© 1999, Revised November 2000 ~ Stephanie M. Schwartz

The Home... Purifying and protecting the home is possibly one of the oldest and most wide-spread tradition of nearly any culture or society.  It is found in the form of a House Blessing as performed by Catholic, Anglican, and Orthodox Christian priests who use Holy Water and specific prayers.  It is found with American Indians of many tribes who often have this performed on their homes by a Medicine Person, Holy Person, or Elder.  The list of cultures and societies who have traditionally practiced this type of purification is endless.  However, the modern spiritual individual may also perform this for themselves using their choice of a variety of ways.

For the water method, one may use salt water or Holy Water if you are Christian (available free from many liturgical churches if you bring a small bottle).  It is customary, while doing this, to repeat declarative affirmations or prayers to the person's source of the Divine for purification as well as protection.  As these are recited in each room, a few drops are sprinkled... some people prefer to sprinkle a few drops in each corner, others prefer the baseboard, others prefer the center of the room.  The closets, garage, basement rooms, and/or crawlspace are not forgotten and are also addressed.  Some people even open all the cupboard doors prior to doing the rooms.  Many traditions advocate the placing of flat cedar, a cedar bundle, or a religiously significant symbol over the doorjamb of each room as it has been purified to keep it so.  Finally, it is traditional, as well as advisable, to specifically address each entrance and window.

If a water method is not desired then dry sea salt, sacred tobacco, sage, flat cedar, or pollen might be sprinkled in each room.  Also, another highly effective means of purifying a home is by smudging with smoke…. to waft the smoke of burning sage leaves, or a combination of sage and cedar, so that its smoke enters each room area.  The only problem with this is that one must be very careful of burning embers or live ash falling onto the carpeting or yourself as you move from room to room.  It's too easy to end up with a purified home containing numerous little burn marks in the carpeting.… and very tough on the property values.  Always use a safe container such as a large conch shell, iron pot, or some dirt-filled container to hold the burning articles.

I would like to take this opportunity to point out that in many of the ancient Western European esoteric traditions, sandalwood incense was and is considered as pure and valuable as sage or pollen or cornmeal is to some American Indians.  The difficulty here is that, currently, it is nearly impossible to find sandalwood incense which does not have aromatic additives or chemicals (which may or may not work against your intent) added to it.  Even the available homemade recipes utilize chemicals.  Unfortunately, the time-honored ancient, natural ways in India to produce this incense are rarely used anymore.  Therefore, it is a matter of personal preference as to whether using sandalwood incense for purification and protection is to be desired.

The Spiritual Workspace... Some people have a special room or structure reserved strictly for their healing or spiritual work and articles.  Others use a regular room in the home but have a special altar or worktable reserved for these uses.  Some traditions prefer to work outside in a special area.  Most people, however, are limited and simply use a favorite room and whatever table or chest is available.

Many people cover the work surface of the table or chest with some sort of cloth which is completely reserved for these spiritual work times.  Usually of cotton or some other natural material, the cloth may be white in color and may even have some particularly significant seal, emblem, or symbol on it.  Some people prefer to rotate cloths of different colors, using whichever color corresponds to the particular intent or need of the moment.  Indigenous cultures may or may not define their sacred area with prayer ties and some may use a special cloth or robe upon which to stand, kneel, or sit. 

Many ancient traditions use sound energy to purify the sacred work space and immediate surroundings.  This might be accomplished through specific horns, shells, bells, drums, gongs, tingsha, singing bowls, intoning, vibrating chants or other forms of producing sound.  There is no question that, since sound is energy, using sound to clear and change the vibrations and frequencies of an area is extremely effective.

Whatever your preference might be, the sacred space and work surface, cloth, and tools all truly need to be purified prior to each spiritual use if at all possible.  Some might argue that these do not need to be purified before each use but I would argue that point, and would much prefer to err on the side of caution.  Others might argue that since they are doing spiritual or sacred work, everything to do with it is automatically pure.  Certainly sacred is sacred and the Divine is pure, but that is not saying the energies randomly floating around at any given time are sacred.  Or, that there might not be some residual negative energy left over from someone else.  I simply do not like taking chances.  I, personally, like my work to be focused, accurate, and untainted.

After the work area and tools have been purified by whatever means the person chooses, it is often customary to define the work area with a ward of protection, a wall of protection, to keep it purified and to keep unwanted energies from entering.  One example of this would be the ancient Western European esoteric tradition of casting a circle of dry sea salt completely surrounding the immediate work area (enclosing yourself as well).  Some traditions recommend casting in a clockwise manner and some recommend casting in a counter-clockwise movement.  Other traditions use symbols drawn in the dirt or on the floor to define the protected parameters of the area.  And, of course, there is no question that the indigenous practice of stringing prayer ties around the area also presents a highly powerful form of spiritual protection.  Again, this is one of those personal preference, personal belief, and traditional issues.  Whatever your choice, the fact that matters is the doing of it and, in my experience, i have found it works.

