‘Dost thou know how to ask, dost thou know how to offer,
dost thou know how to send, dost thou know how to spend?”
– Havamal, verse 143
Something we have often been asked for is a simple ‘how-to’ for regular devotional offerings / observances. There are certainly a few of these out there for various Indo-European religions – but some of them are … rather arcane, and others seem to have been put together in a questionable manner. Often we are looking at conjecture that is academically intriguing – but rather lacking in terms of what an ordinary devotee might be able (or advised) to do in their own life and home.
Now, I am a Hindu – and so of course I am a bit ‘biased’ by familiarity and experience here. But it would seem to me that as the elements involved in a very basic Hindu worship have been demonstrably working for us for thousands of years, are significantly clearly resonant with particular practices we find attested elsewhere in the Indo-European sphere, and – at least in my personal experience – are indeed positively received by The Gods … this constitutes a logical place for us to begin. It is possible that we may look at more direct correlations between what follows and other Indo-European spheres’ ‘home piety’ approaches or ‘reverse engineer’ these for, say, Hellenic or Nordic use in the appropriate liturgical languages at some future point. I shall, however, include a few brief annotations to demonstrate the essential (pan-)Indo-European character of various elements.
For reasons of length, this outlining is going to be in several parts. This, the first one, looks at some of the ‘foundational’ elements and the broad overarching structure. Think of it as an outline or an overview rather than an instruction manual. Explaining what things are and *why* they are in our ritualine context. As it is my belief that once people understand *why* it is that we do various things, they’ll be much more likely to actually give them a go. And it’ll all make much more insta-intuitive sense when it comes to the actual ritual instruction itself.
Subsequent installments shall look in greater detail at particular components and provide a hopefully easy-to-follow walkthrough of how to actually perform the rite in question replete with the actual liturgical elements (mantras, verses, operative phrases etc.) required to do so. I initially had these included in this piece itself, but especially once translation and commentary on them was added, it … got a bit unwieldy.
One important observation to be made here is that this rite I am describing the fundaments of is a ‘Guest Worship’ approach – wherein the God is Invited to come to our home (or ritual site) and treated accordingly. In situations wherein, for instance, one is going to a Temple (i.e. one is being a guest in the *Gods’* House) various elements may be rather different.
It is also perhaps rather important to note that even though we may lack *direct* attestation for Guest-Worship as a ritual of this type in some other Indo-European spheres – we *can* still reasonably infer it from those clades’ accompanying mythological canons. Which tend to feature as a fairly universal thing, the notion of a God or Gods turning up (often in disguise) and partaking of the Sacred Hospitality … and, because that is the nature of these myths (particularly for the Greeks), finding it wanting in some particular, following by Doom (in the old sense – Judgement) being unfurled upon the improper host. A grand example of this being the course of the Grimnismal – wherein Odin comes in the guise of a wanderer to the court of Geirroth … who promptly imprisons Him between two fires (we might be tempted to presume an archaic Indo-European version of the tale wherein He was in fact *invoked* from a fire, as would be entirely logical for the relevant Indo-European religious metaphysics) and denies Him the proper service and sustenance for a number of nights running – even torturing Him! Young Agnarr, however, does the opposite – and earns quite the boons for his contribution of a horn of mead to the mighty God. Which leads to Agnarr being taught by the High One Himself various secrets and given God-granted mantle of rulership over the Goths … whilst Geirroth dies by ‘mysteriously’ tripping and falling upon his own sword just as soon as Odin reveals His true identity at the very end of the poem.
As the verses themselves put it:
“Heill skaltu, Agnarr, alls þik heilan biðr
eins drykkjar þú skalt aldrigi
betri gjöld geta.”
“Hail to thee, Agnar! | for hailed thou art
By the voice of Veratyr;
For a single drink | shalt thou never receive
A greater gift as reward.”
Proper treatment of one’s (God-)Guest, it seems, can have life-changing consequences !
The Most Important Consideration:
The first thing we must discuss is the ‘mindset’ involved in even these simple acts. You are not simply putting some substances in a spot, saying some ‘magic words’, and hoping for the best. Piety, as I have often observed, is not some kind of ‘cosmic vending machine’. Instead, the best way to think of it is that you are entertaining visiting Royalty. Because that is, quite literally, how we do things – even the term for the individual ritual act, Upachara, effectively means ‘entertaining’, ‘attending to’ in the sense of looking after one’s Guest(s).
Provided that this essential understanding is kept in mind – much of the rest, I suspect, can intuitively flow from same.
