Clean Tent Ceremony for Imbolc by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie

The Clean Tent ritual[1] is done among the Samoyed peoples of northern Siberia. It is a group ritual invoking blessing and protection for each of the participants, traditionally all the inhabitants of a camp or village. You may choose for whom this work will be done.

This is best done outside but can be modified for indoors. Needed in your circle:

Fire – it can be in a cauldron
A mound of dirt
5 – 2″ strips of ribbon and a 3″ red cord
Rocks to create a circle
2 large rocks for gate in the South
Pitcher of milk and ladle
Your drum if you wish
Any vows you wish to make

This ceremony is normally be done during what is called the White Moon.  This is the lunar cycle closest to the time of Imbolc. It also coincides with the Chinese New Year.  It is called the Clean Tent Ceremony because traditionally a special tent is erected for the ritual. In some cases, this ritual is performed outside using a stone circle to enclose the ritual space in lieu of the tent, which is what you will do.

The White Moon is a time of spiritual cleansing, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  It is the beginning of the spring just as Imbolc is ours.  Because it is a new beginning, and because often a time to speak vows for the coming year. You will then ritually bind bad luck and any future illness, drive those spirits away with drumming and a stomp dance.  You will take a journey to ask the spirits for their blessings and to ask about the welfare of the community for the coming year. Perhaps a card reading would work here.

You will have five strips of ribbon, each about two inches long, and a piece of red cord about three inches long. These will be used for the binding part of the ceremony. You will need to keep these strips of ribbon so that they will be handy when it is time to use them. At the center of your ritual space, you should have a fire.

Take the rocks and create your ritual space by placing the rocks to mark the boundaries of your Circle.  Two large rocks will mark the “Gate,” the entrance on the southern side of the ritual circle.

Once the Circle is cast, the two gate stones can be placed.

The chief elements of the imagery used in the Clean Tent ritual are the “Center”, the World Tree, the Mound, the Gate, and Pole Star. You will enter through the Gate.  The fire is your Center.  In our Upper-world journey, you will climb nine branches of the World Tree, where at the top you will find the entrance to the upper world, which is marked by the Pole Star.

Create a mound of dirt and a stone in the center, which in Mongolia is called an ongon, which is like an altar and will be a resting place for the spirits you call in this night.

Consecrating the Circle

Walk around your Circle to cast it, pouring milk at each of the four quarters and then in the center, on the mound.

Call the Ancestors and helping spirits

Call upon the ancestors and your helping spirits to help in the work to be done.

This symbolic space will be cleansed by the spirits of all negative thoughts and influences. As you drum, see that the sound of the drumming is driving away all bad things that may have come with them into the circle.

The Binding

In this part of the ceremony, you are going to use of strips of ribbon. The strips represent potential diseases that you could suffer over the next year. Also, they may represent any forms of negativity and/or bad luck.

The red of the binding ribbon is a power color and represents the power of the spirits being invoked to bind up these diseases and negative influences. Take time now to visualize these negative things in each of the strips of cloth.  When you are ready, take the red cord and tie up the five strips with three knots. Do this tying solemnly and meditatively, thinking carefully about the symbolism of the action and imagining yourself as being in perfect health.

Once the little bundle has been made, place it near the fire.

Walk around your Circle three times, imagining that you are inside a tent.  Smell the smoke of the fire.

Say these words …

Spirits of the Ancestors, helping spirits who have joined with me this night, Bring your power into this binding.  Join me as I dance and drum to drive away bad things from my life.

As you drum and dance – SEE these negative influences fleeing from our sight!!!  As you drum, stomp your feet upon the ground.  Go around three times and then take a seat.

Upper-World Journey – The upper-world journey ascending the World Tree.

The purpose of the journey is to climb to the Upper World to speak with your helping spirits and ask if they have anything to tell you about the coming year. Be sure that when you get to the top that, in your own mind, you ask them to speak to you and give you any information that will be for you or your community to help in the coming year.

In the center of the tent is the fire.  The fire is the center of the universe.  It is representative of the great creative potential of the Goddess.  Smoke from the fire rises to the top of the tent out of which you might view the Pole Star. I want you to imagine that you are working on behalf of your own tribe, and you are going to the upper world to bring blessing for all in the community.

As you are now a shaman, are you wearing a costume?  What does it look like?  Do you have helpers with you?  An animal or bird spirit perhaps? Can you feel the warmth of the fire and smell its smoke? Imagine the smoke drifting upward, toward the smoke hole at the top of the tent. See yourself sitting by the fire, ready to climb upward.

