Motive of Purification

Blessings of the Land be upon you.
Blessings of the Sea be upon you.
Blessings of the Sky be upon you.

Every SLG High Day rite begins with a processional, where we physically move from one gathering places (the Fire Circle at our outdoor ritual site, or a separate room at our indoor sites) to the ritual space. This act of movement helps to put us into a ritual mindset, different from our everyday way of thinking, and also gets us performing together as one, beginning the process of establishing a group mind to help us work together in the ritual. (This is one of the real challenges of doing open public ritual. With new people in attendance every time, we have to put more effort into establishing group unity than the average small closed group where everyone already knows everyone else. But I digress!)

During this processional, three of us stand at various places along the path and act as Purifiers, one for each of the Three Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky. The Sky Purifier smudges each of us with incense, the Sea Purifiers anoints our foreheads with salt water, and the Land Purifier anoints our foreheads with red ochre, a kind of rust-colored clay dust. (Mud or some other form of dirt will do in a pinch, and is probably easier for other folks to obtain.) We believe that the Three Realms converge at the center of the ritual space, and so this purification not only cleanses us ritually and energetically, but attunes us to each of those Realms.

Ritual purification was definitely a big deal to the Ancients. To the ancient Greeks, purification wasn’t just a way to get yourself into the right mindset for ritual. “Miasma” (pollution) was the taint of anything mortal, such as blood or disease or death, which the Gods did not experience themselves. They believed that this miasma needed to be cleansed from their bodies before doing ritual work, to make themselves more like the Gods (cleanliness lets you be next to godliness?), the equivalent of wearing one’s “Sunday best” to a modern church service. Washing with water was considered enough to remove this miasma, though other techniques could be used as well.

While we in SLG aren’t quite as obsessed with purity issues as the ancient Greeks (thank the Gods!), purification is definitely an important part of our practices. People often phone or e-mail me when they’re thinking about attending one of our rituals for the first time, and they usually ask one or both of the following questions:

“What should I wear?”

and

“I don’t know much about what Druids do, am I still allowed to be there?”

The answer to the first one is easy: Wear clothing. We don’t do the naked thing, and given what most of us look like, that’s probably for the best. I’ll wager my unclothed body would scare the gods away more quickly than any miasma the Greeks ever knew! Yes, that’s a joke, but seriously, we don’t have a dress code. I wear robes, but I’m the Grove’s Senior Druid and a member of the ADF Clergy Council, it’s expected of me to look at least a little like a priest. If you have special clothing to wear, that’s fine, but “garb” isn’t a big deal for us.

The other question, well that always leaves me wanting to thump my head against the wall, not because someone asks it, but the knowledge that so many people out there don’t bother to ask it, but simply don’t come to our events because they don’t think they’re ready, that they don’t “know enough” to take part in our rites in a meaningful way. If you’re one of those folks, let me remind you that ADF and SLG are all about providing open and public High Day rites, meaning that we expect – indeed, hope – that new people will be there who don’t quite know what’s going on. We go out of our way to design our rituals so they’ll be easy for new people to follow while still being meaningful. And if you still doubt yourself, we even provide a flyer which explains the basic ritual outline, which you’re welcome to read before we begin. Please, please, please, never let your own inexperience get in the way of participating in our celebrations.

So, yes, we do want everyone who attends our rites to be properly prepared. But by “properly prepared”, we mean purified. And we can take care of that for you at the ritual site.

And speaking of such, next week, I’ll discuss how our Grove is gearing up for Imbolc, our next High Day.

Pure blessings be upon you!

Rev. Rob Henderson
Senior Druid, Shining Lakes Grove, ADF

Related reading:

Ochre: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_ochre

The Three Realms: http://www.adf.org/articles/cosmology/worlds-kindreds.html

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One thought on “Motive of Purification

  1. (Comments from the original post on our old site:)

    Posted by Chronarchy:
    I just wrote in our Grove blog about ritual dress last week, with similar sentiment.
    Wednesday, January 23rd 2008 @ 5:52 AM

    Posted by Rob Henderson:
    Lest anyone thinks I was plagiarizing… (insert smiley here only the stupid server keeps turning it into a graphic) I originally intended to address the “I can’t come to your rituals because I haven’t studied Druidry enough yet” angle, and the clothing issue didn’t occur to me until after I’d started writing this entry.
    Wednesday, January 23rd 2008 @ 7:11 AM

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