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Chapter 3

The Sacred Home

A home is a temple. This is true in almost all old traditions, and it should be especially true in Pagan families. As with other temples, it is a place where we encounter the sacred. It is worth remembering that a Pagan may make this encounter in the everyday world of home. This comes as no surprise; after all, a Pagan lives in the sacred at all times.

Guardians of the Threshold and Hearth

A home is more than a temple, it is more than a human construction. It is a living being, a microcosm. It is the world of those that live in it, and it has its spirits just as the world outside does. And just as the world has its Gods and Goddesses, so the house has it threshold guardian and hearth guardian. These two spots, together with the household shrine, are the most sacred spots in a house. Each has its guardian, and each has its rituals.

The threshold is the place where inside meets outside. It is the magic spot, the turning point. Such crossover spots are places of awesome power, and even when the threshold guardian may be worn down by familiarity he retains this power. What does it take to stand in-between? Something may be learned from the most famous door guardian, the Roman Janus. This God had two faces -- he looked both ways. That is the sort of power required of such a guardian.

The threshold guardian is the spirit who protects against external enemies. It is his job to invite good and avert evil. In short, this is your watchdog spirit.

That is why it is customary to perform an act of respect on passing over the threshold. A reverent touch, a slight bow, a pause: anything to say to the spirit that you recognize and respect his presence, that you belong here, and that the watchdog God can let you in. Even a negative act is good. I do not step on my threshold, and I have taught my daughter not to do so as well. If it should happen by accident, I give a quick apology to the threshold spirit.

Architecturally the threshold is the doorsill. The threshold guardian, however, dwells in the doorposts and lintel as well. These are part of the passing from one place to another. The doorsill is treated as the altar of this God, though, and it is on it that rites to the threshold spirit are held. The doorposts are, however, frequently the site of anointings and bless-ings, and figures of the threshold spirit may be found there, or next to them, either inside or out.

In days past, houses generally had only one door, but even when they had more the threshold spirit was held to inhabit only the main door, and his rites were only performed there. If you wish to recognize his presence at all your doorways, there is nothing wrong with that, but it is not necessary. In an apartment building, the threshold to be honored is yours, not the building's.

If you envision your threshold guardian as Janus, he should be honored on January first, his feast day. I pour out a bottle of wine on the threshold before entering my house the first time in January. However you envision him, a natural day on which to honor him is the anniversary of your moving into the house. Since threshold spirits are also the spirits of beginnings, they should be informed before any big changes in the life of the family.

The hearth is the heart and center of the home, the source of heat and life. This is not always true architecturally (although if it is a fireplace, that is the most effective place for it to be), but it is always true spiritually. The threshold guardian may be the protector of the household, but in the hearth is the spirit of everything that is worth protecting. It protects not by repelling evil but by broadcasting good. It is the house's main Goddess.

Hearth guardians are usually female (male fire deities tend to be concerned with public fires). The best known are the Roman Vesta and the Greek Hestia, but the Celtic Brighid has a hearth fire function as well. Many cultures have chosen not to personify their hearth guardian, satisfied to acknowledge her presence without pretending to understand her nature. Indeed, even though the Romans named their hearth Goddess, there was no statue in her temple in Rome.

If you wish to name your hearth guardian, but do not feel a closeness to either the Graeco-Roman or Irish traditions, I recommend researching your ethnic heritage to determine if your ancestors had a name you would like to use. Old forms of the word "fire" in ancestral languages can be used. For the oldest language of the ancestors of many of us, you can turn to Proto-Indo-European, and use "Westya." This is formed from the word for a the home with a feminine ending added, and thus means "She of the Home" (it is the root of the Roman Vesta).

Now you may be thinking that you don't have a hearth. Most of us don't have fireplaces; I know I don't. But you still have a hearth. In fact, you have more than one. Even if you don't have a fireplace you have a stove, and a furnace, and water heater -- all of them hearths. If your stove, furnace, or water heater is gas, you may even have one or more perpetual flames, your pilot light. Since the house can only have one center, the ritual location of the hearth Goddess must be limited to one of these. The stove is best, as it is the place where food, the fuel of the body's fire, is prepared. Put a candle or oil lamp next to your stove, to be lit when cooking your food, either daily or on special occasions. When you turn your stove or oven on, say:

I cook with the fire of [your hearth guardian's name].

This will keep her presence in your mind. It is also only polite to acknowledge such a deity frequently.

Household Guardians

The house has its spirits, but so does the household. Each family or household has a spirit or spirits to watch over it. This is an old concept in Paganism and is found virtually everywhere in the world.

These protective spirits come in many forms. Your family may have taken on a God or Goddess with whom you feel especially close. That is certainly not to be discouraged. But the ones dealt with here are the homey spirits, the comfortable small ones that guide our everyday lives, and that are associated with only one family. Like hearth and threshold spirits, they are frequently nameless. If you choose to name yours, do not use the names of known deities. They are already responsible for more than one family. In Eastern Europe house spirits are referred to as "grandfather" or "grandmother," as a sign of respect for their wisdom and age. Any term which conveys the same to you can be used -- Lord and Lady, Old Ones, etc.

Just who are these spirits, and where do they come from? There may be a family totem animal, perhaps taken from a coat of arms. There are ancestral spirits that have through time become associated with extended families, often with no explanation other than that they are traditional. There are spirits that guard over a particular house or part of it, and the barn, stove, and yard spirits of Eastern Europe. There are too many of these to give rituals for all of them or to discuss them in depth, but I will discuss several.

As an example to illustrate what these guardians are like, consider the Roman Lares. Originally spirits of places, they eventually became household guardians. They (there were almost always two) were shown as dancing youths, pouring out wine. They were frequently confused with the Penates, who protected the food supply. The Lares were offered incense, fruit, and wine. They were given the first serving at meals, and shared the family's lives. They stayed with the family wherever they moved, so they were spirits of the family, not of the physical house (which often had its own guardians). Here we have characteristics typical of household guardians -- there is more than one, and they are concerned with food, offered to regularly, and have titles rather than names.

There is a strong connection between Household Guardians and the Ancestors. (Some have suggested that the Lares were originally ancestral protectors.) In many traditions they are one and the same, and the customs relating to them are similar in other traditions.

There are, technically, two types of ancestors in Paganism. There are the ancestors of culture, the founders of the way we live. For instance, for a Pagan living in the United States Thomas Jefferson would be one of these ancestors, as one of the founders of the country. And there are our direct human ancestors, our genetic ancestors or ancestors of blood, that lived in the world just as we are living and are now gone. Neo-Pagans should honor both of these, either on days put aside for the dead or on days associated with them (birthdays, death days). It is the ancestors of blood, though, that are the most important in family worship.

The ancestors worked with by Neo-Pagans, then, have lived among us and now are in the sacred realm. As such they are mediators between us and the spirit world, and also the obvious protectors of the family. They are still interested in us, with one foot in our world and one in the Otherworld. A belief in reincarnation does not mitigate their influence; the Otherworld is all times and all places, and reborn souls can therefore still be contacted through it.

Images of household guardians may be kept in family shrines (see below). Because of the namelessness of the guardians, the images need not be in human form. Possibilities include masks, a drum, generic male and/or female statues, or candles. For ancestral spirits the most common symbols, used in cultures as different as Rome and West Africa, are masks. Through them the ancestors look upon us, and if they are ones that can be worn, by doing so we take the ancestors' place. Like the Lares, guardian spirits frequently come in pairs, usually male and female, the mother and father of your family. For this reason you may want two symbols.

Masks for images are easily made from papier mache. Blow up a balloon to the size you want. A large bottle may also be used as a form. Make a solution of wallpaper paste and water (follow the directions on the package) in a bowl. Tear strips of newspaper and dredge them through the paste. Put them on the balloon in the shape of a face, crossing them in layers, until you have the thickness you want (four or five layers will do). Eyeholes are not necessary; the eyes can be painted on later. Large features can be built up from crumpled wads. A form for the nose can be made by folding a cardboard triangle in two and taping it to the balloon. Shape the paper strips over it. Dry the mask for a day or two. (On hot dry days the mask may take only a few hours to dry.) Then pop the balloon and dry the mask for a few more days. Once it is dry it can be painted. It will last longer if it is varnished.