Once the ward has been cast, it is hoped the person will not have to leave the protectively-enclosed area until the work is completed.  However, there may be many reasons why this is not possible.  It may be that the work will be repeated for several days.  It may be that they get interrupted by an emergency.  It may also be that a person has forgotten to bring some article which is needed for the ceremony.  Actually, that happens much more often than many people are willing to admit. 

Yet every tradition provides some process for opening the circle or ward, allowing the worker to pass outside, immediately resealing it, as well as the reverse process which allows the person back inside the area of protected and dedicated work.  Some workers may use an athame’ or knife for this purpose while others simply use their hand.  But most accompany the action with some kind of appropriate words commanding the intent that the sacred intactness of the circle or area remain.

Often, a person finds themselves in the wilderness or some other place where their normal tools and articles are unavailable.  In this case, they may simply take a stick, wooden walking staff, or merely their toe and draw a primary symbol of their path in the dirt and stand upon it.  With the appropriate prayer or declarative affirmation, this immediately becomes their protected work area.  It is highly effective.  Furthermore, some even do this in their normal work area, within the casted ward.  A few folks even have a meaningful symbol engraved or painted on their floor although, in my opinion, this would need to be re-purified and re-dedicated prior to each working.

The Property Lines.… Many people often forget or simply don't think about purifying and establishing wards of protection around their entire property.  Yet this can often be one of the most effective means of reinforcing the entire network of purification and protection.  Easy to do, the only complication involves neighbors who may think you have lost your mind.  Therefore, it may be advisable to do this at night or in as unobtrusive a manner as possible (such as while picking weeds along the perimeter combined with sprinkling your chosen purifying agent and the offering of prayers).  Of course, there are always those people who enjoy displaying their work in pride before the world, nearly in defiance, so the decision will most likely lie with one's own personal preference.  However, I would note that if your neighbors view your work in progress they can also, merely by strong adverse reaction, contaminate it while it is in its vulnerable creation stages.  Therefore I, personally, would advise doing this in as low-key a manner as possible.

The easiest method is merely one of walking the property lines while sprinkling (depending on your tradition) dry sea salt, salt water, sacred tobacco, sage, flat cedar, cornmeal, pollen, Holy Water or other sacred purifying herbs along the property lines.  Again, one repeats prayers of purification and protection or affirmations as you proceed.  The smudging method can also be used.  Afterwards, burying sacred items in the four cardinal directions or four corners of the property may also be done.  During extremely difficult times, it has been known for persons to do this on not only the perimeter of the property but also along the perimeter of the actual house structure itself with reinforcements at all access points (doors and windows).

Traditionally, most ancient cultures and societies have favored placing sacred symbols, visually seen by all, at access points to the property and/or to the home.  Sometimes they may even be found on fence posts as well.  Some traditions also bury symbolic signs, seals, sigils, statues of saints, or amulets at the corners of the property or at the points on the property of the four cardinal directions or at/near the access points.  All of these would reinforce the protection.  For others, a sacred symbol may be hung in the interior of the home over each doorway.  These symbols not only act as an outward sign of the commitment to that belief system but are also normally assumed to be vested with sacred qualities as they guard the main access points and oversee the entire home.

Live in an apartment building, townhouse, or condo?  Do the entire building perimeter.  It is to your credit that your neighbors will also benefit from your efforts.  Feeling uncertain about your job workspace?  Purify it with any of the methods above or even simply just a few well-chosen words of affirmation or prayer each time you enter it.  Same advice would apply to your car.  The point is to have your environment well purified and well protected.

In closing this section I would like to add that there are many natural herbs, oils, and substances in our world which many people might prefer over what I have recommended here.  This is fine.  Use what works best for you or which is favored by your tradition or culture.  Furthermore, don't forget the medicine woman or crone in the forest.  If you don't have the supplies or tools, use what you have ...whether it is plain water, table salt, grains of sand or dirt, burning cigarette smoke, or burning dried lawn grasses.  In the end, tools are simply tools.  Even when they have properties specific to themselves, most tools and herbs are used primarily to aid your connection to the Divine and to assist your concentration and focus.  Whatever your tools or lack thereof, the sole aim is to get the prayers, the focused intent, and the energies into place and functioning.

In truth, I cannot stress, enough, the importance of purification and protection.  I sincerely believe they are the two most valuable skills you will ever learn.  Used effectively and attentively, they will keep you safe and centered for your entire lifetime and beyond.