Set & Setting:
Prior to the beginning of the ritual it is necessary to prepare a space within which to conduct it. This should be a clean environment (the local Indo-European sphere’s perceptions of what counts as ‘clean’ may vary somewhat – but there are some pretty foundationally consistent elements around this, many of which are just simply plain common sense); and ideally one where one will not be disturbed. I would also recommend that if one is going to be burning things, that awareness is maintained about smoke alarms etc. – and the risk of singeing one’s carpet if embers or sparks go in unpredictable directions. Ideally, there would be a raised flat surface – a shelf, a table, a pedestal – upon which one can place the representation(s) that shall be standing for the Deity or Deities; and with this being clear of any other elements.
In terms of the representations themselves, I am aware that not everybody has an elaborate home collection of statuettes. Simple ones are not hard to find online or even in local Indian grocers (here in New Zealand, at least – it may be different overseas); for other Indo-European traditions, I have no doubt that it is reasonably straightforward to find iconographic depictions of varying quality with the click of a mouse – although how *accurate* some of these are, is another matter. In a pinch, it is *also* possible to print out an image of the Deity and laminate the paper (this is important both to give it a certain ‘permanence’ beyond mere paper printout; and also because in more involved ritual application we do, in fact, wind up directly applying particular pastes or powders to the image).
Purification & Cleanliness:
Now, the absolute first step (once a ritual space, a home shrine is set up) is the Purification. Of you. So have a shower – and, in the Hindu understanding, pay particular attention to washing your hair (it’s where ‘sin’ or ‘impurity’ is supposed to build up).
This is not merely a Hindu belief – we find quite pointed commentary upon this matter in archaic Ancient Greek texts.
Per Hesiod: “Never pour a libation of sparkling wine to Zeus after dawn with unwashen hands, nor to others of the deathless Gods; else They do not hear your prayers but spit them back.” [from ‘Works And Days’]
Or, per Homer: “I dare not make a drink-offering to Zeus with unwashed hands; one who is bespattered with blood and filth may not pray to the son of Kronos.”
There is quite a bit which could be said upon how to do ritual purity for its greatest and most proper attainment in a Hindu context … but as we’re just doing a *brief* guide here, we’ll stick to the absolute basics.
Having had your shower, do a check to make sure the ritual space is also clean; and that any physical implements you’ll be utilizing are likewise clean – it is also a good idea to check any substances (particularly foodstuffs) that you are going to be making offerings with, likewise.
The next step is to wash your hands, and to take a handful of water in your right hand. This begins the Achamana – ‘Rinsing’. This may also be preceded via an invocation of the Sacred Rivers – which, as bathing in these can wash away all manner of impurities (a situation also somewhat visible There are various traditions about what comes next – in some, the water is drunk; in others, it is dispersed onto the ground. In both cases, chanting of a purificationary verse is undertaken concurrent with this.
The purpose of this is not merely to cleanse / clean / purify the body – and the right hand that shall be doing much of the operative work ; but also to facilitate cleaning the *mind* as well. Some effort should be undertaken to recall why you’re doing what you’re doing (that is to say – active piety as Divine Service; and, where applicable, focus upon a particular objective for the rite) and Whom you are doing these things for.
Purity & Purification Of Purpose:
This ‘purpose-orientation’ [ Sankalpa ] is a necessary ‘centering’ of your mind – and carries forward the work of physical purification into the mental sphere. After all, distracting thoughts may cause obstacles to the proper performance of the rite ; and in order to maintain appropriate composure and focus, having a clear (i.e. un-cluttered / contaminated / obscurated) sense of what you are doing is an eminently good call. Think of it like ‘meditation’ – except with the acts that you’ll be undertaking being how the meditation is actualized rather than closing your eyes and focusing upon breath (although in a more elaborate Puja, there is also a stage of breath-control as part of this).