To make the masks more easily recognizable as ancestor masks they can be painted with symbols of your ethnic background. It is very common for ancestor images to be white; that is the universal color for the dead, found in cultures of all races.

If you wish to use a drum for your guardian image, choose a flat one that can hang on the wall over your shrine. Decorate it with feathers, ribbons, stones, shells, or symbols painted on or burned into the wood. It can be used in family rituals, for shamanic journeying, and just for family fun. Its sound is the voice of the guardian. It can be used as the signal for the beginning of sacred time. Another image you might use is a god's eye. These can be made in pairs, male and female, by using different colors. Blue is traditional for male (the sky) and green for female (the earth). See chapter 5 for directions on making them. Images can be made or bought by the family, or they can be given as presents by parents of a couple getting married. Alternatively, the money or raw materials can be given as a present. If the materials the images are made from, or the images themselves, can come from the land one's ancestors came from, so much the better.

Even though they will later be founding their own nuclear families, children can still be given images of the household guardians when they move out. This will keep them under the protection of the family even though they may be living away from it. This is especially good for college or boarding school students, who are living separately from the family, but haven't fully left it.

Ritual for Calling a Household Guardian

It may be that you already have a guardian spirit. Perhaps a particular object in your home has an air about it that says that it has become the dwelling place of a spirit. If you are this fortunate, work with the one you have. More likely, though, is that you will want to call one.

Gather together at your main dining table everyone who will be expected to be under the protection of the spirits, including animals if they can be brought indoors. If not, bring the images out to the animals at the end of the ritual to introduce them to the spirits. Wear ritual clothing if you wish, or your best clothing. One family member holds the images and another an offering of food and drink. In your family shrine (see later in the chapter) put an offering bowl with candles on either side and a rattle in front. Establish sacred time in your usual way. Meditate for a moment or two, synchronizing your breathing. (With small children this is simply a moment of silence.) While still breathing slowly, one adult says:

One heart beating
One body breathing
One life living
calls guardian spirits to watch over us
calls them out of the Great Unknown
here to our home
here to watch over us.

If you wish to call an ancestral spirit, an adult then says:

Reaching out and reaching back
to the time of our Ancestors
we call to you:
Here we are.
The family goes on
and joins with others
in the weaving that makes the People.
We did not spring out of nothing
We are neither the beginning nor the end of the chain.
You who have gone before us
be happy for us.
You are here in our midst.
We do not live our lives separately from you.
We do not forget you.
See, we will keep your images in a place of honor:
in our shrine and in our hearts.
We will not forget you.
Do not forget us.
Watch over us.
Keep us safe.

Go to the shrine, light the candles, and put the guardian symbols there. They can be hung on the wall or supported by stands. Gods' eyes can be displayed stuck into bowls filled with sand or pebbles. An adult says:

The images of our ancestors
give form to their spirits
that they may watch over us
and help our daily lives.
What we offer to these images
is given to our ancestors.
They are part of us
and we are part of the chain of lives
from the beginning to the future.

Or, if it is not an ancestral spirit you are calling:

These images will serve as homes to our guardians,
a place for those who watch over us.
What we do in front of these,
we do in front of them.
What we give to these, we give to them.
What we say to these, we say to them.

(The "we ... to them" may be said by everyone.)

If you are using a drum, one of the adults holds it up and says:

This drum speaks with the voice of the Spirits,
the voice of those who watch over us.

Each family member then bangs on the drum at least once. It is then hung on the wall above the shrine.

After the images are installed, introduce all the family members to them. Then put the offering in the bowl, saying:

We do not only take.
We do not only ask.
We ourselves give.
We give ourselves.
We feed you, you feed us.
We watch over you, you watch over us.
Like strands in the same web, we are.

Shake the rattle at the images, turn, and shake it over the heads of each family member. Alternatively, a bowl of water can be drunk from by all present and then sprinkled on the images.

