We’ve been having an unusual streak of spring like weather here in the Midwest.
I was joking last week that the ground hog lied; there was no 6 more weeks of winter.
Needless to say with the temperatures hovering around 60 and the windows open, I’ve been diving into spring cleaning, clearing out the old and stagnant and making way for the Sacred.
I know a lot of people do the top to bottom cleaning in late January to welcome Brigid at Imboc but I don’t usually start that until March when the weather warms up. I do start a little in January.
*By little I mean a very little; de-cluttering magic stuff, taking inventory of candles and incense, dusting altar spaces.*
For me, January and February are still a time of hibernation, resting and healing.
Brigid shows up at Imbolc and I feel like she sticks around to help ready us for Spring, slowing pulling us out of hibernation mode and into the hopeful energy of Spring. This year it seemed like she cracked a whip!
Last week I started early with the process of de-cluttering our living spaces because we were having women over for Dark&Twisty’s Welcome to Womanhood celebration (That’s another story).
Every year it’s the same; I both dread and anticipate the process. I don’t really want to do the work but I really want the results. I always feel so much lighter and hopeful once the rooms are neat and the dust is gone. We sleep better and argue less. I have more patience and I get more work done.
While I was cleaning, my mind kept wandering back to my past and I noticed an interesting correlation between a couple different religious practices regarding spring cleaning.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before but in case you missed it, I was raised in a Christian Fundamentalist congregation called the Worldwide Church of God.
- It followed the Old Testament holy days, believed in Jesus and put great emphasis on the Book of Revelations; believing wholeheartedly in the end times.
- It adhered to the Islamic notion of no afterlife until God rebuilt the world. Dead was dead; no heaven, no hell until Judgement day when God would raise his true followers and cast the evil into hell.
- There was no celebrating Christmas, Halloween or Easter; those were pagan holidays.
- There was no Celebrating Birthdays; John the Baptist had his head cut off for some princess’s birthday.
*I honestly believe the founder picked out the most fear-inducing parts of the 3 major monotheistic/Judeo-Christian religions, mushed them together and called it the WORD.
Ya, kind of depressing.
We celebrated a holy day called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It lasted a week; beginning the day after Passover with an all-day church service and ending 8 days later in another all-day church service. The week itself was symbolic of the Israelite's journey out of Egypt and their 40 year trek through the desert and the focus was on not eating leavened bread, which represented Sin.
The weeks leading up to Passover were a whirlwind of cleaning. (I’ve since learned that this is also a practice in Jewish homes.) There was a life or death frenzy to rid our entire home of all leavening agents; anything that would make your bread rise. Yeast, Baking soda, Baking powder all had to go.
Every package of bread, cakes, donuts, cookies and crackers were thrown away. There were heated debates over whether or not eggs were included and if the yeast in rice-a-roni was really there to leaven or to preserve.
My mother tore the house apart systematically. She emptied dressers, moved furniture, cleared off bookshelves. Every nook and cranny was investigated, wiped down and vacuumed up.
Symbolically the leavening agents represented Sin.
The whole point of the cleaning was to eliminate Sin from your life.
Our Minister would preach about the importance of cleaning out your house and preparing for these days. They would talk about how the Israelite's didn’t have time to let their bread rise and were forced to bake it and run when it was time to leave Egypt.
They talked about how they left all their possessions behind and encouraged the congregation to purge their homes of everything that wasn’t needed anymore.
Most significantly, things that represented Sins such as Pride, Vanity and Gluttony.
Every year my mother attacked our home with a vengeance. Toys were thrown away, clothes were given to charity. Broken furniture and appliances were either fixed then and there or tossed to the alley. We all had to help and it’s where I learned how to clean.
While I don’t agree with the concept of Sin, I do feel this is a great practice; maybe not practiced as neurotically as my mother did but…..
Over the years, I have discovered there is a Universal understanding of this concept as it benefits the soul even if the reasons for doing so differ from culture to culture and religion to religion.
There is a Sacredness to clearing out your personal space and cleaning away the dirt.
When I was 18, I married a Catholic and baptized Fast Eddie into the Catholic Church, (albeit with some reservations and a lot of questions for the priest)
In doing so I vowed to raise him with Catholic Values.
It’s probably just me, but I took this commitment seriously. I had to figure out what those values were and find peace with the ideas that ruffled my feathers
One practice I finally understood was the Celebration of Lent.
Lent is a 40 day celebration that focused on repentance, fasting, self-examination and reflection.
It is practiced today by returning to simple living, giving up something or giving of one’s self through volunteering. It represents the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert preparing himself for his ministry and deflecting the temptations of Satan.
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday and continues through to the Saturday before Easter (excluding Sundays because those are considered mini-Easters and hold their own meaning).
The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Fat Tuesday. (think Mardi Gras)
Historically, people took this day to clean out their pantries and use up the remains of their rich food; sugars, yeast, meat, etc. The held a Great Feast in preparation for the days of fasting that would follow.
This had two purposes; to celebrate the greatness and abundance that God had provided and also to eliminate any temptations during their fasting.
For Eastern Orthodox Catholics, Lent begins on a Monday, called Clean Monday where they fast by eliminating meat and dairy products from their diet and also put focus on cleaning out their spiritual house.
One Lenten practice that's been circulating social media this year is the idea to package up a bag a day, any size bag; small or large to give or throw away each day of Lent.
The Hindu Festival of Diwali is a time to honor the Goddess Lakshmi and bring abundance into our lives. It is also practiced by a good and thorough ‘Spring cleaning’. Gent it, Diwali falls in October or November every year but the practice is the same.
By ridding our space of the old, broken, dirty and negative energy; we can make room for wealth and abundance.
Both Buddhism and Islam preach becoming detached to the things that no longer serve our best interest, whether it is physical items and clutter or the emotional baggage that drags our energy down.
Feng shui is an ancient Chinese practice that includes cleaning and de-cluttering as a way to improve your life. It doesn't have a date or time of year. It's just a way of life.
When you look at the overall picture of Spring Cleaning, most cultures agree that there is a personal Spiritual benefit to the practice. It allows room for the Sacred.
It doesn't matter if the focus is on removing sin or negative energy. It doesn't matter if its done in the Spring, the Fall or any time of year.
For me, every time I empty the vacuum cleaner or pour a dirty mop bucket down the toilet, I say good bye to the negative energy that’s been hanging around and ask for something good to take its place.
I imagine how my ancestors felt, being cooped up in their homes during the long brutal winter and finally feeling the warmth and the fresh spring air blowing in hope for coming months.
I hear my own Grandmother telling us, "Go outside, let the fresh air blow the stink off you!"