Look at the fire again and in your mind’s eye, see a great tree ascend from the fire.  It is tall and magnificent, reaching toward the sky. It is so tall that it reaches the heavens.  It has nine branches that are like steps that will bring you to its very top when you climb it (imagine a pine tree, with its step-like layers of branches). As you ascend you will feel the heaviness of physical existence fall away; you will feel ever lighter and more ecstatic with each level.

When you step up to the first branch, you step out of present reality. You are in the time of the ancestors, following in the foot- steps of the ancient shamans. You become one with all shamans who have come before. You realize you are traveling with great power as all the helper spirits cluster like birds in the branches around you.

When you ascend to the second branch, you are liberated from all concerns, all worries, all regrets, for now and from this time onward, as you work as a shaman. Your mind becomes more and more focused.

When you reach the third branch, your mind becomes like a point, directed toward the intention with which you make the journey. You may experience a sudden flash of insight about what your life purpose is, about why you were called to be a shaman. Pause here for a couple of minutes (of journey time, not real time). Feel the roughness of the bark under your fingers, smell the fragrance of the forest, feel the pulsing of life through the trunk as you wrap your arms around it.

The fourth branch brings greater lightness and ecstasy. Visualize peace and happiness in your life, in your community, in the entire world.

On the fifth branch all fear, illness, and danger are swept away for you and for all who travel with you. All these things have been sent far away or bound up for an entire year by the power of Mother Earth and the spirits. You suddenly notice that your helper spirits are singing like birds.

On the sixth branch, all illusion of time, distance, and separation disappears. The tree you are climbing is the center of all existence. Indeed, from here you can go to any time or place or potential reality. Your sense of being in a physical body seems to fall away and you are incredibly light and luminous. Listen to the rustle of the wind through the branches of the tree.  Suddenly you hear a flock of geese flying by, honking, as they seem to be flying upward, leading the way.

On the seventh branch the foliage is thinner and you can look outward to the sky. The heavens seem to slope steeply upward toward a hole above you, like the walls of the tent. You feel as if you are a bird, and you spread your wings and hop lightly upward to the eighth branch.

When you reach the eighth branch you see a great light in the sky, large as a full moon. It illuminates the branches of the tree with a silvery light. This is the polestar, the stake of heaven. You fly past it, reaching the ninth branch at the top of the tree.

Here you are in a fully ecstatic state. You and your spirits are clustered together, and some have come toward you. When you are on the ninth branch you realize that you have reached the hole in the sky, the gate to the upper world. It is like the smoke hole of the tent.

Stand up and look through the hole to the place beyond the heavens. Is it day or night? Is it clear or cloudy?

It is now time to travel to the upper-world spirits and ask blessing for the community. Go on your journey and follow as it leads you.

You will know when it is time to return. Climb down the tree and come back into your space. When you are ready, open your eyes and look around.

You may wish to journal now to record any information your received.

If you wish to make any vows, now is a good time.

You may now retrieve your bundle from the center of our Circle.  Keep it for the coming year, in a safe space in your home.

Give thanks to the Goddess, the spirits of our ancestors, our helping spirits, and the Elements for their help this night.

Blessed Goddess of the coming springtime, thank you for inspiring me to make my vows for the coming year and thank you for listening with love. I am grateful for your guidance and protection this night and for coming down off the mountain and dancing with me on this beautiful Earth.  Blessed Be

You could possibly make a recording of this journey for yourself and then listen as you travel.


[1] Sarangerel, Chosen by the Spirits, Destiny Books, Rochester, VT, 2001.

Deanne Quarrie
, D. Min., also known as Bendis, is a Priestess of The Goddess, and author of six books. She is the founder of the Apple Branch – A Dianic Tradition and the Liminal Thealogical Seminary where she offers study in five paths.  In 2002 she created Global Goddess; a worldwide organization open to all women who honor some form of the divine feminine. Deanne is a priestess hierophant within the Fellowship of Isis. Her most recent work, dedicated to Hekate, is the creation of a group practice called Hekate’s Tribe, open to all genders. It is available in Austin, Texas as well as online. Those who come to Hekate’s Tribe may also enroll in the master’s degree program within the Seminary. This creation brings Deanne full circle after dedicating her work to Hekate in 1986.

