Surrounded as we are by spiritual squalor, it is tempting to throw up our hands in defeat. We have been told that purity is a tool of oppression. We have been told it is an inherent contradiction which defines itself by that which it is not. Perhaps worst of all, we have been told it is an illusion and the difference between shit and shinola lies solely
with the beholder. How can we even hope to become clean when we live in a cesspool? I cannot minimize the danger of this corruption, nor can I offer a solution to all the world’s spiritual ills. But I can offer you some pointers on things you can do for yourself and your loved ones.
First you must recognize that there is a problem: you cannot deal with spiritual pollution until you acknowledge that it exists. If you are reading this essay there is a good chance you’re ready to take that step. Perhaps you are still on the fence. You know in your heart and in your gut that something is very wrong, but you’re not quite ready to entertain silly superstitions about invisible magic muck. Taboos, shunning, and charges of impiety evoke images of theocratic dystopias. Surely we’re far too civilized for such nonsense. We know “Gods” are just symbols and “miasma” merely a convenient metaphor for our personal distastes.
I will not seek to dissuade you from those preconceptions. I will simply ask that you engage briefly in what Coleridge called “the willing suspension of disbelief.” Imagine that miasma is a real and tangible thing and that your vague disquiet is a healthy response to being in the presence of spiritual pollution. Now follow that thought to its logical conclusions. What are its ramifications and what are your possible responses? Nothing is required save a few minutes of your time: you may conclude this whole idea is nonsense and be none the poorer for your efforts. Or you may decide this hypothesis fits the facts better than any of the other available explanations.
While you might at first feel overwhelmed, dealing with miasma on a daily basis is actually relatively simple. Washing your head, throat, breast, solar plexus and genital area with clean water while offering a prayer to your Gods is a good way to begin and end your day. You can even make it part of your morning and evening hygiene routine: comb your hair, cleanse yourself before your Deities, then brush your teeth. Five to ten minutes a day should be enough to wash away the miasma accrued in daily living — and you should start seeing positive effects within a few days of starting this regimen.
Hands of Fatima against evil djinn, crosses and Holy Water against demons, iron against malevolent Fae, rue and salt against the hungry dead — there are many myths affirming the protective power of holy objects. Thor’s Hammers and pentagrams are more than fashion statements: properly blessed and regularly cleaned, your sacred jewelry can be a powerful shield against miasma. Mojo bags, packets containing herbs, charms and other objects, can be made to shield the wearer : in Thai Buddhism a white sai sin thread bracelet conveys protection and grace. There are as many ways of spiritual shielding as they are traditions: availing yourself of them will help you engage more safely with civilization and its discontentment.
Do you feel vaguely nauseated and uneasy around a person, place or situation? Do you get a sense of wrongness, an air of nastiness, an aura of (for lack of a better word) yecccch? You may very well be in the presence of miasma. First impressions are frequently correct: instinct often knows immediately while reason lags behind. Instead of tripping over yourself to overcome your prejudices, maintain a polite distance until you can better suss things out. If you find yourself unable to escape miasma, spend more time on cleansings and protections until such time as the situation changes or you can change your situation. Intuition, like everything else, gets stronger with regular use: as you rely more on your gut you will find your instincts grow sharper and your hunches more reliable.
With this increasing sensitivity, you may find yourself growing increasingly uncomfortable with things that never bothered you before. Pietas involves right relationships between the individual and family, community and Gods — and as you move into that right relationship you will soon realize how far our culture has moved away from that alignment and into a state of Impietas. You won’t lose your sense of humor or become a Puritanical crusader for “decency” — but you may well find your sense of aesthetics changing for the better and your demands for quality entertainment more stringent.
There are definitely situations where more intensive measures might be required. When a group of devout Hindus were accidentally served beef samosas at an Edison, New Jersey restaurant they sued to recoup the costs of a thirty-day purification ceremony required by their faith. The ways by which one can become contaminated by miasma vary between traditions (although almost all recognize the need for purification after being in the presence of birth, death or transgression): so too do the means by which one is cleansed. But for most people the regimen described above will be sufficient for dealing with the miasma encountered in everyday life.