Purification practices are part of any healthy magickal life. Basic spiritual hygiene is as important as washing our hands and, right now, wearing a mask outside our homes. However, sometimes we’ve gone through something so challenging, so dark, and so full of pain that a hard reset is necessary. Something like four years of a gaslighting presidency, violent rhetoric, division, family strife…. You know. That dumpster fire we just survived.
We are all, just now, on the other side of a vicious passage through the dark. There is great work to come to undo much of what was done and to build a more just society. The thing is, it’s hard to get down to work when we’re dragging the energetic anchor of what came before. We can remember the lessons without carrying all of the weight of them. This is where a larger purification ceremony comes in. It’s time to shake that shadow, loose those weights, and wash off the energetic miasma. And, wouldn’t you know it, we’re coming up on the Pagan holiday most associated with purification: Imbolc.
Imbolc has been one of my favorite holidays in the Pagan wheel of the year for as long as I can remember. We know at Yule the light begins to return – we can see the days growing longer. But at Imbolc? At Imbolc we feel the first rekindling of hope. The days are noticeably getting longer. The seed catalogs have arrived. My friends with farms are welcoming the first babies of the year. It’s coming – the shift toward warmth, light, and growth is on the way. It’s no longer some nebulous idea of spring. We know for a fact that the next growing season is coming down the path.
It’s time to get ready.
For several years I had a working partner and our Imbolc ceremony every year was an elaborate purification ritual. In a time when group ritual is in a different form, the opportunity exists for luxurious, longer, more complex private ritual experiences. The ceremony I’m going to outline works well with a partner for up to four or five people. It gets clunky and a little too lengthy beyond that point (we tried it once with a group and it wasn’t nearly as satisfying). Depending on what you decide to use out of the ritual, your supply list might be larger than you’re used to. That’s okay! What better time than after escaping four years of rising fascism during a pandemic to do a totally over-the-top, smells-and-bells, pull-out-all-the-stops ritual?
As always, please feel free to take these ideas and run with them. Change things, add stuff, and let me know how it goes.
An Imbolc Purification Ceremony
Prior to the ceremony, clean and prepare the room you will use. If you have white candles, consider putting many of them into the room for illumination (an in joke for the Frederick CUUPS folks: this is a 30-candler). Think about your lighting. You will need to be able to see but glaring light from electric sources may be too bright and jarring. Select some background music to play. I personally love my Pandora ‘Calm Meditation’ station for this, but anything relaxing and uplifting will work.
This ritual flow works in sections: purification of the physical body, the energy body, and the spiritual body. It could also be adjusted to work with the Elements, the Spheres, or any other set of valences present in your practice. The actions you choose for each station will vary based on space and resources. I’ve described what I use below, but feel free to adapt for your own situation.
Eat a nourishing meal an hour or so prior to the ritual. Feel free to include traditional Imbolc fare – Irish soda bread, dairy (particularly sheep’s milk cheese), dishes containing winter veggies like leek and potato soup, and seeds like salted sunflower.
Even if it is not normally your habit, shower or bathe beforehand. Use a salt scrub or salt soak as part of your preparations. Wear loose, comfortable clothing in pale colors – light pastels all the way to white. This ritual includes a fair bit of bodywork, so I generally wear a tank top and loose pants with a cardigan or robe.
Light your candles and start the music. Ground and center, cast your circle around the entire room, and welcome in any Allies, Guides, or Gods you work with.
Purification of the Physical Body
Begin with a thorough purification through smoke. You will need more than a stick of incense for this – you really want to get some clouds of smoke going. Consider using an herb bundle or smoldering loose herbs over charcoal. Crack a window if you need to. Waft thick waves of smoke over your body. This is when a partner can be of great help. A fan or large feather is also useful here.
Then, nourish. Remember that purification is not just wiping away what does not serve. It’s also a generative activity that supports a clean, clear functioning of whatever you are purifying. For me, that means:
Take a steam bath. This needs to be prepped ahead of time and kept covered until you get to it. Boil a pot of water and add handfuls of herbs to it. Allow it to simmer for about 10 minutes, then cover, take it off the heat, and position it in your ritual space. My preferred herbs for this are chamomile, rosemary, lavender, and peppermint. Remove the lid from the pot and cover your head and shoulders with a towel, making a tent over the steam. Breathe in the steam, taking breaks as needed. Allow the steam to wake sweat from your skin. When we open our pores and let ourselves sweat, it’s a way for our bodies to physically release waste products that have built up. Towel off when you feel done.
