an ancient Greek (= Coine) term that means roughly "blood pollution". The ancient Greeks belived that when blood was shed as a result of violent force, it polluted the Earth and did disrespect to the Gods. Pennace or punishment was usually imposed in cases of miasma, the most famous example being the curse placed upon the Alkemeonid family after their slaughter of the supliants to the altar of Zeus in the fifth century BCE.

In modern Hellenic Polytheism, the reconstructionist religion oriented around ancient Greek mythology and deities, miasma is both the state of ritual impurity and the polluting spiritual substance believed to be emanating from anybody who is miasmic. Miasma is considered to accumulate ambiently and naturally as the result of living an ordinary human life: just as the human body gets oily, sweaty, and dirty from work and the passage of time, the spirit accrues miasma, and the miasma must be washed away in the same way that bodily filth is washed away. The practice of Hellenic spiritual hygiene is called katharmos, and it involves several steps which are performed regularly by the Hellenic Polytheist. Just as brushing one's teeth, bathing or showering, and washing one's hair are separate activities of hygiene focused on different dirty parts of the body, different components of katharmos are directed at different miasmic components of a person's life.

Physical hygiene and bodily health are considered the first and most essential component of katharmos, and bodily filth and unhealth are considered intrinsically miasmic. A person with a cold is considered unfit to perform prayer or offerings to any Greek deity, since Hellenic Polytheists regard their deities as guests in their homes: it would be poor hospitality to invite a guest into your kitchen while you sneeze and cough all over the food you are preparing. Xenia, the Hellenic laws of hospitality, are among the most somber aspects of a Hellenic practice, so these considerations are taken very seriously by practitioners.

Psychological unwellness, stress, anxiety, worry, and self-loathing are also considered forms of miasma. Khernips and meditative activities are used to help the practitioner achieve a state of mental and emotional cleanliness, because it would be poor hospitality to have house guests when one is anxious and unable to give them one's fullest attention. Khernips are also used to clean away the spiritual component of miasma, as is the admission of one's recent failures and wrongful actions towards others or towards one's deities.

Miasma is not considered to be an avoidable error that people can prevent themselves from accumulating, just as one cannot generally avoid sweating, even with the use of an antiperspirant. Miasma is simply the untidiness connected with mortality and with humankind's proximity to death: every illness, every feeling of shame or guilt or negativity, every violation of divine laws is another smudge of soil which brings people closer to the underworld and farther from immortal divinity. Hellenic Polytheists believe that while their gods are compassionate and do certainly care about their followers when they are sick or mentally caught up in negativity, they are also not as able to be close by and protective, nor to commune with their followers as fully: one may certainly visit a sick relative and tend to their needs, but one may not wish to kiss somebody on the cheek if they have the flu. Banishing miasma is therefore regarded both as an act of piety and consideration toward the gods and as a gesture of self-care, making oneself more accessible and attractive to one's gods.

Iron Noder Challenge 2014, 19/30

Mi*as"ma (?), n.; pl. Miasmata (#). [NL., fr. Gr. defilement, fr. to pollute.]

Infectious particles or germs floating in the air; air made noxious by the presence of such particles or germs; noxious effluvia; malaria.


© Webster 1913.

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