Ritual purification

From Academic Kids

Ritual purification is a feature of many religions. The aim of these rituals is to remove uncleanliness, which may be real or symbolic. Most of these rituals were created long before the germ theory of disease.

Many religions have a ritual cleansing of the dead before burial.

Some religions have special treatment of particular body fluids such as semen and menses which are viewed as particularly unclean.

There are strong similarities between the cleansing actions engaged in by obsessive compulsive disorder sufferers and those of religious purification rites.



See Ablution in Judaism.

The Hebrew Bible has many rituals of purification relating to menstruation, childbirth, sexual relations, disease, and animal sacrifices. These laws were observed by the ancient Israelites.

Judaism is based on the Hebrew Bible as viewed through the oral law, including the Mishnah and Talmud. Judaism still observes laws concerning ritual purity in regards to sexual relations between married couples. Other ritual purity rules still followed include those for washing in the morning, and washing one's hands before eating a meal. The other laws of ritual purity are usually not followed, as they with ritual purity in the land of Israel, and the Temple in Jerusalem, which is no longer extant.

Perhaps the most misunderstood aspect of Jewish law are the laws related to toharat ha'mishpach (Hebrew: literally "family purity"). These rules inform us that a woman enters a state of "tameh" when she is menstruating. During this time a couple must refrain from all physical contact, especially sexual relations. After the cessation of her menstrual flow, the women counts seven days before immersing herself in a mikvah, at which time sexual relations between man and wife can then continue. The words "tahor" and "tameh" are often, but erroneously, translated as physically clean and unclean. However, these terms actually describe a state of ritual applicability in regards to fulfilling biblical commandments, such as those associated with the Temple in Jerusalem, the cultic function of Kohanim (priests), and sexual relations within in a Jewish marriage. Modern Jewish authors often translate tahor and tameh as "ritually pure" and "ritually impure".


Baptism is a Christian form of ritual purification.


Islam has rituals of purification including those relating to the preparation for prayer, where the hands and face are washed. (see Wudhu, Ghusl, Tayammum)


Hinduism holds that bathing in the Ganges is a particularly effective form of spiritual cleansing


Misogi is a Shinto practice involving purification in a waterfall or other natural running water.

See also



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