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Just about any magical practitioner who has been working for a while can tell you that cleansing is a necessary part of the Work. Before going into a rite or a working, cleaning yourself is often called for. It takes off the grime of the mundane world, whether that grime is physical or not. It reminds the person cleansing themselves to let go of all the strife and worry, and even hopes. To enter the space free from any encumbrance. Letting go of any expectations, especially a help for spellwork.
In Kemetic Orthodoxy, cleansing is a part of day to day life if one regularly practices the rite of senut. The first part of the ritual is a ritual unto itself, blessing water and natron (a salt), mixing the two together, and using it to wash. This both clears away any residual junk which might attract negativity while in shrine and also help to establish the frame of mind needed to approach Netjer.
Heathenry does not have quite the same tradition of ritual cleansing, at least not that I have found. For bathing, this would make sense. Regular immersion in water isn’t advised in a part of the world where it gets extremely cold for several months. I do know people who incorporate smudging into the ritual practice, along with herbal baths. Personally I don’t see one bit of trouble with this, since it is about getting rid of the junk and setting the mindset needed for ritual.
Earlier this evening, I undertook a Heathen-inspired cleansing rite. I did the washing rite from Hazel Kate’s The Spindle Hearth, after years of knowing about it and weeks of intending to do so. It took a total of five minutes and I think this will be a nice addition to my spiritual work, as well as a way to more deliberately connect with Frigga and the Asynjur.
It is also possible to cleanse yourself psychically through visualization. The book Your Aura and Your Chakras by Karla McLaren includes some great exercises for clearing out both the things mentioned in the title. I’ve done these as well but I find I don’t like them as much as I do the physical act of cleansing.
Cleansing is also a great way to deal with mundane issues like stress and illness. Last fall when I was wrapping up my graduate degree and starting to really feel the weight of two and a half years of accumulated stress, I was definitely feeling the buildup of psychic junk. I was doing shrine daily (purity permitting) and for some reason felt like it was some personal failing that I still regularly felt grimy. Eventually I asked Hemet about this. Her words were actually comforting. She said that there’s no such thing as being too pure and that it’s OK to want or need more cleansing. The remedy she gave me to add to my cleansing work was more in line with Vodou, which makes sense as she is also my Mami*. It involves using coconut milk once a week. Makes sense, as it’s a white liquid and white is often the color of purity. Since then I have been regularly bathing with coconut milk (using cans of it from Native Forest, since the cans do not contain Bisphenol A) and it has made a marked difference in how I feel. It helps to take off another level of psychic junk which, to my perception, does not easily budge.
In my practice, cleansing is a foundation. Even when I don’t feel like I can take on any real magical practice, I can make myself clean, scour away another level of gunk which is sticking to me. Then, when I can engaged in practice, I have less getting in the way between me and the divine, or me and my magical work.
If you feel like you need to cleanse yourself somehow, do it. It’s not going to take away anything you need. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong necessarily. If you don’t regularly do a cleansing, maybe now is the time to try making it a regular part of your practice.
*My mambo and teacher in Haitian Vodou. Yes I am her kid twice over.