Regulars and Shorts

Ceremony & Spirituality: July 2009

By catalyst

A question of purifying nuptials.
by Donna Henes
Dear Mama Donna.

My partner and I are wondering whether there is some sort of pre-nuptial purifying ceremony from the shamanic tradition that we can do together before our upcoming wedding. Perhaps a sweat lodge? Any ideas you have to offer us would be most appreciated.

—A Couple in California

You Dear Two,

Congratulations! Mazel tov! How wonderful that you and your beloved want to enter your marriage vows with clean hearts and pure intentions. Your sincerity of purpose bodes exceedingly well for the success of your future together.

There really is no one shamanic tradition. Shamanism was and still is practiced worldwide. Each culture’s customs and ceremonies have grown and developed over time. They speak to the shared history and beliefs of each particular community.

New beginnings are universally observed by bathing. Sculptured images of the Buddha are washed during the festival of Songkran in Thailand every spring at the start of the lunar New Year festival. The blessing water is poured from buckets on the statues and passersby as well — a refreshing splash during the oppressive heat of the season.

There are many cross-cultural purification rites for the betrothed, including the sweat lodge ceremony or Inipi, which is used widely by many Native American peoples as a cleansing to be partaken of as the preliminary to any major ritual event. The most traditional sweat lodge, however, is never experienced in mixed company.

Most pre-wedding cleansing practices have been performed by the bride and groom separately, each assisted by her/his chosen group of friends and family members of the same gender. These sorts of preparatory rites eventually evolved (or perhaps, devolved is a better word?) into the current bridal shower and bachelor party rituals that are so popular today. henes_donna

You mention that you want to perform your cleansing together as a couple. Since this is important to you, you should do so, despite the fact that it is not traditional. A shared tenant of all shamanic thinking is that each individual is blessed with a personal relationship to spirit that must be honored. Consequently, every ritual should be uniquely appropriate and particular to the wants and needs of the participants. The perfect ritual is one that is truly personally relevant.

What better way to achieve perfect relevance than to design your own purification ritual — one that speaks to you directly? All you need is an intention, which, it seems to me, you are already quite clear about. Your choices about how your ritual will proceed, what you can do, and what methods and materials you might employ are practically limitless.

Be blessed, dear ones. Bless your selves and each other. Bless your love and your life.

—xxMama Donna

*Are you cyclically confused? In a ceremonial quandary? Completely clueless? Wonder no more. Send your questions about seasons, cycles, and celebrations to Read her blog at

This article was originally published on June 29, 2009.