What Is a Cleansing Ritual?

Do you have something in your life you just wish you could get over?? Is there something you did, even long ago, which continues to hold you back?? If you’re like most people, the answer is yes.

Whether it’s through Lady Macbeth, characters in the Bible or moments in our own lives, everyone can identify with the need to cleanse ourselves and feel free of a stain (caused by a past sin or mistake) that continues to haunt us, or keeps us from becoming who we want to be.

In fact, I’m convinced that occasionally experiencing those feelings is a fundamental part of being human. Here’s the good part: So is finding and using different means of cleansing ourselves of those feelings and stains, and renewing our lives as we do so.

Some people use laughter to cleanse, as outlined in this piece by author Rob White. Cleansing with sage is an ancient tradition (outlined here) in the Wiccan and Native American traditions. In both Jewish and Christian traditions, ritual bathing remains a powerful way to cleanse mind, body and spirit.

Everyone can identify with the need to cleanse ourselves and feel free of a ‘stain’ from our past that continues to haunt us.

Whatever one thinks of these rituals, their ubiquity across time shows our need to get out “that damned spot,” as Lady Macbeth said, as well as our need to find the practices that do that for us. That’s energizing, encouraging news. The question is how to find what works for you when you need it.

Just as no one tradition has cornered the market on these rituals, there’s no one answer about which will be right for you. I do, however, observe one constant in all reports from those who’ve had a positive experience with a cleansing ritual: You have to believe in what it is you’re doing. The ritual may not make sense to anybody else, but it has to speak to you – even if you don’t fully understand it intellectually. That may sounds obvious, but it’s not. None of this stuff works simply because someone else tells you it does.

Rituals work for you when they speak to the deepest part of you – when the practitioner can honestly say they’re doing what they feel called upon to do. The “call” may come from God, or a sacred fire, or a voice deep within one’s heart (we don’t need to debate if there is any meaningful difference between those three) – but it has to be the call that you hear. When it is, the cleansing power in these rituals is real.? We really can cleanse ourselves and renew our lives.


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