Because most Wiccans believe that psychic or spiritual energies can linger in spaces or objects, purification is key to practicing the rituals of this faith community. Many Wiccans use “ritual” and “spell” interchangeably, spells being seen as the working of human desire, will or emotion on one’s environment. Purification is believed to prevent lingering negativity or misdirected desire from tainting the spell.
Wiccans believe the world is constituted of four physical elements, plus spirit. These are represented by the important symbol of the pentagram, explains Wiccan scholar and priestess Catherine Noble Breyer. Purification involves all four physical elements, with salt representing earth, and incense representing air and fire. Spirit is seldom “addressed directly in ritual,” Breyer explains, because it constitutes one’s will and emotions, already present. A Wiccan “charges” the salt, water and herbs for incense by focusing her will on the elements, envisioning them enveloped in cleansing energy and reciting any of a number of possible ritual words.
Tools for Wiccan rituals can include athames (ceremonial daggers), wands, chalices or bowls, thuribles or censers for burning incense, bells, crystals or other stones, mirrors, and sigils or talismans. Wiccans should first purify the incense burner, such as a thurible, and the water vessel, such as a chalice, because they will use these tools to purify the others, with the aid of the charged elements of salt, water and herbal incense. The tools may be immersed in salt water, sprinkled with herbs, or passed through smoke from the incense. The key with purification, as with all Wiccan ritual, is the practitioner’s focused will.
To purify a space likewise requires use of the elements, suitably charged. The Wiccan should sprinkle a pinch of salt and a sprinkle of water in each cardinal direction of an open area, or each corner of a house, and light the incense and wave or blow its smoke likewise. Priestess Rowan Morgana recommends opening all windows and reciting a simple spell for each element, such as, “By the power of salt, I cleanse this house.” Dragonsong, a Wiccan practitioner, recommends repeating the ritual cleansing and words at each door and window, as well.
Cleansing oneself is an important ritual in itself and a precursor to other rituals, both those conducted alone or in a group. Azaz Cythrawl, of the Coven of Cythrawl, names purification of self as one of the nine essential components of Wiccan ritual, and the first performed. Many practitioners, including Cythrawl and the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, recommend a ritual bath. The bath should include the cleansing elements -- not only water, but also herbs, salt and candles or incense.