In terms of that ‘purpose’ approach – there is something of a spectrum between the more pure ‘Bhakti’ devotion, and what we might term the ‘Do Ut Des’ [‘I Give So That You Might Give’] ‘ritual exchange’ undertaking. Although both have their place, and it is rarely completely either one or the other. The Sanskrit formulation of that Latin ‘Do Ut Des’, as a point of interest, is ‘Dehi Me, Dadami Te’ – and may be found in direct quotation in, for instance, both major recensions of the Yajurveda. As I say, the apt understanding for Indo-European ritual here is that of Visiting Royalty. We pay homage to the Royals [and I must emphasize that I do not mean of the human kind – but rather, the Rulers of the Universe] because They are indeed … well, Royal. Responsible in the general sense for all and everything and the preservation and maintenance of our (somewhat precarious) place within That. We offer our offerings and our mental acuity precisely because we know that we are contributing to the overarching and collective ‘common good’ of the Worlds. And yet, at the same time, a part and parcel of various ‘feudal’ understandings is that when the Lord is coming on a tour through your village, it is partially expected that particularly pressing matters be brought to His or Her attention – after all, above a certain threshold, your problems are, indeed, Their Problems too. And, to take the ‘feudal’ parallel further – with a ‘client’ relationship, there is an even more direct approach-way for engaging with the powerful Patrons of existence upon such matters as might be necessary to raise. Which is also partially why we constantly endorse the role of Priests – because you are, in effect, employing a ‘professional communicator’ and somebody skilled in the proper and appropriate arts of Divine liaison and etiquette. But I digress.
Welcoming With The Mind:
The next step is the Dhyana – ‘Visualization’. This is customarily accompanied by a particular mantra for the deific that is being invoked; the idea being that the enumeration of various key identifying characteristics of the deific is useful both for your own sense of connection with Them, as well as ensuring that They know They are supposed to be turning up where you are Inviting Them (and in what manner). So, for example, in a Hindu context we would be looking at particular attributes that are immediately distinguishing of the deity in general terms – wielding the Thunderbolt, for instance – as well as, in more elaborate efforts, more specific traits that tell us which particular Aspect of a God or Goddess we might be hailing : things like the number of arms and a panoply of weapons. Traits that are immediately relevant for the purposes of our ritual undertaking – the absolution of sins, compassionate hearing, avenging of attacks against the Devotee, the smashing apart of obstacles faced by us, etc. – are also potentially included.
This Dhyana process is, of course, greatly facilitated not only via the relevant invocationary phrases (which help to set *our* mind in the right way), but also via having an appropriate ‘physical embodiment’ as part of our ritual setup. I have earlier mentioned the possibility for using a printed image of decent quality and iconographic aptness, although of course, physical representations that are better quality still and less two-dimensional are better again.
Attendances Upon The Divine Guest:
Following this is the Avahana – ‘invocation’, or ‘invitation’. Basically, we are asking the Deity to ‘move toward’ (A+Vahana) us and our rite. They are our Guest, so we are ‘inviting’ Them.
They are then offered a seat via Asana – and there is, predictably, quite some citation for the results of this concept in the ‘feast’ renditions of the Vedas : the Deity being given the Honour Seat, as befits Their attendance at an occasion in Their Honour.
And this is followed by the further Upachara [‘service’ / ‘attendance upon’] acts that we have aforementioned. Which, in more elaborate ritual undertakings, will be quite ‘full scale’ – featuring the provision of refreshment for the Deity after Their journey to be here with us, the supply of water not only for drinking (later) but also for Them to wash after the dust of the metaphysical road.
A more ‘cut down’ version of this is the Panchopachar form of the rite – ‘Pancha’ meaning ‘Five’, so ‘Five Upachars’ – wherein five forms of offering keyed to the five elements are made. These include, in Hindu reckoning, sandalwood paste or akshat (‘unbroken’ rice with kumkum) and flowers, incense, the flame of burning ghee in a Diya lamp, and ‘sustenance’ of an edible form. We shall be looking more at these in the next installment of this series.
Now I have not looked in any great depth nor detail as to the extent to which ‘Manner Elemental’ sacrifices are offered in other IE traditions. We can say with certainty that certain elements and understandings are indeed present – the issue is whether it’s all five in succession or combination, or just some on a somewhat individualized basis (and this is before we get into whether ‘five elements’ or ‘four’ would be the expected local formatting).
Nevertheless, Hesiod again provides some potentially rather ‘resemblant’ conceptry:
“But do you turn your foolish heart altogether away from these things, and, as far as you are able, sacrifice to the deathless gods purely and cleanly, and burn rich meats also, and at other times propitiate them with libations and incense, both when you go to bed and when the holy light has come back, that they may be gracious to you in heart and spirit, and so you may buy another’s holding and not another yours.”
Circumambulation & Bowing
In Sanskrit, these are Pradakshina or Parikrama and Namaskara. The former is a symbolic gesture which orients that which is worshipped as the center of our world – we are literally going around Them. Pradakshina – the ‘dakshina’ means ‘right’ or ‘right conduct’ (from same root as ‘Dexter’, perhaps unsurprisingly) and ‘Pra’ here is ‘moving forward’ : so ‘moving to the right’. Parikrama means something along the lines of ‘moving around’ (although I have also once seen it rendered as ‘marching forth in righteousness’) – ‘Pari’ here being like ‘Peri’ of ‘Perimeter’ in Western IE languages, and ‘Krama’ similarly referring to the act of doing something.
