From the last post it should be pretty clear why I couldn’t move into a new home without first getting rid of every single trace of the previous inhabitants. I had met and chatted to the previous owner a few times previously but I had no idea who she really was as a person, how she treated her home, heck…for all I know she could have been a practising Witch (but I’d like to think I would have sensed that some way or t’other!). The new house was built in 1950 and from what I gather it’s only had two previous owners prior to us, but the very nature of houses means that all sorts go on inside them. It was vital for me that our new home, with everything that represents, not only sparkles to the eyes but also feels good and is free of any bad energy which may have accumulated over time. In addition, we have plans for some quite intrusive renovations, mostly rectifying previous botch jobs and putting a little ‘character’ back into the place after the so called ‘modernising’ of the 60’s. To my mind any intrusive building work done on a home is like surgery, it needs to be done with due care and done well and for that to happen I want the spirit of the place on our side and happy.
We were extremely lucky in that we had some time between picking up the keys to our new home and having to vacate the old (I intentionally planned it this way of course!) which meant we had time to thoroughly clean…oh yes…one of my favourite past times! Now, I’m not just talking a bottle of spray Dettol and a sponge here…of no…I mean the full works, deep spring type clean, top to bottom, wall to wall, corner to corner…getting rid of every physical and emotional remnant. There were, much to my surprise, plenty of ‘remnants’ to get rid of, I don’t think the house had been cleaned properly for some time!
We started early on the Saturday. Three of us spent all day working our way from the top of the house, downwards. We worked widdershins round each room, each floor, spiralling our way down and round towards the front door. Everything was washed in warm soapy water with plenty of Four Thieves Vinegar added. The windows were thrown open, where necessary curtains were disposed of and replaced or washed, blinds and windows were scrubbed, bathrooms, kitchen, even the inside of the washing machine, dishwasher and fridge-freezer were cleaned. It took us around 12 hours in total, only stopping for tea, coffee and biscuit breaks. (They say the first things you move into a new home will bring those things into it in abundance…I brought Milk, Tea, Prosecco, a horseshoe, a Broom and candles. I will be a very happy man if my home is always clean, full of luck, light, tea and booze!)
By the evening the house was smelling less like the previous owner and more like four thieves vinegar combined with the fragrance of oil burners and scented candles. Scent is powerful, I was claiming this territory as ours, overriding her scent with our own (there was even a scant amount of our pee mixed in with in the Four Thieves floor wash…it works for other beasts after all). Once we had rested and refuelled on meagre sandwiches I found a moment of calm to ask the spirits for their blessings.
Until I had spent some time in the house I had no idea what was going to happen, how the house was going to feel and what sort of work would be required, it was physically dirtier than I anticipated so it was anyone’s guess what would happen the minute I started anything more ‘crafty’. This was my opportunity to dip my magical toe in the water. I had brought the basics, anything else I needed had to be improvised. Somewhere close to the front door (I would have gone for the hearth if we had one) a small square from a cardboard box was cut and upon it traced a symbol in powder blended from red brick dust (just a symbol which felt right and appropriate at the time). Upon this a virgin beeswax candle was placed and lit. Coal was also lit and placed in a small incense dish I had with me. With hands cupped around flame the blessing was spoken:
Horned One, Devil, Dark and Bright
Foremother, Goddess of starry night
Ancestors, Old Ones, Spirits of Place
Wrap this house in thy shielding embrace
By Candle flame burning bright
By Goat, Ram, Bull and Stag of White
Support these four walls with thy strength and stay
Watch and ward both night and day
Keep out all harm and maliciousness
Grant this house peace and happiness.
Upon the coal was sprinkled dried, powdered Mugwort and Pine resin. The smouldering coal was carried, again widdershins, from the top of the house to the bottom, fumigating the entire house, adding more herbs as needed until every room was thick and the air dense with smoke (do try this at home, but do remember to switch off smoke alarms!!!) The broom was taken up and the house swept and beaten, this time towards the back door (out with the old) until anything which might be lingering was driven out.
Returning to the little cardboard altar by the front door (we had no furniture in the house at this point, not even a chair had been moved in yet) I spoke the blessing again and in my mind’s eye the candle flame grew until it engulfed the hallway, grew further and further still until it penetrated every single room and radiated from every window, door, chimney, keyhole…the entire house, right up to the external boundaries, everywhere filled and surrounded by light.
The Front door was opened (in with the new) and the Horseshoe was nailed to the front of the house. When the coal had finally cooled and the herb remnants fully reduced to ash they were mixed with the powder from beneath the candle and scattered across the thresholds of the house (front and back), this was a line for the eyes of other to take note of…nothing and no one crosses this line without invitation! Finally offerings were made, again by the front door with very polite and formal introductions.
There will be more work to come in the weeks to follow, a new house doesn’t become a home overnight, and it’s not just a new house but a whole community and landscape I have to explore and become acquainted with! For now the doors were closed and locked behind us in a very definitive “this is our home now” kinda way and we returned to our old house for the last time, ready to begin moving in the next day!