Thursday, August 2, 2018

What Miasma Is and Isn't

Within the Hellenic religion, there has always existed the concept of miasma, which literally means "pollution," and the dire need to avoid it is always stressed. However, in my view, I think some people can go too far with the fear, almost turning it into a kind of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. So in this post, I want to talk about the concept and how I view it.

Miasma is physical and spiritual contamination that can work against your connect with the Gods. This can include everything from physical dirt and bodily fluids, to living a negative life in general. It can even include hubris. This is why Hellenics take steps to remain humble and respectful before the Gods, and to properly cleanse themselves and their environment before rituals. Being dirty, especially in a worship or sacred space, can not only hinder your Divine connection, but also be disrespectful or an affront to the Gods. This is why altars were placed outside of temples in ancient times. A temple was a house of the God, and to get it dirty or messy was not allowed. A temple wasn't even a place for congregations to gather inside. I also place the altar to my own, small indoor temple outside of the actual holy space and structure, as you can see from the picture on the left. Before rites, I will take a shower and put on clean clothes, and under no circumstances will I allow any kind of contaminant inside the temple area. If such a disaster happens to take place, it should be immediately cleaned, cleansed, and a sacrifice made to the Gods that the structure honors.

However, I think some people have taken the concept of miasma to a place it was never intended to go. I've heard it said that you can actually create miasma if you don't preform a ritual a certain way or worship in a certain format. Miasma, in this case, goes far beyond obvious impurities, and tries to enter the realm of religious dictation, using fear to control the direction of someone's personal spirituality. If you know anything about ancient Greece, you know that each city-state practiced differently. There was no universal consensus among all Hellenes on this matter. Each region had their own calendars, festivals, Patron Gods, and even myths. They were united in their belief in the Greek Gods, but not so much in their ways of practice or worldviews. Hesiod said that if you happen to come across a sacrifice, you may incur the God's wrath if you criticize it. In this way, we are basically told to not find fault with how others worship, and that the Gods will accept one form the same as they will another. This isn't miasma. 

In the Goodness of the Gods,
Chris Aldridge.

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