When he was done he laid his tanned and naked flesh upon the stones beside the running water for the Sun to do its work. And when the young man rose his skin was dry. Clean, yes, but uncomfortably dry.
And he smelled, after lying in the sun, a little mmmm-manly. For any number of reasons he decides an anointing is just what he could use.
If he were a brave hunting in the woods, he might choose bear fat to cover his own scent and protect his skin from the cold. An athlete of ancient Greece or Rome would anoint himself with olive oil before exercising or wrestling, naked, with pals at the gymnasium. A youth set to woo might use a scented salve to help him win a mate, or at least a mating.
The oils used were thought to impart protection and beauty, or a variety of attributes depending on the botanicals involved. Besides helping to keep the skin free of tiny parasites, oil from olives is now know to moisturize skin in harsh environments, nourish and feed the body through it’s largest organ: the skin. This is one example of modern science confirming your Grandmother’s wisdom. In those times, it was simply known to work.
Because this is what the word ‘anointing’ meant before religion adopted its usefulness. Now, we tend to think of it only in a church setting. Before this, it was an everyday thing. It was what you did after washing, or before a special event. You did it to protect your skin. You did it to smell good.
And in the church stories young men and women were anointed a number of ways. Once, famous feet were washed with tears and dried with hair. Then those same feet were anointed with a scented oil so strong and costly it was usually saved for funerary rites. Hardly an everyday occurrence.
In another, a whole crowd was anointed by the ‘Spirit of God’. Now, how do you anoint with something that isn’t even an oil? It is a mystery unless one imagines this spirit flowing, like a costly and beautifully scented botanical oil, from the heart of the Divine to the beloved gathering.
In each of these diverse ways we are, or were, anointed. It helped then as it does today, to prepare us, our souls and our skin, for what comes next.
It is possible to use and combine these meanings in an everyday practice of awareness. Being extra finicky about purity and ingredients, I first prepare my own anointing salve. The ingredient list I admittedly copied from a reference book I read years ago. This is my pleasure reading, and alas, I have long forgotten the title for proper credit. All I did remember was the recipe and it’s connection with Cleopatra’s alabaster jars.
With salve or oil now prepared, you may anoint yourself with mindful application of the same. Each limb, you feet, your legs, hands and arms, your face and neck may all be anointed with prayers for blessing and protection.
Here is a lovely blessing and anointing my friend Jason Mankey shared with me. It is largely his composition derived from a work of Willow Polson in her book ‘Pagan Rituals’. It may be appropriately used and adapted as required.
Blessed be your Mind
That you might always make
wise decisions that will lead you
ever towards the gods.
Blessed be your Voice
That you might always say the
right things and speak the holy
words of the Great Lady
Blessed be your Heart
That you might feel the love
of the Goddess and
share it with others in return.