“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 you can add ritual elements to it if you like. Most spiritual cleansing comes from maintaining good physical hygiene; washing yourself physically with specially prepared washes and water, and smudging yourself with herbal smoke.
Herbs for Cleansing
Hyssop is a semi-evergreen shrub from the Lamiaceae (mint) family.