17 January 2012

House Blessings of Theophany

House blessings (also known as house healings, house clearings, house cleansings and space clearing) are religious rituals intended to protect the inhabitants from misfortune. Many religions have house blessings of one form or another.

In Christianity, house blessing is an ancient tradition, that can be found in Orthodox Christianity, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. They are usually performed by a parish priest who sprinkles holy water as he walks through every room of the house, accompanied by the occupants of the house, whilst praying for the occupants.

House blessings date back to the early days of Christianity, and in Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism, the ritual takes the form of a prayer. Matthew 2:11 says:
"On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh."
Consequently, Catholics often have their homes blessed at Epiphany, on January 6. The commemorates the visitation of the Magi to the child Jesus. Orthodox Christians also have their homes blessed on this day, which they call Theophany, the Baptism of Jesus Christ.

House blessings in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country take the form of printed cards, framed and hung on the walls of the sitting room, and trace their origins to similar practices in The Netherlands and Belgium.

Blessings, employed by Catholics and Protestants alike, usually incorporate a picture of Christ's crucifixion and a prayer "to the Sweet Name of Jesus and His dear saints". Many of these were printed in Belgium, and Turnhout.

In Alsace, such blessings have origins in the Pestbriefe (pestilence letters) of the Middle Ages, sold at fairs to those wishing to protect themselves from disease, and the Feuerbriefe (fire letters) brought back by pilgrims from Cologne and containing prayers to the Three Kings (usually with the letters "CMB", for Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar, incorporated somewhere into the design) for protecting their homes from fire and disaster. Other blessings, found in Alsace and brought to Pennsylvania, include blessings of the entranceway to a house, stable blessings invoking Saint Leonard or Saint Blasius, blessings against Feuer und Brand addressed to Saint Agatha, and even blessings for house pets addressed to Saint Florentius.

In the Hindu religion, a house blessing is conducted before the people move in. With a new house, this is after construction is finished, but in a purchased house it will be done after purchase but before moving in. The blessing is performed by a Hindu priest and varies greatly throughout India. In Gujarat, the blessing mainly consists of performing abhisheka to a murti, often of Lord Ganesha, which is performed by the householders while the priest chants mantras. In Tamil Nadu, the traditional house blessing comprises the chanting of mantras, the escorting of a cow through all of the rooms, and (finally) the boiling of some of the cow's milk in the kitchen. Cow urine (komiyam) is also used.

The Chan (Zen) Buddhist Koganji house blessing ceremony requires one fresh whole red fish, rice with azuki beans (sekihan), a small bottle of sake, an unopened bag of rice, and a new bag of rock salt.

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