An easy way to remember the purpose behind this act is the well-known tale of Skanda and Ganesha as children having a race around the world. Skanda, mounted upon a bird, seemed at first to have the clear advantage – and moved with incredible swiftness as befits His Name and Nature seeking to circumambulate the world. Ganesha, meanwhile, acting with wisdom (and the celerity of the mind – as well as Piety, both filial and general), simply circumambulated His Parents – it being declared that to Him, His Parents were the World. One could also, potentially, reason that due to Lady Parvati *being* the World in various senses (and similar resonancies for Lord Shiva being findable in various ways in the scriptural canon), that this might have additional layers of essential theological and metaphysical correctness to it as a dictum. But more upon that, perhaps, some other time.
As applies the Bowing – this is Namaskara. And yes, it is very much something that is resonant with practices elsewhere in the IE Sphere. We have previously taken a look at this in a piece looking specifically at the Greek occurrences of such a practice (which, to be sure, can entail some rather specific understandings – at least some of the time) ; however there is also ample evidence for it in the Germanic sphere (as reported upon both by Germanic perspectives in the Saga corpus (there’s a particularly interesting occurrence in the Kjalnesinga Saga, as well as by foreign and external observers such as Tacitus and Ibn Fadlan).
The Greek circumstance is perhaps rather important to consider directly – as what we find there has often been misinterpreted. Insofar as while we *do* have Classical Greeks talking about the inappropriateness of bowing in particular manners to *human* rulers (at least, outside of exceptional circumstances and dire supplication) – in at least one of the major exemplars (that of Xenophon’s Anabasis), the literal next few words of the same line point out that it *is* appropriate to do so for the Gods (Alone).
There are, of course, various forms of bowing practiced in just about any culture which has come up with it as a tradition for human interrelations in a decidedly uneven power dynamic – let alone when we are dealing with interrelations between humans and the Divine.
I was rather interested, for example, when a formerly Hare Krishna associate of mine whom I’d brought along to my local Mandir to experience ‘proper Hinduism’ – not only had a quite different (and far more … full-scale) form of bow that would perhaps be closer in spirit to near total prostration, but also commented upon my own form of bow (on one knee) as in his eyes connoting a rather more ‘martial’ relationship. Usually, the forms of bow in observance in one of our Temples would be some ways between the two – with the greater ardency being correlated with the more full-scale virtually lying face down; and others, more usually simply bending forward whilst on two knees with hands met in the appropriate posing – although with a simple bending forward at the hips whilst standing and with hands together (and thumbs to the brow) occasionally also being in evidence.
Now I have emphasized this point because I am keenly aware that a fair few people beset by Modernity and some rather … ‘egalitarian’ attitudes toward certain things, tend to be vigorously opposed to actually engaging in the bowing component in particular.
You can find significant swathes of very online neo-pagans up in arms about the practice – although when I was doing a brief google to get a feel for some of the ‘arguments’ against bowing, I found it rather telling that one of the first things to come up was what appeared to be a Loki worship effort which opposed the entire concept on general point of self-aggrandizing ‘principle’.
A significant component, as we have continually stated, in the realms of Piety is quite simply Respect. You are carrying out acts of Respect – literal Worship – of Beings Who are not so much ‘exponentially more powerful than you’ as the Powers Themselves. There are no two ways about it. You can have your conversation about why you wouldn’t wish to bow to your President in a modern Republic – and you know what? I might agree with you. You can talk about how you view this or that human monarchy as hopelessly bereft as an institution or simply in terms of its current-day inheritors, therefore justifying you breaking with centuries of tradition when treating with them … and again, I may or may not agree with you (contingent upon which monarchy we’re talking about, for starters) – although that said, while I am not necessarily hugely in favour of human royalty I technically live under today … you can bet that were I somehow in Buckingham Palace, I’d *not* be making a scene by obnoxiously refusing to engage in a slight bow to Her Majesty. Particularly if, for some reason, I was seeking to enlist Royal aid and agency to assist with some vitally important undertaking.
