I took a week off of social media, and I included my blog here at WordPress for that time.
It was a good time, coming right off the heels of Sacred Firetending at Michigan Paganfest.
It really made me think, though, about a lot of things. Not the least of which is the time I waste on social media. Now, a lot of my writing here? That tends to be time well-spent because I am sussing things out, writing devotional poetry and other works, or otherwise devoting time to my Gods, Ancestors, and/or vaettir.
My time away made me realize just how fucked up social media is, when you get down to brass tacks. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do a lot of networking on it that is not only useful, but downright necessary to interact with the folks in my Kindred as well as the larger Pagan community. However, what I am really coming to grips with is how damned sick, lacking a better term, social media is. When something takes off, it takes off like a virus. After all, a post, a picture, a video gaining mass popularity is called ‘going viral’ for a reason. If it is incorrect information, it spreads the wrong information and it infects all those who take it in as fact.
This is where inoculation or sanitation and treatment come in, or, in terms polytheists would be more familiar with, purification and cleansing. We purify a space so that it is cleansed of vaettir (spirits), and likewise, any magic or spiritual force that would seek to do us harm or disrupt the ritual, ceremony, etc. we are about to perform. We purify a space, such as a vé (sacred place; it might have an altar or be a natural thing, such as a boulder or tree, etc.), hörgr (a stone vé, sometimes stacked, or an altar of stone). We cleanse ourselves and any objects we would seek to bring into this space so we are in a state that is clean for the same reason as purification. If you are facilitating a ritual, it is likely you have cleansed yourself and any things that you are bringing into the area, then purified the space.
These procedures are recognizable to anyone who works in healthcare: your inoculation makes you resistant to diseases that can harm your patients and yourself, your hand-washing prevents you from spreading disease, and your personal hygiene prevents you from becoming sick. If you refuse to do these things you are not doing your due diligence to those in your care. That is not to say that sickness is completely unavoidable. It is not, just as impurity in sacred space does happen. It is also not to say that sickness is morally wrong; it is not. It simply is. However, it is our obligation, whether healthcare or in religious matters, for us to do our due diligence so that those in our care are as healthy as can be. A ritual leader who refuses to do purification and cleansing work is analogous to a doctor who refuses to be sanitary.
Of course, there are folks out there who will say I am being dramatic about this.
If we take our religions, and our roles within them seriously, then this kind of preparation to erect or inhabit a sacred space should be normal. There may be exceptions to this rule, i.e. polytheist religious paths I have not come across that do not carry out purification rites in general or for specific workings because it would be detrimental to the rite, working, etc. I am not speaking to these. The polytheist religions I have been in or had contact with carry similar enough ritual protocols for these to be general, such as cleaning yourself physically and spiritually before a ritual, or if you do not have time for a shower, at least doing some kind of cleansing work, whether a simple ritual of washing the hands, sprinkling water on one’s head, passing fire about the place and one’s body, and so on.
If I am to carry out a ritual, it is my Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir that I am a living example to those in the ritual. I need to be clean in body, mind, and spirit. I need to show good protocol for engaging with the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir. As much as the ritual actions are my role in the ritual, so too is my living example. If someone is coming to me for divination I need to be clean and the sacred space it takes place needs to be clean. My obligation to the shamans, diviners, Rune-workers, Runemeisters, the Runevaettir, and Odin Himself is to do the work and do it well, whether that work is the preparation before the reading, the reading itself, or any work that occurs coming from the reading. To do this, I need to have good signal, and to have good signal I and the space need to be clean for the reading. Whatever my role, I owe this Gebo,this obligation of doing the prequisite work well to those who came before me in these roles, to my Elders, Disir, Väter, Ancestors, and so on. I also owe this Gebo to the Gods, Ancestors and vaettir to do this work well, not just for the work present in the moment, but to provide an ongoing living example of the work in action.
In order to do well, to be excellent, the foundation must be cared for. The foundation of good religious work is to do the prerequisite work well. This includes the education one needs in order to be an informed participant in the religion, and the carrying out of one’s role in the religion that arises from that knowledge. It is not some out-of-reach perfection I am talking about here either, nor am I talking merely about the role ritual leaders hold in being ritual pure or helping to make purified religious space. The foundations of religious work are carried by everyone in that religion. Purification and cleansing are part of those foundations so we enter into sacred space clean and well, so that the Gods, Ancestors, and vaettir are prayed to, offered to, experienced, and understood well. Purification and cleansing help us to keep these things clean so that what we do and pass on is healthy for our religions, our communities, our tribes, our Kindreds, our families, and ourselves.