Mind over Matter: On Ritual Purity

On April 1, I asked Devo if it would be possible for me to write on the topics that the Kemetic Round Table (KRT) writes on from week to week. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t identify as a Kemetic. In fact, I ran away screaming from that title a few years ago, after one or two people tried to label me as a “Kemetic Wiccan” due to my work with Anubis. The word sat poorly with me for years, until I began to talk with some Kemetic recons and revivalists and read what they have to say about Kemeticism. The word, once tainted, began to slough off the soot and slush that my mind had associated it with and I began to feel drawn into the idea of being Kemetic, if only so I could better honor my patron. I am still learning, though, and I’ll be picking up with these topics over time as I learn more about Kemeticism and its practices.

After speaking with Devo and getting permission, I began to mull more strongly on the topics decided on by the KRT and found myself already at an impasse with the first topic: ritual purity.

In part, the difficulty stems from the fact that I don’t “do ritual.” At least, not the grand rituals that many think of when they hear the word “ritual.” I perform smaller rites and offerings to my gods and much of my practice stems from small acts in my daily life – but that’s another topic.

When I ran my uni Pagan group, though, we often did ritual of the Wiccan kind. I never really enjoyed it, as the Wiccan set-up just doesn’t do it for me. I’ve attended an OBOD-style ritual that was more Wiccan to me than others would care to admit, too. The only ritual I have attended and found some sense of religious enjoyment was a Heathen offering to Tyr. There was power in the man’s words and in the acts he performed, the sacrifices he gave to his god. Perhaps it’s due to my American upbringing, but watching a man burn a $50 bill in a small bonfire, you can’t help but feel punched in the stomach with the level of devotion that single act has, let alone the other objects I watched him give to the fire that afternoon.

Reading some of the others’ views on ritual purity, they often speak of physical cleanliness, both historically and in their own modern practice. I think back to the times I would enter my uni Pagan group’s ritual circle with freshly washed hands (thanks to my OCD) and bare feet, my flipflops kicked off into the corner to reveal lines of dirt and dust that I’d accumulated during the day. So, too, was I the day of the OBOD ritual, though I kept my footwear on due to the obscene number of chestnuts on the ground; the Heathen ritual was during a festival where I was camping, and so it was more difficult to keep clean than on a normal day.

Living with OCD today, though, I already have a high level of cleanliness that I expect myself to uphold, rules and mundane rituals that I must abide by unless I desire a panic attack or more anxiety. But as I mulled over the KRT topic of ritual purity, I knew I didn’t want to talk about my OCD that much and how it affects me. (To be honest, it’s just too depressing to talk about.) So I pushed a little further and actually got to thinking about my name and its meaning.

My real name is defined as “pure” and so, too, is the name Kaye, the name under which I publish here. Over the years, I’ve thought very hard on what it means to be “pure,” since being named for the term, I wanted to know what it meant. My identity, I though, hinged on what it meant. And there are a lot of themes and ideas that I came up with, but when I think on how I approach it in terms of ritual, more often my opinion goes to purity of mind, rather than body.

That is not the cop-out it seems to be.

When I ran my uni Pagan group, I was extremely busy. I didn’t have the time to go home and change or shower or do anything to cleanse my body beforehand. I was often coming straight from class or from another student group that I ran or from work. There just wasn’t time to do anything more elaborate than wash my hands, which I would do anyway to clean the chalk from my palms and fingers after having written announcements on the board in the classroom we used. What we did do, though, and what I often had to lead people through in my last year running the group, was the grounding, centering, and shielding exercise that’s so highly touted in the Pagan community.

I like grounding, centering, shielding. I like it a lot, actually. It’s a technique that I actually taught to The Boyfriend who uses it to calm his own anxiety and help him sleep at night, every night. It has helped calm me on more than on occasion in a stressful environment and calms my ever-active mind into a more soothing state. But it takes awhile. I have to concentrate on the grounding and the centering, though shielding comes naturally to me. And it is this state of mental purity that I find myself most at ease and calm enough for ritual or rites or offerings.

Today, as I do my offerings, I ground and center myself as I walk into the bedroom where I keep my altar, breathing slowly and deeply so that I can approach the altar and shrines with reverence and solemnity in my duties as a devotee and practitioner. I move slowly and deliberately, focusing on my tasks as hard as possible. Though my body is as clean as I can make it, it is the mental purity that I focus on more. That is not to say that I approach the altar with mud or muck clinging to my hands, but rather it is my thoughts and my intent that I find the more necessity of focus to be.

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5 Responses to Mind over Matter: On Ritual Purity

  1. blackberryjuniper says:

    Can you describe the grounding, centreing and shielding that you do? There’s loads of varieties of these, and I’d be interested in your version. Thankyou – if you get a minute 🙂

    • Sure! I do a variant of the most common centering technique and I typically do the tree-method for grounding, but I think my shielding technique is a little different from what most people do. I’ll add it to the list of topics and write up a post about it soon. Thanks for asking!

      • blackberryjuniper says:

        Thanks, I’d like to read that. You’re very organized, like I tend to try to be, so I suspect I might like your methods: so if you did write them up it would be a help for me -especially the shielding – I wouldn’t mind trying another technique, my current is quirky and poss getting a little old 🙂

        • This is the second time someone has commented on my organization skills in the last 24-hours. I’m flattered because, as a kid, that was the number one negative comment that my teachers always made about me, to the point where my mother would sit down at Parent-Teacher conferences and start off with “Yes, she’s unorganized, what else?” So it’s nice to see that kind of growth now!

          I’m going to separate them into three different posts, one for each centering, grounding, and shielding, so it may yet be a couple of days! But I didn’t forget about it, just have been chewing on my thoughts on the different techniques since you mentioned it since I want to give it due consideration before I commit to writing on it. Centering will, hopefully, go up today.

  2. Pingback: Ritual purity: what does that mean for my practice? | Kemetic Round Table | Kemetic Round Table

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