Over time, people moved from congregating around an open fire pit to gathering around a kitchen hearth for food and heat. This movement into shelters such as caves and then structures always included an eye to airflow so that life sustaining fire, that illuminating relative of the sun, could be kept alive.
In early cottages, the hearth also served the role of a central heating system. Meat was smoked above it, clothes were dried nearby and life in general seemed to revolve around what was happening near the heat.
As homes became more complex water no longer needed to be brought in by buckets but would arrive through all manner of ingenuity to some sort of container near the flame.
Earthly products such as fuel, grain, vegetables and meat would also arrive for the cook of the household to transform into nourishment for all those living under the roof. Now I do not mean they just magically appeared, there was work involved in chopping, foraging, harvesting, butchering or plucking before any actual cooking happened but more than any other room in a home, the kitchen was the place where the elements associated with the cardinal directions and the fundamental building blocks of the physical world were welcomed each and every day.
Such a kitchen when treated with respect, with spirit present, is a sacred place no different from a church, mosque, synagogue or the patch of grass you call home. I find that heartening. Yes, we can gather outside, walking on the Earth, dancing to raise energy and connect with the life force of the Universe but knowing that it can happen also in small ways, over a cup of tea with a friend at the kitchen table, grounds me to the intimacy of a relationship with the Spirits.
My grandmother had a plaque that said, “No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best”. Mine says, “In my kitchen filled with care, I welcome Earth, Fire, Water, Air”. It reminds me that I have a responsibility to be from a place of integrity as I create, work and play in my kitchen. Having welcomed in what a friend of mine calls compassionate spirits, grumbling about the idiot who cut me off on the drive home while I get dinner on the table seems to contain more than one aspect of disrespect.
So how do we keep our kitchens a place of sacredness when so much is going on in it each day?
In this part of the world Imbolc is arriving in just over two weeks and the daffodils are four inches high so a good place to start is with “spring” cleaning. Now before your shoulders droop and a word like yuck flits through your consciousness, remember that whether you look at this as work or play is up to you entirely and your energy going in will change what comes out of your efforts.
This is an excellent time, in rhythm with the wheel of the year to get out the elbow grease. We are asked to reestablish balance, to look to the things that are in need of attention and bring them back to a place of readiness. I remember years ago I was in mediation asking for my next step and the image that showed up for me was a bucket and mop. Thrilled I was not, but I realized that before moving forward it was necessary to prepare a stable foundation and that usually involves releasing what is no longer needed. It is also true that even though it is traditionally called spring cleaning, it is also not the only time when doing it is appropriate. Feng Shui calls clutter an energy drainer and says it undermines good intentions so clearing clutter and cleaning at any time it is needed is helpful. I promise you will feel different when it is completed.
Start by opening up the windows and letting fresh air in. Put on some lively music to support you as you work and just like a shaman, work with the bones of your kitchen. Are things where they need to be to be effective? What is ready for a new home? What has been hiding in the back and needs using up? What is ready to be recycled? What is that anyway?
Take everything out. Run what needs cleaning through the dishwasher if you have one or get the family involved. (no need for you to do all the work). Wipe down what needs a little extra care. My cauldrons are copper and a half lemon dipped in salt is a great way to get the shine back.
Wash the shelves and inner walls. You might like to simmer some fresh herbs in water and allow it to cool until it reaches a usable temperature. A combination of Thyme, Sage, Rosemary and Lavender is called Four Thieves and yes, there are other combinations. Rosemary has camphor in it, a powerful anti-microbial. The thymol in Thyme kills staphylococcus and salmonella. Lavender has antibacterial components and sage contains natural phenol. The mixture was used by robbers to protect themselves from the Black Plague (but alas not capture) while they collected the jewelry and other treasures of deceased victims. I just know your cupboards are not hiding Yersinia pestis bacteria but a little additional boost to the water can be helpful.
If you have a little lead time before getting started try adding some orange peels to vinegar for a few weeks. Store in a warm dark place. This will layer a refreshing scent as you work if using natural cleaning agents.
Once started there are usually one or two more things that pop up. The space behind the appliances, the inside of the fridge, the windows and curtains, the cupboard doors and back splash. Areas that we don’t always thing about.
It is also easy to take our tools for granted. They get used, dropped in the dishwasher and back in the drawer, ready for the next job. This spring take a good look and give some T.L.C. to the equipment that makes life easier each day.
Maybe your wood items needs a protective rub of food grade paste or the screws on the pan handle need tightening or maybe that squeaky oven door could use some oiling? Now is the time to go that extra step before putting things back in their fresh clean homes.
Cleaning loosens the tangled energy of the room so the next step is clearing out the energetic mess.
A smudge is a simple way to clear the energy of a room. A good vigorous sweep with your broom is another option.
Salt has a long history of being used for general purification, protection and blessings. Dissolve sea salt in water and sprinkle/spritz the room. Don’t forget any out of the way places like closets and corners or under beds.
For specific emotional releasing essential oils, Bach flower remedies and homeopathy all can individually be combined with water and spritzed around a room. Keep the bottle handy and repeat for the next few days or every so often until empty. Shake thoroughly before using.
It may require a little research to find the right remedy for a specific room. If there is grief from the loss of a pet, it may be in the kitchen where the food bowl and bed were. Fear due to a job loss may sit in the connected den where the unemployed person has been watching television or worrying about unpaid bills. Anger may be found if the kitchen is where arguments happen after the kids have gone to bed. As in all things listen to your own wisdom.
I like to light a candle in the kitchen, a welcome to Fire and homage to centuries past. If you choose to do that also, please make sure the candle is in a safe place and do not leave it lit and unattended.
Once a decision is made about what your best choice is to “clear the air”, open a window and ask for assistance. I am a pretty liberal kitchen witch so if asking the angels is where you feel most connected then ask. If a Goddess of the Hearth like Brigid, Vesta or Hestia is closer to how you practice, invite them in. Chantico or “ She who dwells in the house” might be your choice if South American pantheons are your path. Whomever you invite to assist, clearly state your intention to clear the emotional space of the room.
Walk around the room with your smudge or spray and recite an intention out loud. Speak from your heart and your life. “Clear my home, make it dear, now only good may enter here!” is only one example of something to use. Speaking from your heart with a clear and grounded intention will in my books, trump a good rhyme but it is still fun and lightheartedness is a great addition to a room’s energy.
Once you feel complete, remember to thank your ethereal visitors for coming and wish them well as they depart.
I also like to add something new and fresh to the kitchen. This is after all, about letting go of the old and making room for the new so adding something new completes the circle. As a final step add a vase of the first flowers from the garden or a small bunch from the corner store, a fresh bowl of protection herbs (out of reach of children and animals) or a piece of art that helps you remember that although your kitchen is a laboratory, crafter’s bench, counselor’s office, storage room, homework area and dining space, it can be if you choose it to be, first and foremost your temple.