(as opposed to “ritual cleansing” which is usually about one’s body)
(also, not talking about OCD cleaning compulsions)
Cleaning rituals are found all over the world. Although many are tied to religious beliefs - Chinese New Year, Persian New Year, Lent, Passover, Imbolc, Diwali - the ubiquity of the rituals suggests an physical, as well as a spiritual, value. That’s what my anthropology professors who subscribed to the theory of cultural materialism would tell me. And there’s no doubt that getting rid of germs, and the bits that attract vermin is important.
Not long ago, certain cleaning rituals were popularized by Marie Kondo. How many of us have held up a piece of clothing - possibly an impulse purchase - and asked “does this still give me joy?” Or let a coffee stained t-shirt go, thanking it for it’s service, before cutting it up to use as a dust rag?
At some point, I realized that I have a weaving-cleaning ritual.
A project is done - I cut it off the loom. I usually have another project waiting in the wings, but it must continue to wait. By now I’ve noticed the dust bunnies under the loom. That’s not bad housekeeping - it’s a natural part of the weaving process. The loom gets moved out, so I can vacuum underneath. Since its out, I clean the window blinds that I can’t normally get to, and the sills, and if I’m feeling really ambitious, I’ll clean the blades of the ceiling fan, too. Before moving the loom back, I dust it - top to bottom, back to front.
Then I turn to my book cases, my storage shelves, my winding station. There are many small tools - shuttles, bobbins, threading hooks, lease sticks, scissors, needles - they all need to be put away in their proper places. Scraps of paper filed or tossed. Shelves are dusted. Leftover scraps of yarn - enough to save? Or thank it for it’s service, and throw it away?
As I tidy my space, I tidy my mind, putting away one project, clearing space in my head for another. I feel a sense of release, then calm, then building anticipation.
Maybe (just maybe) we anthropologists have it backwards - perhaps the highest value of these cleaning rituals is in the mental clarity and the spiritual refreshment they provide, and the physical is just the way we get there.