Apply a face mask or luxurious moisturizer. Using a high-quality lotion or oil scented in a way you love, moisturize starting from wherever the face mask leaves off all the way to your toes. As you apply your lotion or oil, focus on blessing your body. Visualize healing, loving energy pouring through this act of anointing. If you are working with a partner, this is a wonderful way to bless and purify each other through consensual touch.
Pause for a moment to integrate. Drink some cool water and feel the way your body responds.
Purification of the Energy Body
The system of energetic anatomy I use is the chakra system. This method of purification uses a set of chakra stones (one stone for each chakra), and four stones associated with purification. The purification stones could be ones found near your home or purchased black tourmaline, amethyst, clear quartz, etc. For this station, place a blanket and cushions on the floor (or use a bed or couch) so you will be able to lie down comfortably.
Gather up all your stones and hold them in your hands. Visualize purification energy flowing down through your arms and into the stones (this is surprisingly easy after purifying your physical body – there’s a cascade effect). You might experience this energy as warmth or tingling, or see it in your mind’s eye as warm, bright light. Let the stones fill up completely.
Lie down on the blankets and cushions. Place one of the purification stones just below your feet. Then, place your chakra stones in order starting at your root chakra and ending at your crown chakra (place that one just above where your head is resting). A partner can be helpful with this part. Place one purification stone slightly above the crown chakra stone (so the crown chakra stone is closest to your body). Put one purification stone in each hand and relax.
Tune in to your energy body and visualize the flow of life force (prana/chi/ki) circulating within you. Open to the stones resting on your body and allow the energy you channeled into them to sink in, clearing and nourishing any areas that need it. Observe your energy body growing clearer, brighter and stronger. When you feel finished, gently return your senses to your physical surroundings. Wiggle your fingers and toes and take a few deep breaths before opening your eyes. Remove the stones in the reverse order and set them aside.
Pause for a moment to integrate. Ground any excess energy if you’re feeling too buzzy and drink some water.
Purification of the Spiritual Body
The station for this one varies based on practice. Include, or set up, an altar to the Powers you serve or most frequently work with. These can be gods, ancestors, land spirits, plant spirits….your spirit family, whatever form it happens to take.
Settle in front of your altar and make offerings to those Powers. This can be incense, alcohol, food, or whatever is most appealing to Them. Close your eyes and shift into meditative or light trance space. Respectfully request that your spirit allies remove any lingering miasma, attachments, or shadows that no longer serve you. Observe what follows and notice how you feel.
When this process is complete, express gratitude and make a second offering. Journal any portions of this section that you wish to remember. Your spirit family may have given you information or shown you new ways to purify yourself.
Cakes and Ale
It’s snack time! Choose the most delectable dessert you can lay hands on. My preference for this section is a custard tart with glazed fruit purchased from my local bakery and a small glass of high-quality sweet mead (Brimming Horn Meadery ships to most states).
Mindfully, enjoying every sensation, nourish your body. Revel in the taste, texture, and scent of your food and drink. Notice the way your body responds. Try to stay present for this. If you are working with a partner or group, resist the urge to chatter here. Stay focused on your experience.
When you are finished, close your ritual space. Ground and center, hail and farewell any allies you welcomed in, and release the circle. Clean up the space and put away your supplies, remembering to pause and ground out any excess energy if needed. Tidying up after this ritual is a great way to ground, believe it or not. It helps you reintegrate with your pragmatic mind and physical body.
This ritual generally took my working partner and I around two hours. Depending on how elaborate you make this it and how long each section takes, your results will vary.
May this Imbolc find your body, mind, and spirit renewed. May hope infuse you and optimism strengthen you. Let me know if you try this ceremony and how it goes for you. Also, if you have any purification techniques you would add, feel free to post them in the comments section. Your idea may be exactly the piece someone else was looking for.
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