Cleaning for Brigando

Last weekend, Three Cranes Grove celebrated our Anagantios druid moon, the Stay-at-Home Moon. For this moon, we do exactly that: instead of convening together for ritual, we each stay at our homes and the priests go on their peregrinations, bringing the fire of Brigando to bless each home. There are a number of rituals and customs that we have around the occasion. Shawneen keeps a Kildare flame at his home, and the priests carry its flame in a candle lantern lit afresh from that flame in the early morning. Shawn also each year selects a new batik cloth to lay out as a brat Brìghde on Imbolc Eve, and cuts it into strips that the priests deliver along with our own flame-lit chime candle, to bring the goddess into our home. As for we grove members? We clean.

And I do mean that. I’m a diffident housekeeper at best, and clutter and dirt often don’t really register for me until it gets really bad. But the night before Anagantios found me coming home tired from work and still doing multiple hours of cleaning in the kitchen and the bathroom, including a very long-overdue deep clean of the bathtub. Which does raise the question: why? As a friend asked on Facebook, “is Brigando going to be taking a shower? Why not just keep the shower curtain closed?”

A reasonable question. After all, I’ll do a quick tidy for guests, but a big part of the reason the tub was such a mess is that we haven’t had overnight guests for most of a year, and I kept putting off that work: we’re inured to the filth, and if somebody who came over to play poker pulls back the shower curtain, that’s on them.

The obvious answer in pagan circles is purification. Many folks, before praying, will do ritual ablutions — why not the same for the domicile that’s being blessed? (And in fact, while “mois où l’on ne voyage pas” / “not-going-out month” is his primary gloss for Anagantios, Xavier Delamarre does list much this as another possible etymology, “mois d’ablutions rituelles.”) And certainly that may be true for some, but it’s a bad match for me. I’m pretty strongly committed to a non-dual approach to my druidry: not only do I try to see my mind and my body as two parts of a whole, my mundane activities and my religious ones as two portions of a life whose works span a whole range of focuses, so too do I consider both my dirt and my cleanliness to be equal before the Holy Ones. I don’t much believe in ritual purity, as a religio-philosophical stance.

But that doesn’t mean that cleanliness isn’t important to me. For example, before I prepare food (and often during the preparations), I wash my hands. I clean the house (and yes, the shower) before I have guests, especially overnight ones. I make sure I look nice before a date or a performance. These aren’t acts of purity. I wasn’t impure before; there’s not — or at least, shouldn’t be — a moral dimension to the state of my hands, my house, my face. Instead, they’re acts of hospitality: I present food to my family and my guests that’s safe and clean. I present a house that’s welcoming and pleasant. I present a body and a face that acknowledges the importance of the occasion by the care I place in my appearance.

So too, I wash my hands before handling offerings, the foods that nourish the spirits. I consider how I dress for public ritual, acknowledging my role as a ritual leader whose appearance can communicate tone and mood. And for this Anagantios blessing, I clean my house in a way that echoes both receiving a houseguest and dressing for a date: I express my devotion and respect for the Lady of Fire and Well by putting in the time to make the house presentable.

Would she reject it if I didn’t clean? Would she reject me? Doubtful; I’ve always known Brigando to be kind and compassionate; it’s to her that I pray when I find my reserves of patient calm ebbing. And certainly, if I were suffering from a mental or physical condition that limited my ability to do that work, I don’t think she’d look on the mess with anything other than concern and care. But I also know that, when I have that capacity, I need to do that work of cleaning as devotion, as an outward sign of the inward respect that I hold for Brigando.

And even a goddess must occasionally like a nice bath; best to be prepared.

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