And now, we recollect that as applies the Gods we are worshipping – there is no scope for approaching the engagement as “oh, I don’t feel that the institution or its current (mortal) occupants are worthy of my homage”, or “I bow to no man because then I feel like I’m declaring they’re better than me”. Nobody can say that Ishvara & Ishvari – the God Emperor & God Empress of the Universe – are lacklustre and undeserving of such respect in its more overt forms. You are also not a God, and yes, They Who Rule the Cosmos are indeed very much “better than you”. There is no shame in that whatsoever. The only ‘shame’ would be in choosing not to acknowledge this through the proper and appropriate actions when the time comes because you are prioritizing your indelibly human feelings and pretensions over … well .. Reality Itself.
And if you are ‘uncomfortable’ with things – well, that, we can work upon. And there are likely ways that are less immediately ‘strange’ feeling yet still authentic(ish) that can be engaged in. But to be seriously pious – rather than piteously solipsistic – is to acknowledge that you are not the center of the universe (ref. the Parikrama point from earlier), and that entails ‘moving toward the Divine’ (i.e. on Its / Their Terms) rather than expecting it to do all the work and come to you.
Chanting & Song:
Following the Upachara segment, there is more ‘conventional’ religious expression (from a Western religious perspective, at least – which, post Christianization, has lost a lot of these more nuanced understandings around Gods turning up as Guests, etc.) – Japa (the chanting of mantras if one has been initiated into one relevant for the Deific in question), and Stotram (Hymnal) singing.
There are several ways to view this portion of the Rite. One of which being the obvious – the regaling with performance of the visiting Royalties. It is a common enough spectacle when an important person even in the human realm goes somewhere – they are met by a performance in their honour. Except here, there is an additional level of saliency. The performance is part-supplication, part ‘resculpting of reality’. Our reality. Us.
In terms of the utilization of mantras for Japa – we are effectively benefitting from the immediate presence and saliency of the Divine Who empowers and lords the mantra in question, and we are acting in harmony with that to engage in this oral ‘resculpting’ utilizing the empowered language of creation that is the fabric of the metaphysical universe : Speech (in Sanskrit) and Thought (Intent, Understanding). We are likely asking to ‘become more like That which we meditate upon’ – whether that simply means the aspiration to become in greater control of faculties, or to be able to smite a particularly troublesome foe, or to ask to borrow some measure of the Deity’s Power to support, strengthen, and ‘charge’ some (to) be(ing) acted-upon operation of ours which falls within Their mythic purview (i.e. we are acting in an ‘enhanced’, guided, and supported ’emulation’ of They).
In part, therefore, it is an intrinsic element of ‘Making The Request’; and also the Glorification of the God(s) Who are in attendance as Guests.
In terms of the singing of the Stotrams – it is not dissimilar. The words of the Hymnals are to be pleasing to the Ear of the Divinities. And are also often reasonably direct in terms of various forms of aid and availment that are being requested by the individual Devotee.
It would be tempting to think of these as something along the lines of the pageantry which accompanies a conventional and mundane visitation by important peoples. When Prince Charles (or, before him, Prince Albert) goes to one of the (British) Crown’s Colonies, there would be such a performance – and there is nothing wrong with that. We are Honouring the Gods through our efforts and our activities to breathe some beauty into the world in Their august presence.
However, as aforementioned, there is another dimension to it – that of the asking of the feudal lord Who has come amongst us, for the aid that is needed. It is that ‘client relationship’ we have spoken of afore.
And all of this is done in a manner that acts as another form of meditation. Insofar as the repetition of highly rhythmic and aesthetically pleasing verse does indeed have quite the effect upon the conscious mind. I, myself, have found that particular Hymnals in our ecclesiastical language – Sanskrit – they have a sort of ‘march of the mind’ tempo to them with their rolling steps that powers one ever on. And certainly, the immense feeling of pious zeal in their energized evocation does wonders as well.
Piety felt is merely felt. Piety actively *Expressed* and *Externalized*, we hear it and we see it with our own ears and eyes and it seems to echo and resound even within the small confines of our shrine-room about us. Particularly when, as with various Vedic origin verses, there is the implicit sense that one is part of an unbroken chain of these expressions passing right the way back through three and a half thousand years or more of history. A truly immense choir, indeed!
Through Song, one really does ‘illuminate’ and add joyous life to the worship-space and its active proceedings. It brings things beyond (still vitally necessary) ‘contemplation’ and out into much more active engagement. And that is, as ever, a proverbial ‘two way street’.
Another, and perhaps more sardonic take on the whole thing which has some relevancy for this part of proceedings was provided by the late Terry Pratchett:
“The prayers of most religions generally praise and thank the gods involved, either out of general piety or in the hope that he or she will take the hint and start acting responsibly.”
