One of the rituals that most Witches and Pagans deal with at some time in their lives (and usually several times!) is house or apartment blessing. I have compiled some of my thoughts on the matter that have come out of doing and helping others to do such rituals and from discussing our ideas about such rituals with friends.
Leaving the old home
When leaving one's old home there are traditions that in order to bring the luck and friendly ancestor/spirits correctly into the new home, one should bring water, salt and bread from the old home. I have heard it speculated that this was actually a practical thing Ð the water at the new home might have had unfriendly bacteria and by having a buffer of old water, you had a chance to get used to the new by washing fruit in it and such.
If you have had an explicit ancestor/spirit altar in your home, you should do a ritual dismantling, explaining to the ancestors and friendly spirits that you are moving and that they are welcome to join the move. You might reserve an item from the altar to travel with you (rather than being packed) for them to follow.
If one is lucky enough to have time to get into the new place before the furniture arrives, a thorough cleaning with new broom is in order. It is good to make up little cantrips to accompany the work - 'Dust and grime, it is your time, We banish you with broom and rhyme', 'Out and down into the ground and never rise again, again, again', 'Sweep clean, sweep clean, bring to me my favorite dream', and such.
There are also various floorwashes and herbal cleansing mixes that can be used to clean away any unwanted vibes from the previous tenants. A washing mix I use is salt and rosemary. "Where rosemary grows the Lady rules" as the old saying goes!
Putting a bowl of water with a camphor tears in every room (and opening all the windows) is another good way to chase out any bad influences. I usually use the broom to sweep the ill will and bad vibes out after floating the tears. This is one chant for this action:
"All anger, fear and evil banished be,
And by my will of ill stay free
Get out, get out, hear my mighty shout
Get out, get out get out! Begone!!!!!
And lastly, another suggestion is to make noise! Clang pans, ring a bell, drum, play zills or other noise (even play your favorite loud music) and banish all unwanted influences. If you have more than one person doing the pre-moving ritual - do everything!
Once the house is clean, don't just leave! A vacuum can attract other energies. So after you have cleaned you should do at least some invocation to keep the house clean until you are ready to do the formal house blessing. Putting up a shield around the house, "Avante, avante! Malificum defense, honi soi qui mal y pense" and leaving a bowl of milk or liquor for the friendly spirits (depending on your tradition!) should suffice.
Formal house blessing ritual
Once you have moved in, it is time to do a ritual with all members of the household and any others you wish to invite. There are quite a number of traditions around the blessing of houses and you can decide which ones are appropriate for your home.
Blessing the inside
Most commonly the inside of the home is blessed. This blessing often takes the form of carrying all four elements through the house and then inviting the God/desses and spirits and ancestors in. Obviously this can be very elaborate! Each person in the procession around the home should have a job to do Ð anoint, cense, asperge, sweep, make noise, chant, carry something, whatever! Even the smallest members of the family should have the opportunity to help protect and bless their new home.
I generally anoint all openings (windows, doors, electrical outlets) with a pentacle or protective sigil using salt water or charging bowl water. The person doing this sealing might chant:
"Salt and sea of ill stay free
Fire and air draw all that is fair
Around and around it shall be as sound
As it were bound."
The walls and floors are censed and asperged. A lighted candle is carried. If an ancestor/spirit object has been carried from the old house, it should also be carried in this procession. There are many different chants to be sung in this procession in our community, but I would like to share one with which Prudence Priest gifted me for the blessing my home.
"Safe and warm, free from harm
Home, home, home, home
Lady Bright, Lord of Light
Give your blessings here" (Prudence Priest)
Blessing the outside/Beating the bounds
If one is in a free-standing house rather than an apartment or townhouse it is possible to bless the outside of the house as well. This is done either at the perimeter of the property (beating the bounds) or at the actual walls of the home.
If the house has particularly bad vibes, you may want to banish before you bless the outside. Here is a method by my friend Columbine. Take a broom and sweep down the front steps, and then sweep the outside walls chanting a banishing, such as:
Out and down into the ground
To be washed away by the rain
What's gone before is here no more
And won't return again.
Follow your course back to your source
And bring no harm to any
What we decide shall here abide
The rest shall now go free. (Columbine)
Most homes don't need banishing outside as well as in Ð simply blessing the house or noting the bounds of your property is sufficient. Do a procession similar to that done inside the house Ð bless with elements, show the family spirits how far their protection should extend and generally claim the property as your home.
Burying luck objects
There is a tradition of burying objects under the threshold that signify the things which one wants to have in the home. Very few of us, however, have dirt right at our threshold or even front steps these days and so a variation is to have a luck box just inside the door. In either case, some objects to consider are Ð a coin for prosperity, a flower for love, a piece of last year's Yule log to protect against fire, a fruit pit for hospitality, various kinds of stones which have meaning for you, good wishes written on paper, etc. Once you have your collection of objects together, bless them to their purpose and place them either under the threshold or near it. We have a hollow Lar (house guardian) who hangs on the wall beside our front door to hold our luck objects. If the door has a wide lintel, they can be placed there.
Dedicating a Family altar
The hearth was long considered the center of the household and the family altar most often resides there. I have read that the ancient Celts allowed no-one outside the family to approach the hearth because it was such a sacred place. So what is a modern hearth? I consider it to be the kitchen. Even if one has a fireplace, it is not generally the center of the home the way the stove is - a place of nourishment and a gathering place for the family.
This is where the ancestor/spirit objects and those things which are central to you should reside. If you have brought an object from the altar in your old home, place it first in this ritual. Choose a shelf or location for the altar. Call in your ancestors and house spirits and tell them that this is your new hearth. Introduce all the people (and pets) of the household at the altar (and if anyone moves in later or is born to the house they should likewise be introduced). We generally dedicate this altar to family and to hospitality. This is the center of sharing and nourishment for the house. Family disputes can also be brought to this altar - making your case in front of the ancestors in a place dedicated to sharing often makes resolution easier.
Renewing the blessing
All the ritual detailed above is aimed at setting up your new home as a safe and loving place for you and your family. It is a good idea to have a time of year - either the anniversary of your move, or more usually sometime in the spring - when you rededicate and renew your protections and blessings. Spring, with its tradition of Spring Cleaning, is a time frequently chosen. After the cleaning, do a procession through the house and renew the objects at your threshold. Concentrate on having the home continue as a place of safety and joy for you and your family.
Having your home cleansed and blessed will make the space truly your own - free of any energies left by previous tenants. Setting up bounds and shields can help protect your house from intruders or influences that mean you harm. It is the first step in turning a new space into a home. May all your homes be blessed!
reprinted from The Witches Trine, Vol. 6, no. 3,
© Rowan Fairgrove 1996