Salt Purification

I have lived in many homes over the last 25 years.  In most of those places I have preformed a Salt Purification ceremony before moving in — Mori Shio (盛り塩 ).  I borrowed the ceremony while living in Japan where I first needed to do it to appease the mother of my Japanese girlfriend.  But the ceremony grew on me:  In each corner of the house, I place a small pile of table salt.   I then give thanks to those who lived in the house before me and thanks to the future I will enjoy in the house.  A few days later I sweep up the salt with gratitude.  I must confess that the Japanese also do this to avoid bad luck in the house and I am sure part of my psyche is infected with this thought.

Salt is also used at Japanese funerals. Sumo wrestlers scatter salt to purify their wrestling ring.  Just like many try to justify Jewish Kosher laws with scientific explanations, some Japanese have said the salt makes sense because it helps kill bacteria.  But it is clear that magic, fear, tribalism, ritual purity and much more are responsible for these traditions no matter how they try to sanctify them with science.

But for me Mori Shio is pure ceremony, tradition and specialness.  It is my way of marking house transitions.  I don’t belief in spirits (well, the majority of me does not), but I do belief in the power of ceremony and the beauty of filling the mundane with meaning.

Question for readers: Do any of you embrace superstitions you don’t really believe in?

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Filed under Philosophy & Religion

16 responses to “Salt Purification

  1. All that comes to mind is saying “bless you” when someone sneezes, though I don’t say “God bless you” so it’s more polite than superstitious and I do still refer to good conditions or events as blessings, though not with a divine origin.

    I do like the idea of some rituals as I think they can help one to focus or to put things in a different perspective.

    I like your ceremony. To quote a character from one of my favorite movies: “What’s life without a little salt?” – Learoyd – Farewell To The King (1989)

  2. Sometimes I wear a necklace with a brass fish on it. My brother got it for me when he was in Africa. I was enmeshed in christianity at the time, and he was actively exploring it, so the fish carried some religious symbolism. But I wore it then and wear it now more to remind me of the brotherly connection.

    Also sometimes I wear a mezuzah necklace. I think my brother gave me that too. It reminds me that I have a long line of Jewish ancestors behind me, in part making me who I am today. Somehow wearing it makes me feel connected to them, not in a sense that they are spirits, but that I share something of who they were.

    Most of the time I don’t wear the necklaces, but like to in times of stress or times of significance, weddings, child births, the like.

  3. I like ceremony, tradition and specialness. 🙂

    And I love that you’re willing to admit that you still have some superstitious bits in your psyche. I think we all do, despite our best efforts to be critical and objective.

  4. imarriedaxtian

    I scatter (uncook) rice grains on the floor of each room. Then I would sweep it up with a new broom upon moving in.

  5. I put my pants on, one leg at a time…

  6. I took Chinese medicine faithfully, even though I didn’t believe in it. But then I found it was quite powerful: After taking it my Mother-in-Law was pleased and household harmony was restored, thus, I found that the superstition had merit of a sort that I had not originally anticipated.

  7. @ Mike:
    Love the quote. Dude, you are the movie King!

    @ atimetorend:
    The meaning filled, good luck necklaces are interesting.
    As far as putting on your pants one leg at a time, if you stopped all your aerobic work-outs and did some plyometrics you may get your old bones back into shape and be able to get into pants like me: 4 foot jump and both legs in at the same time. Its makes getting dressed more efficient and spectacular — not meant for mere mortals, however.

    @ Leah:
    thank you. I think it is important to admit our normal nature and not to imagine ourselves to be something we are not.

    @ imarried:
    Where did you pick up that custom?

    @ Looney:
    ROFL !😆

  8. boz

    Do any of you embrace superstitions you don’t really believe in?

    Evil Sky Wizards put water all over the road, and this causes us virtuous cyclists to ride slowly around corners, sometimes causes us to fall of our bikes, but worst of all, the water from the Evil Sky Widards makes our bikes dirty, and we have to clean them.

    Curse you, Evil Sky Wizards!

  9. @ boz
    It was a serious question. I guess you are saying you don’t find your mind to have any of these inclinations?

  10. Boz

    I do embrace this superstition, of the Evil Sky Wizards. It is fun to talk about🙂

  11. imarriedaxtian

    @Sabio, I observed my mother doing it every time we move into a new house. She is baba-nonya ie descended from Chinese immigrants who came over to Malaya many generations ago and assimilated into the local Malay culture. They have their own distinct culinary style and clothing. My family are relatively new migrants. I am only the second generation born outside China plus we never assimilated, keeping our culture relatively distinct from the locals.

    I have no idea where the ritual came from, whether it has malay roots or chinese roots.

  12. CRL

    When sailing, I throw pennies into the bilge as sacrifices to Odin. I occasionally make wishes on shooting stars and at 11:11. Most of these, however, I follow more as social conventions than anything else.

  13. Hi Sabio – I do have superstitionsm yes, but I’m afraid I actually “believe in” them. I too am a rather weird atheist.

  14. @ imarried
    Interesting, thanx!

    @ CRL
    Those are great !

    @ Baba
    Please do share a few. Also, do you have superstitions that you Don’t believe but still embrace in addition to your other odd traits (smile)?

  15. Smatty

    I’m second generation Japanese-American or American-Japanese which is how I really feel. I randomly came across this post because I was looking at different salt purification styles. Mainly if anyone did the new home salt purification, glad I found you do🙂 My mother always tells me to throw salt to “kee-yo-meru” which generally means lessen its energy. I love the Japanese traditions I wished I paid more attention growing up. However growing up in the states all I wanted to do was fit in. I have more appreciation for it now, better late than never I guess.
    I wouldn’t say I don’t believe but more or less makes me feel connected to my family.

  16. Earnest

    I sometimes talk to my paintings of my ancestors. They don’t talk back to me but it is comforting somehow to see their images.

    When I was younger I was inculcated with a belief of healing prayer. I still have nostalgia for those simpler times but logic has intruded to degrade my adherence to that belief.

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