Ritual Purification is a religious practice which is intended to ritually clean the body for certain religious practices, such as prayer. What precisely is considered "unclean" depends on the religion, though all bodily fluids tend to fall under this category.
Common techniques include bathing in water or steam, fasting, meditation, fumigation with incense or sprinkling with salt. More extreme forms may include bloodletting, flagellation and other forms of self-mortification. Where purification is being performed prior to a specific ritual or for entry to a sacred space, new, dedicated clothing will also be put on in many cases1.
Some forms of magic also require purification as part of their praxis - normally in preparation for a working. This is particularly prevalent in various forms of theurgy where the worker will be dealing with the divine or its immediate servants and should be in a fit state to meet them (kabbalah for example, sets great store by prayer and fasting before attempting an invocation), but it is also useful to spiritualist practitioners as a way of ridding themselves of the inevitable train of spiritual hitchhikers that attach themselves in the course of everyday life.
The ritual purification of a workspace is also popular as part of preparation for a working, particularly if the working will require spiritual contact which could be scrambled, hijacked or even obstructed by stray spirits. Also, any form of self-projection pretty much requires that the body left behind be purified and warded to avoid the risk of squatters moving in whilst the owner is away.
Purification is also useful after a ritual to dispose of negative energies and presences that may have been attracted by the working. This is not really a problem for a theurge, but becomes very urgent indeed for diabolists, and there is a spectrum between the two.
Game and Story Use
- Having to conduct regular religious-based purification rituals can be a major inconvenience for someone living the chaotic and often literally dirty life of an adventurer. On the other hand, it might help protect him from diseases and similar ailments…
- In some settings, such ritual purification might even grant special blessings and bonuses to the believers - which might make the inconveniences very much worth it.
- In magical practice, getting your purification rituals right is very important to avoid nasty side-effects.