Purification is not about doing anything wrong. It’s not about having sinned and needing to repent. Nor is purification about transcending this mortal plane, enlightenment, or Buddha mind.
So why the heck would you bother to do it?!
For the same reason you take a shower after working for hours in your garden. Because life is dirty and sweaty. Or at least it ought to be.
Needing to do purification is a good thing. It indicates that you’ve been out there in the world, struggling, striving, and trying your best. Purification is about getting the spiritual soil off. We live in a world where the Earth is maligned, ignored, less than. It is dirty, dark and rotten. Because of the paradigm we live in those things are seen as bad. Each of those concepts is deeply sacred in its own way, and absolutely crucial to our existence and to the existence of all living things.
When you pull a carrot or a radish out from the soil, that dark earth still clings to it. If you gather up a bunch of carrots you take them over to the garden hose, and give them a good rinsing. The precious soil goes back to the earth and you as a human get tasty veg.
Soil is precious. There are Italian vineyards where eroded soil has been carried back up to cliff terrace gardens for centuries. The Grapes of Wrath is based on the fact that agricultural practices America stripped the topsoil in vast quantities. If you’re any kind of gardener you know that soil is the key. We feed the soil with leaves, grass clippings, chicken poop, rotten straw, vegetable peelings and so much more. I have felt raw excitement when a neighbor who was a fisherwoman brought me plastic bags filled with fish heads. Tomatoes love fish heads. I happily buried that stinking offal in my garden and delighted in the vibrant plants that resulted. All that grossness is eaten, digested and turned into the dark sacred earth from which springs the bounty of the land.
So what does all that have to do with purification?
That spiritual gunk you’re cleaning off isn’t bad. It just isn’t what you need.
Christianity gave us the idea that sinning taints people and many of us in Pagan religions still have an unconscious bias towards thinking in this way. I would love to see our modern Pagan spiritual practices become rooted in the idea that purification is like taking a shower before or after a workout. My experience as a spiritworker and priest is that people who do more spiritual practices need to do more purification as well, just like a person who sits all day in an office doesn’t get as sweaty as one who works in construction.
Likewise, everyone can benefit from showers, and everyone can benefit from purification practices.
So think of purification like cleaning off sweat, not sin.
It’s good for you, and needing purification indicates that you’ve been doing spiritual work. That can include psychological work: like being honest about your needs or your fears, setting boundaries, conflict resolution, communication, or active listening. It can also include traditional spiritual practices: divination, meditation, trancework, ritual, or communing with deities and spirits. Spiritual work also includes helping with, or even being near powerful transitional times like marriage, birth and death. If we think of spiritwork practices like working out, purification beforehand is a lot like taking a shower before getting into a swimming pool. You wouldn’t get into a swimming pool without rinsing off your muddy feet and you shouldn’t do spiritual work without washing off the spiritual slime.
We are often grossed out by our own byproducts. From pimples to poop, we spend a great deal of time, money, and effort sanitizing ourselves. We can’t even fart in front of others without being embarrassed. This obsession with being perfect and clean can make spiritual purification seem more intense than it needs to be. Yes it’s important, absolutely. But being spiritually dirty doesn’t make you bad or evil. It can make you kinda cranky or more susceptible to other people’s bad feelings. It can make it harder to hold compassionate space. It can make it more difficult to open up to the transcendence of communing with spirits or the land, move energy, or do spellwork.
So do your purification like you take your vitamins, because it’s good for you.
Thank you for reading! Posts like this are based on years of research and experience. Consider supporting the ongoing spiritual experiment that is my life by becoming a Patreon.