Wash Your Spirit Clean
Author: Ginger Strivelli
Purification, like everything in the dogma of Paganism, varies from Witch to Witch. Some magicians will not touch a ritual tool or prop until it has been ritually cleansed, and then will not let anyone else touch the item. Tarot Cards come to mind: Many people will only use a brand new “untouched” deck; this always perplexes me as it is no doubt that someone touched them in manufacturing them. Others do little to no cleansing of anything, using things as found, and trusting in the Gods, or karma or whatever “good” forces to protect them from any negativity that the item might have picked up somewhere along its way into their hands. As always there is no “right” answer on the question of whether purification is necessary or just a bunch of pomp and circumstance that is ultimately not needed.
I have learned myself and taught my students to trust their own intuition on the matter of cleansing and purification. If something, someone, or they themselves “feel” contaminated to them then I suggest they ritually purify; if no negativity is sensed and they do not wish to perform a cleansing rite then I suggest none is required.
Often people or items need purifying after some negativity arises as alas, it often does in life, even if one did originally purify before. So the question of if purification or cleansing is needed is an on-going debate for the Priest/ess rather than a one-time event. Even the most well cleansed and protected item (or person) can become re-infected with all manner of physical, emotional, psychic, and magical pollution. So purification can and should be repeated as needed.
But once one has decided if, when, why, and how often to purify…then one must consider how to do so. There are many ways of course. Various traditions and various paths have set rituals to do cleansing rites. Various people have personal rituals to purify or cleanse. As always there is no right way, only the way that is right for each person. Personally I find ancient rites and spells powerful because of their history and traditional use. One of my favorite purification rites for a person is based upon an ancient Cherokee ritual of “washing your spirit clean.” This is done by a simple prayer rite, often repeated in various sacred sites…the ocean, the mountains (during the rain or in a waterfall’s mist), the river, a sacred well or spring, an ancestral burial ground (during a rain storm). This is accompanied by a literal washing in the water of the site. A prayer is recited at each time and place, asking for the negativity to be cleansed from the body, mind, and spirit. A simple prayer stating your appreciation for the lesson, but that you are ready to wash your spirit clean of the negativity is required. One could compose their own appropriate incantation of course, or you could use a more traditional prayer in Tsalagi (the Cherokee language) such as the one I’ve compiled below:
Ga-li-i li-ga go…Thankful for the lesson
Hi nv-ga-la Ja da-nv-do…I wash my spirit clean.
Another favorite personal spell from my Book of Shadows is called “Crying with the Gods” and is used to cleanse the heart and soul of damage. It can only be performed during a rainstorm, so it is not an ideal prescription as it is not an immediate “cure.” Though of course rarely is magic either a “cure” or “immediate.” The spell is very simple but very powerful. You go out to sit in the rain without a raincoat or umbrella or such as you want to be soaked completely by the rain. Allow yourself to cry “with the Gods” for all your pain and sadness…expressing it all fully with utter abandonment of any false show of control and acceptance.
Personal purification can also be performed with meditation, drumming, chanting, dancing, even dreaming or divination. I prefer ritual baths and washing for their literal magic, but any number of other methods can be employed as well. These rites need not be mandated at any certain times…but instead performed as the person feels it is warranted. Overuse of such rites tends to decrease their power making the rite more routine and less magic. So I suggest such serious cleansing rites be saved for serious needs. For simple daily or pre-magic work purification I suggest something such as a salt circle being sprinkled around one or a blessing incantation, such as the ancient crossing self-blessing rite that was adopted by the Hebrews and then the Catholics. The ancient incantation – whose translation is a matter of debate – goes:
“Ateh malkuth ve-ge-burah ve-ge-dulah le-olam”
(As one crosses themselves touching forehead, then heart, then each shoulder, then back to the heart.)
Another ancient powerful incantation of blessing, purification, and charging is the Sri Vishnu Sahasranama Stotram, which means “the 1000 names of Vishnu.” The 107-line poem recites the 1000 names of the Hindu Preserver God, Vishnu, and the reciting of this chant is a rite to cleanse the body, mind and soul. This sort of listing of the names of the divine can be therapeutic, and can be done with other Gods as well. The text of this chant is too long and detailed to include here of course and likely hard for any non- Hindu to recite. Nonetheless a shortened version of just the “first 13 names of Vishnu” is a workable variation that is worth learning and using by anyone due to its awesome history and mystical power. It is as follows:
Muktaanaam pararnaa gatih
For purifying objects, one can also use ritual washings. I use rainwater or water from my sacred spring collected without it being touched by human hands. This is kept in a special bottle upon my household altar and all magical items are cleaned only with this, then dried in the light of the Sun God, or Moon Goddess. However, purification of objects can be accomplished in other ways. Smudging is a common purification rite where the person or item is “washed” with the smoke of a sacred herb, most often sage or tobacco. People often also use wind, sunlight, moonlight, river water, or other elements to purify items. You can bury an item in the ground for a prescribed number of days to purify it by earth or suspend it a rushing river or in a tree or such to be cleaned by the wind. Also an item can simply be placed in the sunlight or moonlight (or both) for a prescribed amount of time. All of these techniques work well, particularly if the magician believes in the rite, as always magic works “only and always if you believe it will.”
It is important to remember that negativity is present in all things and people at all times. One cannot be completely free from it; however one can try to keep the worst of it washed from them. It is important that one try to keep themselves and their ritual items and such from becoming toxic with the pollution of the outside world. This is best done by purifying themselves and their magical tools whenever they feel it is needed.
Voice of our Ancestors by Dhyani Ywahoo
Myths of the Cherokee by James Mooney
Wash your Spirit Clean – Song recorded by Walela
A Book of Pagan Rituals – Edited by Herman Slater
1000 Names of Visnu – Chant recorded by Shree Maa