“Never pour a libation of sparkling wine to Zeus after dawn with unwashed hands, nor to others of the deathless gods; else they do not hear your prayers but spit them back.”
– Hesiod, Works and Days.
Spiritual pollution is a condition that effects everyone at some point. We manufacture psychic dirt in the same way we produce sweat and oil on our skin; just through the day-to-day processes of being human. Our thoughts and actions can make us spiritually dirty, in the same way as if we jogged along a muddy track or worked out at the gym, though there are certain situations that can increase our receptivity to spiritual grime. Spending a lot of time in a crowded environment (such as on public transport), being in work places with a lot of stress, exposure to certain media, and transitional events like birth, marriage and death can increase our levels of spiritual dirt.
The Ancient Greeks called spiritual pollution miasma, and regularly cleansed themselves of it, especially before entering the temenos (temple precinct) or engaging in special rites. Miasma is not the same as the concept of sin; it is morally neutral but needs to be cleansed away in the same way that we need to wash sweat off our bodies, or we begin to smell unpleasant.
If we can’t see, smell or feel miasma, and it carries no moral judgement, why should we cleanse ourselves of it? Well, miasma does effect us. If we are spiritually dirty we lose our ability to function properly, becoming tired, irritable, under the weather and in extreme cases it can make us physically ill. Like attracts like, and if we are spiritually polluted we can attract polluted things and other people who will make us feel worse. While miasma carries no moral judgement we have a responsibility to our spiritual, and secular, communities not to spread this spiritual contamination. Most importantly, an accumulation of spiritual pollution cuts us off from the Gods. This may seem harsh but our sensibilities are not Theirs, and our humanity is not something They wish to be polluted with.
While we can never be permanently free of miasma, we can manage it rather simply by acts of purification and cleansing.
Spiritual cleansing doesn’t have a be a complicated ritual process, although we can add ritual elements to it. Most spiritual cleansing comes from maintaining good physical hygiene; washing ourselves physically with specially prepared soaps and washes, sprinkling ourselves with pure water, using herbal baths and salts, smudging ourselves with herbal smoke, anointing with oils and through fire, either by jumping over a bonfire or passing between lit candles.
Bathing is the first step in removing spiritual pollution. Having a bath is ideal as we can add sea salt and cleansing herbs or oils to the water; such as hyssop, eucalyptus, lemon, lemongrass, lavender or pine. Using a soap scented with lemon, lavender or dragon’s blood also adds to the cleansing process. Wash from head to toe and make sure to pour the cleansing waters over your head. When finished it’s best to air dry rather than dry off with a towel, you can then smudge yourself with smoldering herbs such as white sage, cedar, juniper or lavender.
A play on Florida Water, which is used in African American folk magic, Athenian Water is a cologne which can be used in cleansing magic. It has a light, fresh scent, and can be added to baths and washes, or sprinkled directly onto the skin. It can also be used as an offering to deities and spirits.
You will need
Handful crushed juniper berries
Handful crushed lavender flowers
Chopped peel of one lemon
5 drops lavender oil
5 drops lemon oil
500ml spring water
Place all the ingredients, except for the water, in a large jar and leave to infuse for a month. Strain well and add the spring water.