A few days ago, a Greek friend told me she was going to bring holy water from a church so that we could bless my house. Ever since I moved to my new apartment in Heraklion, I have intended to do a house blessing, following rituals I learned from Z Budapest. But with unpacking and settling in interrupted by illness, I never got around to it. I did burn frankincense early on to clear out vibes left by the previous inhabitants of my space, but nothing more. I have slowly made the house a home, but I have been waiting for the renovations to be finished before doing a final blessing. As I still anticipate remodeling the kitchen island, I did not proceed.
Before my friend arrived, I incensed the house again, musing that now that I have finished my chemotherapy and am on the road to recovery, it is high time to clear out all the lingering feelings and memories of the time I was very ill. When my friend arrived bearing a small plastic bag filled with water from a church spring, she asked if she could water the plants on my balcony. I had watered them the day before, but I didn’t mention that.
Announcing that she loved to play with water, she doused the plants, then hosed the balcony tiles and sprayed the windows which were covered with dust following a recent dirty rain. As there are balconies surrounding all of my rooms, that completed the cleansing. Watering the plants signaled the renewal of life.
When all of that was done, and after she finished a cappuccino, I showed my friend the blue bowl that held the holy water. She picked a sprig of marjoram from one of my pots and handed it to me, stating that I would use it to sprinkle the holy water around the house while she recited the Pistevo (“I believe in one God the Father Almighty . . .”). She asked me if I knew the prayer, and I said, “Yes, but not in Greek.”
There might have been a time when I would have added, “I don’t believe in it, can’t we say something else?” But during my illness I have accepted help from every source that is offered. When I asked for help at Palani, I expected my friend the nun to bless me in the name of the Panagia and the Holy Myrtle Tree, but she invoked the Holy Trinity. I said nothing. A good friend sends me the healing energy of the blue Buddha, another male figure (though she claims the energy is not male), and I gratefully accept that too.
While I sprinkled holy water in every room and every nook and cranny of the apartment, my friend recited the Pistevo, half under her breath. I was especially concerned to cleanse the bedroom and the bed where I lain when I was most ill. I also opened the front door and sprinkled the threshold to protect the entrance to my home. As we finished in the kitchen, my friend said, “And now the most important thing,” pointing to my head. I sprinkled holy water on my head and lifted up my shirt so I could sprinkle the healing water in the places where the cancer had formed. I also sprinkled my friend, who is a survivor of a nearly fatal heart attack, liberally.
There was some water left and my friend told me to continue the blessing the next day.
After my friend left, I realized we had performed this cleansing and healing ritual on the eve of the Spring Equinox. Spring cleaning is an important part of the rituals welcoming the rebirth of nature in spring. My friend had chosen a very auspicious time to bless my house and my body for the healing that will continue as spring springs forth.
Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who lives in Heraklion, Crete. Carol’s recent book is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.
Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions