I’d been mulling this over, and then in a recent House of Netjer fellowship chat, the topic of being “pure enough” came up, and I thought it would be appropriate to write a few posts about my thoughts on purity. I have many, many thoughts about purity, so there might be a few of these before I’m done.
The foremost thing that sticks out to me is how many people feel they can’t go to their shrines because they aren’t “pure enough”. Hearing people say this just breaks my heart. I can practically feel the gods reaching out to them, saying “yes, We love you – We want to know you better – spend your time with Us!” I want to sit with them, and go to shrine with them, because time spent with God offers its own purification and it’s own power.
The phrase “mental impurity” gets tossed around from time to time, and I find it really irksome. It is usually used to describe depression, or anxiety, or any other emotional or psychological factor that could make one feel “not good enough”. In reality, I think the focus of mental impurity is more on freedom from distractions than being totally free from psychological distress. These things are chronic, long-term struggles that won’t just disappear after a few days, like one’s menstrual period or a wound. Treating them the same just isn’t practical.
Purity cannot be an objective measurement. Everyone might agree that someone has said prayers and heka to purify themselves, and in that case they are “pure” – but what does that mean to that individual? Everyone has their own baseline to begin from, the state in which they spend the majority of their waking hours. That’s going to feel different for everyone, so purity is going to feel different for everyone. If you struggle to get out of bed every morning, “pure enough” for you is going to be vastly different from someone who springs out of bed with a song each day. Washing one’s face and hands with the purification prayers might be a triumph for some – and that is important to remember when we talk about being “pure enough”.
The gods want us to spend time with Them. They want us to honor Them from a place of appropriateness and respect. What They don’t want is for us to beat ourselves up for being too impure, or not good enough. They want our effort and our attention. We can start from where our “normal” is, and tidy up from there, in small steps – and the gods can help us along, piece by piece.