One of the most common beliefs about household spirits is that having one is a responsibility. They don't just give, they must get too. In Slavic tradition, for instance, guardian spirits who aren't given sufficient respect are known to bring bad luck on their families. Give offerings to them regularly. They seem to like cakes and milk best. (Leave the offerings overnight and the next day put them outside for animals or spirits of the wild.) Let them sit at your table at festivals. Tell them important events in your lives. Give them full respect.

There should be one day in the year when special attention is paid to them. If yours are ancestors they will be honored on Samhain. (See chapter seven.) Other appropriate dates include the anniversaries of your wedding, engagement, moving, moving in together; in short, a day that strikes you as being the beginning of your household. The Romans offered them cakes, milk, wine, and flowers monthly. If you choose to honor yours so well and so often I'm sure they will not complain.

The Household Shrine

Every house should have a spiritual center. In the old times the spiritual center and the geometric center was the same -- the hearth. In the geometric center of the house it gave heat equally in all directions and served as a focus for home activities. If you are fortunate enough to have a fireplace, especially a central one, you have a ready-made spot for a household shrine.

The shrine can be many things, depending on your space available, creativity, and need for secrecy. If you don't have the obvious spot of a hearth, choose a place in the room you consider to be your home's spiritual center. The kitchen is a popular choice. That is where one of the fires of a modern home is, it is frequently where people gather to talk and work, it is where food is prepared and eaten, and it has counter space where a shrine can easily be established. Living rooms or family rooms are good choices, as are entrance ways (so the protective spirits can be revered going in and coming out). Find a spot where you won't be knocking things over but one that isn't pushed away in an inconspicuous corner.

The shrine contains an altar. This can be a table, a countertop, or a cabinet (enabling it to be closed if secrecy is required). It must be high enough to be used standing up and be in a place where it can be left set up all the time. If it is absolutely impossible to leave it set up, set it up and use it frequently, at least weekly.

There are two major kinds of shrines, the cosmological and the devotional. The cosmological consists of a symbolic representation of the universe, arranged according to your particular Pagan path. Thus a Wiccan household would have representations of the four elements in their appropriate directions, with a representation of spirit in the center. For instance, there could be a feather or incense burner in the east, a knife in the south, a bowl for water in the west, and a rock in the north. A family which leans towards Norse ways, or is a member of the druidic group of &Aacite;r nDraíocht Féin, might have a representation of the world tree (a bonsai, perhaps, or an ash or oak branch in a pot) and one of the well that feeds the tree (a bowl, filled with water for rituals).

A devotional shrine would be one dedicated to divine beings. Such a shrine would hold images of the deities that watch over the family, with offering bowls in front of them.

See photos 3 - 5 for different kind of shrines.

These types of shrines can of course be combined, and often are. Many Wiccan shrines, for example, have representations of the four elements with images of the God and Goddess behind them.

In general, place in your shrine images of your household guardians and of any of your family members' guardians or power animals. If you wish to use images of Gods and Goddesses but can't find any, remember that a rough statue made by you out of clay may actually be more powerful than something "perfect", and that many deities have animal or symbolic forms. Our shrine, for instance, contains a horse statue in honor of Rhiannon. Museum gift shops are good places to find both statues and photographs of statues of deities. Symbolic images can be used as well -- a stone with a natural hole in it or a shell for the Goddess, and a pillar-shaped stone or an antler for the God. Put your Sun and Moon candles in the shrine as well. These large candles serve as representatives of the God and Goddess and are used in the solar and lunar rituals. (See chapters 7 and 8).

Even if you do not use Sun and Moon candles (if your system of worship does not pay too much attention to them), you must still have a source of fire in your shrine. This is to be a symbol of the presence of the divine, lit when you are worshipping there. It is also a modern version of both the hearth and the sacrificial fire, which sent the offerings of people to the Gods. Here your fire will send your words of offering, of prayer, to the Gods.

The biggest mistake most people make is cluttering a shrine up. They start collecting magical tools and images and end up with a shrine that looks like a rummage sale. Keep it simple. If there are particular deities that you relate to, go ahead and put their images there, but don't add every sacred object you can get your hands on.

