Moving Preparations and Purification

My apartment is currently a mess of packing boxes. I found a new place and will be moving in mid-February. It’s a busy time of the academic year, but I carved out a few days and will marathon-move so I’m all set to dive back into work when I’m done unpacking.

One of the things that occupies much of my mental space when I move is how my shrines will fit into the new space. They’re usually among the final things I pack.

I have one bookshelf that I have used for my library of religious books, storing ritual supplies, and household shrine for nearly a decade now. The shrine is where I do my quotidian worship activities, such as the daily sacrifices in the lunar calendar, along with prayers to Hestia, Zeus, and other household gods. It’s also where I pray to gods who do not have dedicated shrines elsewhere in my apartment. My other shrines are in an IKEA EXPEDIT (since superseded by the KALLAX series).

Even after Kondoing my apartment, I kept the original boxes my statuary came in so it could be safely transported to any new home. Gods’ statues and my shrine supplies will be packed separately from everything else in my apartment, and my shrine to the Eumenides and the space where I keep photos of my ancestors will not be packed in the same box as the ritual items for the Olympioi. This follows the general practice in the historically-based worship of Hellenic Gods of using different ritual objects for Chthonic interactions.

My cat’s box and refrigerator/freezer items are the first things I unpack in any new home, and my shrines come soon after.

The household gods are important to invite in so I can make khernips and purify the space. I make khernips using water, salt, and dried rosemary, which is set on fire in Hestia’s flame. Before I transitioned into worshipping Hellenic Gods in a historically-informed way and away from Wicca-inspired community Paganism, I would have lit sage to carry through a new living space. (The only exceptions were my college dorm rooms, as fire was not allowed even for religious exceptions — at least in the late 2000s.)

It was ingrained in me from a young age that spaces and people needed occasional purification. As a child growing up Neopagan, I read Ted Andrews’ Psychic Protection. I also paid careful attention to purification concerns outlined in the Wiccan and Wheel-based Neopagan books I read. Some of my favorite parts of ritual growing up were the smells and sounds of the pre-ritual purifications, which often involved sage smudging† and water purifications. Now, on the days of purification in the Hellenic calendar that many people online use, I typically make khernips and sprinkle all of the rooms in my apartment.

Still, moving is exciting. I’m not keenly aware of how new apartment spaces were purified in Late Antiquity when people moved into them, but welcoming the household gods into the space is simple and makes a ton of sense to me.

I’m going to close with some link roundups to people talking about miasma and purification that I have found particularly informative or interesting.

† This term is problematic, and someone made a roundup on Tumblr that explains why. I am using it here because that was the term we used for smoke cleansing growing up, and I don’t know how many outside of Tumblr are aware of the conversation. After reading these Tumblr posts some time ago, I checked the Oxford English Dictionary, my favorite reference work ever created. The usage of smudging is complex. Most know about its more common modern meanings (e.g., a smudge of ink), which are often negative — but due to semantic drift, the word has run the gamut of meanings and was once even used to describe fixing a place/person up, as a positive trait adjective for people (syn. of trim), and even for the sense to laugh quietly.

Before mosquito repellent, one use of the verb to smudge described the practice of filling an enclosed space with a very smoky fire to purify it of insects. It’s likely that this usage is why the English term for the set of Native smoke-based purifications is to smudge and why the Neopagan community also adopted the term. Still, as the term to smudge is used in most contexts to refer to the corpus of smoke-cleansing rituals in Native cultures, it’s best not to use it and to instead pick a cultural term (like katharmos and khernips) or use the term smoke cleansing.

(The OED is my favorite reference work in part because it traces the evolution of word usage with such depth and breadth, shattering conservative English users’ mistaken idea that our language is static. It’s also incredibly engrossing.)

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