water from a bright red wash cloth

Step One: Undress fully and discard all of the clothing that you wore for the cleansing of your home into your laundry hamper as it is likely to be tainted with any residual energy that did not leave the home. Prepare the bath or solution by filling a tub or large bowl with water of a desired temperature and sprinkling the salt, cinnamon, and essential oil into the water. Light the candles if you've decided to use them as well as the incense or sage bundle if needed.

Step Two: Proceed with either soaking in the tub or washing yourself with the solution and a cloth. If bathing, full immersion in the water is important. You may not be able to submerse your entire body simultaneously and that's perfectly okay but be sure to submerge each part of your body at least once even if you have to bend your knees to dunk your head and then sit up to dunk your knees. If sponging, ring the cloth out well (it doesn't need to be dripping) but be sure to wipe it over every part of your body including your hair and in between your toes. Take as much or as little time with this step as you like. I like to sit in a nice warm bath for an hour or more, depending on my mood and just relax and enjoy the aromas but there are others who prefer to get-in and get-out so to speak. Either method is fine and entirely up to you. While you're bathing or washing, imagine the residual energy on your skin like smudges of soot from a fireplace and picture them being washed away by the water or cloth, leaving you clean and purified.

Step Three: Dry with a fresh clean towel and dress once again in freshly washed and dried clothing. You may choose to seal yourself, much the same as you did with your home, by anointing each of your temples, palms, the soles of each foot, and the center of your forehead with small dabs of oil (it isn't necessary to draw symbols on yourself with oil, but you can if you want to). You may also choose to raise positive energy within yourself through meditation or visualization techniques similar to those used when replacing the energy in your home but be cautious not to fill yourself as you did before and be sure to ground yourself afterward to avoid headaches or anxiety which can often be the result of retaining excessive energy within your body.

A List of Cleansing Oils

  • Cedar
  • Cypress
  • Dragon's Blood
  • Frankincense
  • Juniper
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Sage
  • Sandalwood