This is not just a question of esthetics. A household shrine should be a place of peace and calm that can then radiate peace and calm to the whole house. If instead it is a jumble of dust collectors it will radiate disorder.

Think hard about the overall effect. Too many Pagans are packrats. Their houses soon look as if they've raided every New Age bookstore and museum gift shop in the country.

You may find, however, that regardless of clutter, something comes to you that wants to be put in your shrine. Perhaps a flea market will produce the perfect Goddess statue, but your shrine is already crowded. Then you have a decision to make.

You can make another shrine in your home for the new piece. (If the piece appeals mainly to one family member, this is the best choice.) You can remove one of the pieces already in the shrine, giving it its own shrine. Perhaps something in the shrine has served its purpose in your family's life and can be given away. Perhaps the shrine can be rearranged to form several smaller shrines in the same area. Or perhaps you will simply decide to live with the clutter.

Whichever way you choose, this is not the time for one person's intuition to override the wishes of others. The family altar is a family concern, and decisions regarding it must be made as a family. Making the decision together is an act that will involve everyone in the religious life of the family and is therefore a religious act in itself.

In front of the images and candles put offering bowls. Here are placed the offerings to the household spirits when the ritual calls for it. They do not have to be left on the altar when they are not in use. Leave offerings overnight and then put them outside. Fruit can be offered to the spirits and then eaten. They will take the spiritual part they need and thank you for the remembrance.

Use the shrine as often as possible. Your guardians can give advice and help if you take the time to honor them and ask for it. Whenever there is a crisis in your family life, your shrine should be the first place you go, to seek a moment of peace and reflection. Family meetings should start with a visit to the shrine to ask the influence of the guardians on your discussions.

In the morning, before you start your day, take a moment of quiet in front of your shrine. The morning prayer I use is this:

Guardians of our household,
I do you honor.
Watch over us today as we go about our affairs.
Keep us safe and happy and healthy.

I also put my daughter's school lunches in front of the images and ask the guardians for blessings on them after I say this prayer.

Traditions to raid: Mezuzah (Jewish), Kamidana (Japanese).

Blessing the New Home

Right from the beginning of living in a new home you will want to have a proper relationship with it. You will want it to be sacred space, so that your living in it will be a sacred act.

Remember that moving into a new home means moving out of an old one. In the excitement of moving, don't forget to close off your ties to the home you're moving out of.

If your stay in your old home was pleasant you will want to bring as many influences with you as possible. Walk through it, the whole family together, and remember what has happened there. When you are finished with this, say:

We will hold these things in our hearts
and they will always stay with us
even as we go on to new places and ways.
Spirits of this place,
We invite you to come with us
or, if you wish to stay,
may there be peace between us always.

When you are packing leave your shrine until the last. As the soul of your home it needs to be there as long as it is your home. Make sure the movers know it is to be left alone. Before you pack it away, explain what is happening to your household guardians. They should have been told already, but you need to do it again as part of the leaving ritual. Bring the items in your shrine with you in a suitcase or box while you are actually traveling.

Of course, if you do not want to bring influences with you, you should do things differently. You might consider disposing of your shrine and establishing a completely new one at your new place. At the least, purify its objects the way you might purify new ones. Leave them outside in the sun or rain, or bury them in salt for a day or two. Dispose of the salt afterwards; don't use it for anything else. After purifying them, bless them again. If there are other objects that appear to be the center of bad influences, such as gifts from disruptive people or items in rooms where arguments were frequently held, abandon or purify them as well.

Ritual for Blessing a New Home

If you can do this before moving in, so much the better, but it's never too late.

1. Blessing the Borders

If possible, go all around the outside of the home, censing and sprinkling as you go. If you do this, though, do not use salt or salt water. Salt can harm plants. If you wish to use all four elements, use sand or cornmeal for Earth. Before you circle, say:

Blessed be this land.
Our home stands on sacred space.

As you go around it, pay attention to your land. You should know it already, but inspect it again with ritual awareness. If you can't go around the outside, go around the inside, keeping as close as possible to the walls. Either way, go clockwise, since this is the traditional direction for circumambulating anything sacred.

