Home as Temple

We’ve all heard the old saying, “Your body is your temple.” As a Pagan, my home is also my temple, as it has been for countless other Pagans through the ages.

In ancient Rome, the home was the primary place of worship. There were temples – both state run, like the temple of Vesta and the domicile of her virgins; and also the temples of the various cults from around the empire. However, daily worship was conducted in the home: before the lararium and in the kitchens of every residence.

The ladies of the household were responsible for ensuring the fire was always burning in honor of Vesta. The male head of household honored the spirit of the family – the genius. A variety of other household gods were honored: the lares were the family ancestors, but later (for patrician families) included patron deities. Penates were protectors of the household, especially the pantry or larder. There were spirits of the door, the door hinges, the threshold, the land or location, and more. Daily rituals honored the gods, the household and family spirits with prayer, offerings of food, wine, oil, milk, salt and water.

These rituals are not much different than those in the thousands of Hindu households in India. Daily devotion and ritual, or puja, are performed to honor the family’s patron deities and ask for their blessings, protection and guidance.

The home is also the primary place of worship for modern Pagans. When the earliest covens, circles and study groups were forming in the 1960’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s, they were almost exclusively held in the living room of one of the members. Few of us have the resources – either personally or communally to provide for a separate and independent temple or place of worship. Even were we to develop the resources to build temples for Pagan worship, our structures are much different from those of the monotheisms as we are all clergy: there are no parishioners or congregants in Pagan religion.

Most people, if the organization and home economics experts are to be believed, rush around for an hour trying to hide messes and make common areas look presentable before company arrives.  Even I have assisted in many a frenzied cleaning spree hours before a ritual, sabbat or other religious event was to occur in someone’s home.

A few things happened however, to make me rethink how I was managing my household. I quickly came to the conclusion that I was not being respectful of my home, my belongings or myself – especially myself. We seldom entertained at home when I was growing up, and when we did, I never felt comfortable having people in the house. I never felt relaxed and fretted constantly about my guests’ comfort. Plus, by the time I was done helping my mother and siblings scrub the entire house before our friends arrived, I was too tired to really enjoy their company.

So even though I still retain a certain discomfort with having people over, my household is home to many cultures and many deities. There are the Gods of my heritage, the Gods of my partner’s heritage, and the Gods that call to me. Additionally, there are the household Gods, our beloved ancestors, the spirits of the land and the little people. Why was it okay to have a home in disarray if people weren’t coming over? I already had a house full of Gods and Goddesses – didn’t they deserve to be shown the same deference and respect I would show to human guests?

I had read many blogs, sites and books on home organization and cleaning. It wasn’t until I found the FlyLady that I was truly blessed with a program that works. I went all in and cleaned my home, ceiling to floor in a little less than two weeks.

Part of the reason it took me so little time was because for about five years previously, we had been making a concerted effort to declutter our home. We had sold, given away or thrown out hundreds of things by then – so all I really had to do was whip out the all-purpose cleaner and get to work.

I treat housework as though it were a sacrament, a sacred ritual of purification. I crank up inspiring music that I can sing along with and sometimes dance to, I use cleaning products with oils consecrated to particular purposes mixed in. My cleaning tools are consecrated – my vacuum cleaner, duster, mop, and especially my broom are all tools in the art of magical housekeeping. I talk to my ancestors, commune with my favorite household Goddess, Hestia. I offer up my sweat in joyous dedication – how blessed I am to have a home to clean!

When I set house wards, I’m not just putting lipstick on a pig – the house is both physically and spiritually clean. Energy flows better and it is more abundant. I find I am no longer wasting time on distractions – focus is more easily achieved. And when I am done, and my home sparkles, I can light candles for my ancestors and for my Gods and feel proud to offer them hospitality in our home. And when beloved coven members come to the house to meet, I can spend my energy preparing a pot of tea and fully participate in our conversation.

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