Spring cleaning has deep practical, symbolic roots
Written by Stephanie Earls. Originally published in the The Gazette newspaper on 3/9/2013.
Despite what you might have suspected as a child, the ritual of spring cleaning was not invented by your mother to ruin a perfectly good week off school.
In fact, the practice has deep practical and symbolic roots.
“In order for the new rebirth of the season to occur, pagans would clean out temples and homes. Ritual bathing was the norm,” said Alexandra Chauran, an interfaith chaplain, feng shui home-organization consultant and fortune teller based in Washington state.
Modern Pagans carry on the tradition by cleansing their homes to mark the changing seasons, often using herbal floor washes and, even if there’s wall-to-wall carpet, going through the motions of “sweeping” bad energy from the home or living space.
“We’re sweeping that area free of negativity so we can invite positive influences,” Chauran said.
While you’re whisking away bad mojo, don’t forget to clear the air. Bell-ringing or singing is used in many cultures to scare away unseen evils and symbolically cleanse the air before a ritual, Chauran said. It also can give you — and nature — a boost.
“Wake up the springtime, wake up those good things that make the flowers grow,” she said. “I think that anyone can sort of evoke those old traditions by cranking up some good music, singing while you work and filling the air with music.”
Preparations for the Jewish festival of Passover call for a thorough house cleaning, especially of the kitchen. All traces of “chametz,” or products made with white, leavened flower, which is forbidden during the holiday, must be removed.
“If there’s even a crumb from a cracker, that has to go out, too,” said Marilyn Daniel. of Colorado Springs, who grew up watching her Orthodox Jewish grandmother prepare the home for Passover. “I saw her cleaning and scrubbing and getting things ready. She even changed the shelf paper.”
Daniel keeps a kosher home, which she’s now in the process of cleaning as she readies for the holiday, which begins at sundown March 25.
“I have to clean the refrigerator and freezer and the oven, of course,” she said. “It’s called koshering the oven.”
Seasonal cleaning practices also can be found in celebrations of Chinese New Year, said Janet Marletto, a trained feng shui consultant in Colorado Springs.
“In preparation for it, the idea is to clean out the house, get rid of all negativity, pay the bills so that you start the year clean and fresh,” she said. “It’s a chance to edit your life.”