If you live in an apartment or condominium that has common land, you can circle that. Without land, you will still need to make an imaginary trip around the borders of the building. Have everyone close their eyes while one of the adults describes the building's edges in as much detail as possible. Start at one corner and go clockwise around the building, giving approximate measurements. If your children are too small to have a good grasp of feet or meters, give the measurements in terms of their or your bodies, or as steps. Include all architectural features -- doors, windows, steps, pillars, fire escapes, etc.

If, on the other hand, you own some land (even just a yard), go around the entire border of it, paying special attention to its corners. You may want to put markers at them which you can use as altars for offerings to the spirits of the land. Stone markers are best because they are permanent, but posts will do. Posts have the advantage of being easy to carve, paint, or burn a face or protective symbols in if you wish. (See appendix 1 for protective symbols.) These can be naturally shaped stones, but pillars are better because their impression of verticality clashes with the horizontal ground and says, "Here is a border." As phallic symbols, they also serve as reminders of the power of the border spirits.

Border markers needn't be large. A foot high is fine. The important thing is that they be visible, at least to those who know their significance. This shouldn't be a problem if the land is your own, but on common land you may need to go without, or you can use sticks pushed in flush with the ground, small rocks, or features already in place. Sometimes when a house built, concrete markers are placed at the corners of the property by the builders. Look for them, and use them if they are already there.

Before you erect each marker, pour out some wine and place an egg and grain or cakes in the hole where it will be put. As you do so, say:

We give these gifts to the spirits of the land
who were here before we were.
Though we may now claim this land as ours
it was yours long before
and it will be yours when we are gone.
Do not begrudge us its use
but may there be friendship between yours and ours.

Then erect the marker while saying:

God of the borders, watch over our land.

Both the spirits of the land and the God of the Borders should be given offerings on special occasions such as the anniversary of moving to the house or when your household is in need of particular protection.

In some parts of the British Isles the borders were honored in the past by entire villages in a custom called "Beating the Bounds." The villagers would process around the village's borders, and at landmarks or corners children were whipped or ducked in cold water. The explanation given was that it would "help them remember." Similar rituals were held in Greece, Rome, Russia, Norway, and other parts of Europe. No, I'm not suggesting you whip your children, but they could be the ones to put out the offerings.

Border guardians rarely have names, but the Romans, with their love for naming, called theirs Terminus. He will not mind if you call him that.

2. Threshold blessing

Bless the main threshold before entering for the rest of the ritual. If you wish to bless the others as well, do so, but without the invocation of the threshold guardian. Bless the threshold with the elements and leave an offering beside it, or even pour out a whole bottle of wine or beer on it (if poured right, the liquid will go outside rather than in; most thresholds in new houses have a lip to help seal the door when is closed anyway), saying:

Watcher of the threshold
Who looks both ways
Who guards coming in
Who guards going out
Watch over our family
and all of our guests.
Guard our coming in
Guard our going out.
Open onto a home filled with love and peace
and hospitality for all guests.

If this is your first home, add:

God of all beginnings,
look with special favor on this,
our first home.

If you have an image of a threshold guardian, install it near the main door. 3. Cleansing

It is an unfortunate fact that many of the things that have happened in your new home before you move in might not have been pleasant. Unpleasant happenings leave their traces behind and could cause problems if allowed to stay. The first thing that should be done after entering, then, is to clean. An actual physical cleaning is a good idea, especially vacuuming and sweeping, both wonderful ways to banish. If you concentrate on ban-ishing undesired influences while you clean, it will be especially effective. After the cleaning, take all your noisemakers,your bells, rattles, drums, and horns. If you have a drum for your household guardian, definitely use it. Make as much noise as possible while shouting:

Everything that is bad
Everything that could hurt
Go away,
Get out!

Ritually, noise is said to disturb harmful spirits. Psychologically, it acts as a catharsis, and the following silence seems peaceful in comparison. (And children will love it.)

Repeat the last two lines as many times as you feel necessary.

4. Blessing the Hearth

If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, light a small fire in it, saying:

The heart of our home is burning brightly.
Give it offerings, especially of incense, cooking oil, or butter, saying:

Queen of the hearth, be here in our home.
Warm it and light it.
Keep love's flames high.

