Sometimes all you need before going into Circle is a quick smudge with some palo santo or sage, and you’re good to go. Other times, a more thorough cleansing is in order. Whenever I need some heavy-duty cleansing, I like to call on the four elements (and Deity) to perform a comprehensive purification.
For myself (or for others with whom I am sharing ritual space), I like to use this method before a serious working. It definitely helps get the energy going. This elemental cleansing is also wonderful to clear your mind, body, and spirit after an awful day. If you are cleansing yourself, it’s easier if you have someone to help you – you cleanse them and then they cleanse you. Having a partner allows you to focus on what’s happening in your energetic body, rather than worrying if you’ve accidentally caught your robe on fire from getting too close to the incense or candle. To cleanse yourself or someone else, move each elemental representation down the chakras, from the crown to the root, and then down the arms and legs.
This cleansing and purification ritual is also fantastic for spaces! Particularly for new or unfamiliar spaces, it helps to set the tone for whatever magickal or spiritual purpose you have in mind. It also works well for spaces that might have residual gunky energy in them for whatever reason, that you want to clear out before you open yourself for meditation or ritual. To cleanse a space, walk widdershins (counterclockwise) around the space with each elemental representation.
Probably my favorite use of this method is for purifying magickal tools. Whenever I have acquired a new tool I want to use in my magickal workings or in my sacred space, I want to make sure it is thoroughly cleansed of all negative and harmful energy before I start working with it. To cleanse a tool, move the elemental representations around the tool (or the tool around the representations, depending on how large the tool is) on all sides, so that every part of the tool has had contact with the element. (Needless to say, if your tool is flammable, don’t actually stick it in the fire. Near the fire is good enough!)
My favorite cleansing representation for Earth is a selenite wand. It has a high vibration and absorbs all harmful energy from anything surrounding it. Selenite is a type of gypsum, and it is water soluble, so be careful with interactions with water.
Other great representations for Earth are fresh or dried herbs (including basil, rosemary, thyme, rue, and many others), salt, or other types of crystals.
Use the selenite wand as you might use a lint roller, a few inches away from your body/the tool, flicking the negative energy away. For cleansing a space, it is sufficient to walk around the space making counterclockwise motions with the wand. For salt or herbs, sprinkle some on all surfaces of the tool, around your body, or around the perimeter of the space.
I usually say some derivation of the following as I complete this process, repeated until the cleansing is complete:
Cleansing and Air are natural partners in many cultures around the world. The burning of dried herbs such as sage, cedar, mugwort, sweetgrass, and even lavender are frequently used for cleansing and purification. Incense can also be used, as can resins such as frankincense and myrrh. My personal favorite is Palo Santo wood, which gives off a sweet smell and doesn’t get too smoky if you are trying to avoid setting off fire alarms.
Natural breezes and winds (such as on a mountaintop or during a thunderstorm) also work quite well as cleansing agents of Air – just make sure whatever you are trying to purify doesn’t blow away!
Fire is conceptually one of the best, but practically the most difficult element for cleansing. Fire can quite literally sterilize tools, though odds are that whatever you want to cleanse shouldn’t actually go in a fire. (Please, please don’t stick things in a fire that might even be remotely flammable or be damaged.) The good news is that simply having things near the fire accomplishes the same thing energetically.
If you’re able to make an actual fire in a firepit or other safe location, go for it! If not, a candle will work just as well. Be careful with the dripping wax from the candle, though. Depending on what type of wax it is (particularly beeswax!), it may burn skin. Go for a fire-safe candle holder as a precaution and don’t move the candle too quickly to avoid splashing wax.
Water is also an incredibly cleansing element (think of taking a shower or washing your hands)! Water is a bit safer than fire for purification purposes, but make sure that whatever you are cleansing is not water soluble (like your new selenite wand or Himilayan salt lamp) or damaged by water (some wood tools, items with paint, et cetera). Mostly because of my OCD, if an item can be washed with soap and water, I will typically do so. I like scrubbing the item – it feels like I’m scrubbing off any residual negative energy.
Water from your tap works perfectly well for this, though for special occasions I like to use fresh stream water or ocean water to pack an extra energetic punch. Natural rain is simply wonderful for this, if the timing aligns well with when you need the cleansing done.
After you have done purification rites for each element, you may also wish to call on the Divine to finish your blessing. You can call to a specific Goddess or God, or to any other spirits that you work with frequently.
I like to envision light (typically golden or white, though depending on my intention I may choose another color – or whatever feels natural) moving through my body, the space, or the tool, and surrounding it with pure Divine energy.
May your workings be blessed for the highest good of all!