Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more.
*Ask Your Mama™
Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Spirituality and Didn’t Know Who to Ask™
©Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman
A Question of Cleansing Personal Pollution
Dear Mama Donna,
I am looking for a fresh start in my life. Everything around me has gotten messy and confusing and completely disgusting. This is on every level in my life — body, mind, spirit, and home. I am sure that this is all a reflection of some pollution within myself. I feel like I need a deep spiritual cleansing, so that I can put the things that surround me in order. How can I purify myself?
A total mess in Maine
Dear Ms. Mess
Purification by water is by far the most widespread cleansing technique. How about bathing in a salt bath to wash away any memories, emotions, blockages, or resistances that might interfere with your most positive motives and stand in the way of your moving forward? Once you are free from any impurities of heart and mind, you can then anoint yourself with fragrant oils to enhance your intentions of freshness and order.
There are innumerable other scouring agents besides water. Fire is frequently used, combined with water as in the Inipi, the traditional Native American sweat lodge, or a banya, or, the steam sauna used in Russia and Scandinavia. During the annual Hindu Festival of Agni, worshippers pass their hands over flames to obtain a state of purity. Peasants in Northern Europe still leap over bonfires to ceremonially cleanse themselves.
Clay, adobe, sand, silica, soil, loam, loess, mud, peat, dirt, dust, terra cotta the multi-palletted, richly-hued flesh of Mother Earth Herself, has long been considered to be a sacred substance, a sacrament to be used in blessings and prayers. The ancient Greeks used to place a lump of dirt on their head to seal an oath, rather like placing their hand on a bible and swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. Russian farmers continued this practice into the twentieth century, making any promise in the honored name of Mati-Syra-Zemlya, “Moist Mother Earth.” Try taking a mud bath. Wallow in the slime, then feel all your cares and troubles wash away with the rinse water.
Incense, smudge, tobacco, and other highly scented herbs and resins are often burnt to produce fragrant smoke to blow away any impurities. You can “wash” from head to toe in the holy smoke of camphor, frankincense, myrrh, sage, cedar, or copal, which are all used for their purification powers. Afterward, you can “rinse” in the smoke of sweet grass, which invites the sweet spirits into your life.
Ashes, charcoal, dirt, sap, sandalwood paste, pigment, paint, peppers, sagebrush, oil, and dung are among the cleansers commonly applied to the skin; employed as a dry bath. The Nubians of Africa rub themselves with the sacred ash of burnt leaves from an acacia tree before every rite of passage in their lives. Similarly, Catholics are anointed on Ash Wednesday with ash obtained from burning the palm fronds that had decorated the Church on the previous Palm Sunday. This ritual begins Lent, the 40-day cleansing period preceding the annual vernal Passion of death and resurrection.
Why not make a list of all of the parts of your life that you feel have grown stale — your beliefs, habits, orientation, and practices? All the parts you describe as “messy and confusing and completely disgusting.”
It is these qualities that you want to release and transform. Burn the list in a pot. Use the ash to bless your intention for a new beginning, cleansed of all that has slowed your spiritual growth. Mix the ash with water to create ink and inscribe your affirmation to be open to change.
There is a wonderful Mayan shamanic ceremony that does much the same thing. You will need an Uncrossing Ball. (These are made from copal and other natural bits and pieces and are available through Mama Donna’s Spirit Shop.) Hold it in your hand and put into it with your intentions all that crosses you, blocks you, stands in the way of your best self. You then wrap it in cloth and smash it to bits with a stone or hammer. Burn all the pieces one by one with the clear intention to release them. When the final piece is burned, you are completely cleansed and free of any negativity.
In addition to cleansing our selves, people have always taken special care to clean and maintain the temples, churches, synagogues, cemeteries, groves, and shrines, in which our prayers are said and our spirits fed. Don’t forget to cleanse and bless the sanctuary where you will live a more tidy life. If a man’s home is his castle, surely it is a woman’s shrine.
Best blessings on your new world order,
*Send your questions about seasons, cycles, celebrations, ceremonies and spirit to Mama Donna at: [email protected]