If you use a Brighid's cross (see the Imbolc rite, chapter 7), hang it over the mantle. Then use a taper to carry a flame from the fire to any pilot lights you might have. By doing this, all the flames in your house become one flame, the flame of your hearth guardian.

If you don't have a fireplace, perform this rite by your stove, lighting the pilot light if there is one, or a candle or oil lamp next to the stove if there isn't. Leave this burning throughout the rest of the ritual.

5. The Shrine

Set up your household shrine. Leave offerings of bread and salt. If you are establishing a new household after starting a new family, you will have to perform the ritual to attract a household guardian (see above).

6. Consecration by the elements

On the altar of your shrine put unlit incense (air), a lit candle (fire), a bowl of water (water), a plate of salt (earth), and a flower, crystal, or mirror (spirit). Raise the image of each element up in turn and turn clockwise around to present it to the house. One of the adults says:

We bless this house by air
the breaths of song
of talking with friends,
the slow breaths of meditation and prayer
and the quiet breaths of sleep.
By air be clean
Be fresh
Be pure.

We bless this house by fire
the fire that will warm it
the fire that will cook our food
the fire that burns within us
the fire of life and love.
By fire be clean
Be fresh
Be pure.

We bless this house by water
All that we will drink
All that we will cook with
All that we will clean ourselves with
The very blood that runs through our veins
By water be clean
Be fresh
Be pure.

We bless this house by earth
from which it springs,
on which it rests
We are creatures of earth
Living upon it
Living from it
Living within it
By earth be clean
Be fresh
Be pure.

We bless this house by spirit
by active and passive we bless it
The spirit that sustains us
wrapping around us
keeping us safe in its arms
By spirit be clean
Be fresh
Be pure.

Children can do the presenting, and older children can say the words. "Be clean, be fresh, be pure" can be said by everyone.

Mix the salt with the water and light the incense from the candle. You now have consecrated water which combines the two female elements (earth and water) and burning incense which combines the two male elements (air and fire). Use these to bless the house, sprinkling and censing as you go. The sprinkling can be done by quite young children, and the censing by slightly older ones.

7. Sealing the windows and doors

Go to each window, door, or other opening (chimney, dryer vent, etc.). This can be done as you come to them while you are censing and sprinkling. With an athamé, wand, or your hand, draw a symbol of protection over it. (See appendix 3.) Say:

This opening is sealed,
guarded against all that would harm.

8. Blessing of rooms

Bless each room as you come to it by sprinkling, censing, and saying a blessing. Suit the blessing to the room and the function it will perform. For example:

May this kitchen be blessed
that all the food prepared in it
will give not only nourishment
but pleasure.

May this bathroom be blessed,
a place of cleaning and health,
that all who use it may be refreshed.

May this bedroom be blessed,
so that it might give rest and peace
to all who sleep in it.

May this guest room be blessed.
May it help us to fulfill our duties as hosts
and bring blessings to our guests.

May this living room be blessed
that it may be a place of fun and relaxation
for all who use it.

May this storage room be blessed
that it may keep in safety
the goods that are entrusted to it.

9. Offerings to outstanding natural features

Go outside again and tour your yard. Pay special attention to any outstanding natural features -- large rocks, streams, small hills, etc. Say hello to each tree and leave a small offering of food and drink. If there are too many to do this individually, do it at each group.

10. Meal

Come inside and have a meal. Use your best place settings, and one of the meal prayers (chapter 6). The food should include bread (so you may never hunger) and salt (that your life might always have flavor). These really should be given to you by someone welcoming you to the neighborhood, but you'll probably have to improvise. Don't forget to provide them for others, though. You can explain it as an old custom (which it is). It is most common in Eastern Europe, but the combination of bread and salt is found in many cultures, among the Romans and the Irish, for instance. Many Americans are familiar with it from Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.

As soon as possible after the house blessing, have a housewarming party. One of the responsibilities of a householder is hospitality. It is also one of the joys.

Traditions to raid: Terminalia (Feb. 23) (Roman), Beating the Bounds (British, date varies).