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M is for Miasma

Katharmos and preparing for the Gods

By Elani Temperance

Way back when, when the medical world hadn’t discovered how diseases like the plague, cholera and chlamydia spread, the spread of these diseases was contributed to miasma. Miasma (Μίασμα) literally means ‘pollution’ and although the theory concerning miasma and diseases was discredited, it still plays a vital role in Hellenismos.

Within Hellenic practice, miasma describes the lingering aura of uncleanliness in regards to a person or space through which contact is made with the Gods. Next to piety, being ritually clean is one of the most important things to adhere to within Hellenismos. Miasma occurs whenever the space or person comes into contact with death, sickness, birth, sex, excessive negative emotions and bodily fluids. It also comes from a lack of contact with the Hellenic Gods. As a note, I should say that not the actual acts of dying, sex and birth cause miasma but the opening up of the way to the Underworld (with births and deaths) as well as contact with sweat, blood, semen, menstrual blood and urine.

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