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Miasma

Post  Callisto on Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:12 pm

Miasma is often misunderstood to be the equivalent of "sin". Miasma has no such moral-transgression connotation, rather its meaning is more akin to "contaminate" or "pollution".

Reading recommendation: Miasma: Pollution and Purification in Early Greek Religion by Robert Parker


Since we're archiving useful information from past discussions, here's some regarding miasma:

Amartia (Hamartia) is the equivalent of sin in Hellenismos is:
The term Amartia means 'failure', 'mistake', 'error' or 'fault' amd includes both innate behavioural tendencies and any resulting error in judgement within its concept although Aristotle mostly used the word to describe flawed actions or unethical behaviour. It is a fault or unethical deed carried out as a result of incorrect evaluation or assessment of information, occurrences or possibilities. There is no resemblance between Amartia and the Christian concept of Sin even though it is commonly translated as such. The word 'Sin' refers to a transgression of the laws of God which constitutes a irreversible and permanent evil. To the Hellenes, Hamartia occurs because of a mistake in judgement and as such is different to an atrocity thus it is not a curse or an abomination which burdens future generations in the manner of 'original sin' or 'the sins of the fathers'.

On the other hand Miasma is defined as:
The closest translation in English of Miasma would be 'contamination'. It is defined as the contamination of the soul in the form of localised vital energy. It is energetic and dynamic and usually results from unnatural behaviour and discordant acts. Miasma has animalistic and psychosomatic influences. Miasma is a contaminated entity which is created by abominations, atrocities or foulness from either a shameful, profane or beastly human deed. While inflicted with miasma, a person is labeled 'accursed'. Miasma in Hellenic thought has a material dimension and is understood as an invisible but material entity which remains in a specified area and absorbs all positive elements within that area thereby increasing the negative conditions of the specified environment.

Translated from: ΘΥΡΑΘΕΝ by Vlassis Rassias

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Various comments:

  • miasma (unintentional anyway) isn’t so much an affront to the gods as it is a barrier…to the gods.
  • The only affront for unintentional (or incidental, as in the case of sex) is not handling the issue prior to worship.
  • Basically, cleanliness is next to godliness. Miasma is also caused by personal Vice, and many people equate Vice with Sin or Evil (probably because Christians describe Sin as impurity), that they wrongfully equate *any* action that causes Miasma to be wrong behavior. Its poor thinking.


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Re: Miasma

Post  J_Agathokles on Thu Apr 11, 2013 3:50 pm

And here is some more information on miasma, and on katharmos (purification): http://www.labrys.gr/index-en.php?l=purification-en

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Re: Miasma

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Wed Jun 05, 2013 4:38 pm

Hopefully this is the right place to ask my question, rather then start a new thread it would be nice to build up on a subject in a single place perhaps.

My question:

My parents recently visited a funeral parlor and I waited in the car, now in Mikalson's book 'Ancient Greek Religion' he mentions that when one has attended a funeral or has been in the presence of a corpse then that person wouldn't enter a sanctuary for a period of time as the usual cleaning of miasma was primarily for day to day pollution whereas a death (or birth) was 'heavier'. Sadly there aren't any sanctuaries where I live but I do intend on making offerings in the home, would this attitude be applied to home worship also or just when visiting a sanctuary?

Again, although I didn't personally visit I have been in close proximity to them for most of the day. If I am not to make offerings, how long should I abstain and should I cleanse using lustral water in the meantime daily even if I am not making offerings?

Thanks in advance.
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Re: Miasma

Post  Erodius on Wed Jun 05, 2013 5:19 pm

Sadly there aren't any sanctuaries where I live but I do intend on making offerings in the home, would this attitude be applied to home worship also or just when visiting a sanctuary?

Anywhere one offers formal worship is, ultimately, a sanctuary, because it is delineated as separate from the profane. A home shrine is not a large nor public sanctuary, but it is still, essentially, a sanctuary.

However, you mentioned you were not actually in contact with the pollution of death — you chose not to be. I would not say that simply being near a funeral parlor is equivalent to exposure to a corpse; no special miasma has been incurred beyond the simple grime of the day.

If I am not to make offerings, how long should I abstain and should I cleanse using lustral water in the meantime daily even if I am not making offerings?

Since, as far as I would conclude, you have not encountered any special miasma, I would not say there is any reason to avoid sacrificing if you wish to do so. It is customary to asperse with khernips before any act of worship anyhow, so yes, you should do so — but not specifically because you have been near a funeral home.

However, I think it goes without saying that, if you feel you carry some impurity or pollution, you probably do. If you feel you ought to abstain for a time, you should — the perception of having miasma, as I see it, is a form of miasma. Abstain until the voice in your head saying 'you have miasma' goes away. However, I do not think it is necessary to abstain any longer than a day or so.

To purify yourself inside and out, early in the morning or evening (transitional/beginning times of day are considered the purest) bathe/shower, asperse, and perhaps take a drink of something that is itself purifying — steeped mint with honey, pure honey, wine, spring water, barley water and milk are all very pure.

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Re: Miasma

Post  Worshipper of Eros on Thu Jun 06, 2013 6:10 am

I thought it was an interesting point to cover for others new to the religion or perhaps people who have practiced for some time and are yet to come across such information. I personally abstained yesterday but will resume practice today.
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Re: Miasma

Post  Ελευθερια on Wed Feb 03, 2016 5:12 pm

My question is: if someone dies at home. Once the body is removed, what has to be done to purify the home and for how long before the home is considered to be rid of the miasma of death?

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Re: Miasma

Post  Erodius on Sun Feb 07, 2016 1:57 pm

A house would be fumigated with frankincense, laurel or juniper, and likely with consecrated water as well.

In any case, the taint of a death was usually considered to hang over a home for anywhere between nine days and a month, depending on locale and time.

Bundles of white wool or cypress branches would sometimes be hung above an outer doorway as a marker to potential visitors that the home had experienced a death.

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"O Best of Gods, blest daimon crown'd with fire . . . hear, and from punishment my soul absolve, the punishment incurr'd by pristine guilt, thro' Lethe's darkness and terrene desire: and if for long-extended years I'm doom'd in these drear realms Heav'n's exile to remain, O grant me soon the necessary means to gain that good which solitude confers on souls emerging from the bitter waves of fraudful Hyle's black, impetuous flood!"
-Iulianic Hymn to Apollon-Helios, ll. 65-106

"Having come for punishment, one must be punished. One must not pull apart the god within oneself."
-Iamblichus, Vita Pythagorica

"Truth would you teach, or save a sinking land,
All hear, none aid you, and few understand."
-Alexander Pope


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Re: Miasma

Post  Ελευθερια on Mon Feb 08, 2016 10:39 am

Thanks Erodios. You're always helpful. I've just lost a pet, not a person, and I've spent the last four days focusing on cleaning the house and laundering everything in sight. Noumenia is coming up and I'd like to get back to normal now.

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