And, even though it might at first seem rather cynical – it’s actually a not entirely inaccurate description of how an array of entirely authentic Indo-European liturgy works. These being in particular the sorts of Hymnals and verses wherein the wrathful and destructive attentions of particular God(s) are asked not to be visited upon the worshipper. And often, for eminently understandable reasons, it is advised that these Forms of both Deity and Devotional not be engaged with by the inexperienced – this is, after all, partially Why We Have Priest Caste.
In any case, the contents of various lengthier Hymnals containing various mentions of prior great deeds by the God in question – serve as both inspiration to the worshipper, as well as that ‘hint’ to the Worshipped as to what it is we’re hoping for to happen. Whether literally (in the case of, say, the provision of vital medicine or healing – if that is what we are praying for, and there is some mention of it in the relevant verses summarizing a mythic episode featuring same); or somewhat more figuratively (as in cases wherein we may not, ourselves, be literally (nor mytho-literally) confronted by an immense demon-dragon that’s stolen the Sun and/or world’s water-supply … but the notion of ‘barriers’ and ‘impediments’ in our path which must be rent asunder is still pertinent to what we’re asking for).
In Sanskrit, this is Kshamapana – and it effectively refers to asking for the Deity’s ‘patience’ (Ksama / Kshama) and ‘forgiveness’ for any errors that have been committed in the course of the preceding proceedings.
This is partially something which pertains to our earlier analogy of a ‘royal visit’ – the idea being that the proper etiquette is to be observed, and just as one would (for example) apologize for egregiously mispronouncing somebody’s name, so too are breaches of that etiquette apologized for lest the Deity be offended through incautious approach and an effective ‘taking for granted’ of Their Presence.
However, it is *also* something rather more metaphysically charged. For in the course of utilizing Sanskrit mantras and liturgy – as we have earlier also maintained – one is engaged with a foundational sphere for shaping the cosmos. This is being done under the Divine aegis of a ritual worship in part because there is significant power and potency involved in this approach: you are asking a God to help with things, rather than attempting to utilize entirely your own will and faculties, after all. It is *also* being done in this way because precisely because there is a Higher Being overseeing proceedings, things are under greater control than they might otherwise be. They are only likely to get as ‘out of hand’ due to something going awry as the Deity in question is inclined to let them. Which, to be sure, may be … quite awry contingent upon how wrathful said Deity is, generally speaking. Hence the additional vital importance of this phase of proceedings especially in those instances – and, if we were talking about a full-scale Vedic rite of the ‘high religion’ tier, the potential employment of a specialist Priest whose entire role in proceedings was to be on the watch-out for errors in liturgical recitation or other ritual performance to be able to correct them as they occurred.
In essence, therefore, an important point to the Ksamapana is that it is partially there to ask the Deity to ‘smooth things over’ so that the consequences of our mistakes making use of these metaphysical elements don’t bind us to their consequences. Whether we are taking a ‘functionalist’ perspective on the words themselves that we have uttered having the power – or the ‘intentionalist’ one wherein it’s the Deity’s power that is the prime mover that we are calling upon in the preceding spans of the rite.
Farewell (Until Next Time):
This is ‘Visarjana’ in Sanskrit – which, predictably, refers to a ‘Valediction’, a ‘sending away’. There are various elements to this contingent upon how the God has been invoked and into what ‘body’ – indeed it can itself become quite an elaborate fixture in the more large-scale and formalized observances wherein an impressive Murti has been made specifically for the festival in question. However, for the smaller-scale and more regular household prayer-rites, no trekking to the nearest river to immerse the sculpture fully shall be required. Instead, more simple means are employed to bring things to a close.
At which point, it is OK to begin ‘packing down’ the ritual space for those elements which require it. In my case, because I am living in a household which also cooks meat with some frequency – this entails the Durga Murti being wrapped up in a veiling, and then placed inside an airtight container, for example. Other points to attend to may include anything which either is currently or has been on fire during the course of your observance – ensuring that it’s properly out before you leave the room. And, of course, ensuring that any food offerings are not going to attract vermin.
There is, obviously, an immense amount more that I can and almost certainly should say about just about everything we’ve but incredibly briefly parsed above. And in subsequent installments of this series we do intend to look in specific detail as to more of the ‘how’ to do things rather than the ‘why’ – as well as producing an easy-to-follow set of instructions for a simple home rite.
But for now, I suspect, it is enough.
Until next time !
And Hail To The Welcome Guest ( स्वाति – Svati )