Categories: Goddess, Goddess Spirituality, Ritual, Sacred Space, Seasons

Tags: , , , ,

9 replies

  1. It fascinates that every culture seems to have a ritual for this turning of the wheel – mid winter is a special time – In my mind I call this “First Light”. Merwin’s poem captures something of what’s to come.
    To the New Year

    With what stillness at last
    you appear in the valley
    your first sunlight reaching down
    to touch the tips of a few
    high leaves that do not stir
    as though they had not noticed
    and did not know you at all
    then the voice of a dove calls
    from far away in itself
    to the hush of the morning

    so this is the sound of you
    here and now whether or not
    anyone hears it this is
    where we have come with our age
    our knowledge such as it is
    and our hopes such as they are
    invisible before us

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I wonder if you can tell us more about Sarangerel. Does she suggest that the rituals of the Sami people can and should be practiced by non-Samis? Does she have permission from her teachers for this? The reason I ask is that there has been a lot of controversy over the issue of non-indigenous people “appropriating” indigenous rituals. My teacher Carol Lee Sanchez who had roots in the Laguna Pueblo told me that it is fine with her for non-Indians to learn to love nature from Indians. “Where else would you learn that?” she once said ironically. But she also said that non-Indians should not use Indian rituals, use Indian languages in ritual, or wear feathers. What are your thoughts on this, Deanne?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sangaral does not address this issue in her books – at least I don’t recall that. For myself, truly little of what I wrote here comes from her book. For example – the concept of a tent being the home as compared to our house or apartment that we sweep out at Imbolc. The one thing that is theirs – the ongon which holds the spirit of the deity after calling it. This tradition is very much like that in Voodoo where a vase or a jar is used. Then the placing of the rocks, that comes from my personal practice. The pole in the center of the tent does represent a “world tree” and I put nine branches on it when it became a tree, I suppose that came from my studies in Seidr. Again, the guided journey is mine. The name “Clean Tent” and when it happens, in February, was for me, a trigger to create something of it because it reminded me of Imbolc (Not everyone is indigenous when they practice that either!) Like many I have mixed feelings about what is appropriation. I think if I had called this a replica of a Clean Tent ceremony and said that I was trained by a Siberian shaman to do it – that is appropriation. As for feathers – I wear them and I did not get that from a Native American. I wear them because the birds the feathers came from gave them to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. That was a pretty cool and informative article. Thank you for sharing.


  4. I feel very strongly that we must NOT appropriate Indigenous rituals…. We can learn much from indigenous people but taking their rituals and using them as our own seems/ feel very disrespectful to me especially because we treat the actual people horrendously. We even stole their eagle – appropriating it as the as American bird – we missed the obvious – to Native people the eagle is a spiritual power – for us its the opposite corporate POWER-

    Liked by 1 person

    • Is there something in this ritual that I have written, Sara, that you believe is appropriated? If not, a comment to that affect would seem called for. As I wrote above – nothing I wrote was appropriated. What I write was triggered by my reading of their Clean Tent rite. To be honest, it hurts my feelings that you would think that.


  5. Brava! Excellent! I don’t do elaborate rituals like this anymore, but this one sounds beautiful and sublime. I especially like what I call setting the intention: “The White Moon is a time of spiritual cleansing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. It is the beginning of the spring just as Imbolc is ours. Because it is a new beginning, and because often a time to speak vows for the coming year.”

    At the same time, however, I too wonder if it’s right (especially in today’s world of systemic racism) to use such a ritual as this. I’m wondering if we can adjust such a climb up what I see as the Tree of Life to the principles and practices of their own traditions and faith and rise into the upper world to see what’s really going on down here. We have enormous need these days for clear vision. And for integrity. I think we can borrow ideas, but not whole rituals.

    Blessed be.


    • So, Barbara – do you think I was appropriating here? Are you familiar with a Clean Tent ritual? Do you know for a fact that anything I have written actually occurs in a Clean Tent ritual? Personally, bringing up appropriation after anyone’s article is simply “mean girl” behavior. If you do bring it up, you really need to make sure your comments aren’t directed to the author or what was just written.


  6. I wish it to be known that I no longer write for this publication because even though asking the owners to moderators to remove inferences to appropriation – it was not done and continued. Nothing in my artice or my ritual was appropriated, borrowed. The entire ritual was of my own creation. I am very disappointed in those whomanagrte Beminism and Religion. I willnot risk being attacked again.


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