With my celebration of Thargelia at hand (for more than a few logistical reasons, not least of all being that there wouldn’t have been any first fruits in my yard last month), I shall briefly break my hiatus, likely compelled by Lord Apollon Himself, so that I may address the Hellenic concept of Miasma (pollution), and the importance of ritual Katharmos (purification).
Firstly, I’d like to say that a number of people have also contacted me recently in respect to this issue (and in respect to the particulars of this post), who have asked my opinions on these concepts. Secondly, I am not a scholar, nor do I pretend to be. You have been warned.
Miasma is a complex form of spiritual pollution, which can manifest in a variety of nasty ways, including but not limited to:
Pangs of physical dis-ease, impious behaviour, calamitous fortune, mental health issues; especially, the experience of separation from the gods of Hellas on mental, emotional and/or psychic levels.
Much of Hellenic ritual is specifically designed to eliminate miasma, so that the space is properly prepared, and the participants may come before the gods cleanly, with their hands and hearts unsullied. This is why we wash our hands and faces before ritual or offerings. I would even posit that in our modern age, it is preferable that we also brush our teeth (if it is feasible– an example would be before morning prayers or libations) before speaking the names of the gods.
Although physical uncleanliness is linked, in part, to miasma, it is important to note that the dirt itself is not the cause. The spiritual pollution is in fact caused by the psychic-disturbance created by living amongst dirt and filth. (Truly, any psychic-disturbance has the potential to become the catalyst to miasma). No one can feel reasonably inspired by the divine while visiting a unkempt temple. It is the same with one’s oikos (home), or with one’s own body.
The gods are always the gods, and They are always here, woven in the fabric of this Universe, and indeed this Earth. It is our own failings which cause us to feel distant from Them. They exist in a state of natural balance, of Order, through which miasma can not normally penetrate.
Mortals must work hard to maintain such a sense of order within ourselves. We are chaotic creatures, prone to acts of savagery, and lesser incompassions. Therefore, we must continually drive out the disorderly parts of our natures through purification, so we can be as like unto our gods as humanly possible. This likeness unto Them fosters our connections, and helps to build the foundation of understanding that is crucial to any relationship.
There are other forms of miasma, as well. Such as those incurred from natural death, and also the births of children. I believe these situations are two sides of the same polluting coin. Again, it is fair to note that death itself (and while we’re at it, birth itself) is not the cause of the miasma, but rather the “opening of the way to the Underworld”, which these events can induce.
Death and childbirth were far more unsanitary and dangerous conditions than they are today, and the likelihood of developing some sort of affliction, just from coming into contact with either situation, was far greater. Indeed, all manner of dastardly spirits/agents can potentially latch onto a grieving household (or in the case of a new birth, a non-grieving household), or a particular family member, causing them ill health, financial woes, and other setbacks. These, and a great many other types of miasma, can all be prevented and cleansed by adhering to the ancient practices, as far as we are able, or by developing newer methods of Katharmos.
Our gods are also called the Deathless Ones, and it is up to us to not insult that great name by putting Them into situations during which They may come into contact with death and its associated miasma, even a second-hand contact. After all, the gods of Hellas may be inclined to withhold their vast gifts from us, if we can not even respect Their purity.
And, speaking of Their many gifts… In honor of Thargelia, I share with you now a picture of some of the first fruits of my household, to be offered to Lord Apollon. :)Here, we have Peaches, Figs, Mesquite bean-pods and Mesquite flowers… with a side order of my cat’s butt. :D
Happy Thargelia, and Hail Apollon!