Bless this nest
months after settling into her new home in northeast Minneapolis, Susan
Snyder finally finished the move a couple of weekends ago. No, she didn't
just get around to unpacking the last box. She completed the task of making
the place her own by having it blessed.
house feels complete now," she said. "It feels settled. It feels the way
it's supposed to."
blessings are "the biggest shelter trend since feng shui," said Donna Henes,
a shaman based in New York City who has been blessing homes for 35 years.
"That was back in the days when eyebrows were raised [at the mention of a
blessing]. But times change. Now people are embracing alternate
blessings are conducted by a wide range of practitioners, from ceremonial
artists to ordained clergy. Snyder's was done by the Rev. Katherine Engel, a
Twin Cities interfaith minister who has been conducting such ceremonies for
six years and insists that they are not a challenge to mainstream religious
"It's not 'instead of' but 'in addition to,'" she said. "It's the 21st
century, and churches are changing. The traditional ways are still there,
but people aren't afraid to look at new ways."
Still, misunderstandings arise. "It's not a house exorcism," said the Rev.
Shelley Dugan, a Unitarian Universalist who has been doing blessings in the
Twin Cities for 12 years. "It's a way to deal with both the physical and
emotional aspects of transition."
There are almost as many different reasons for home blessings as there are
different styles of homes. Some people get them when they move into a house
where something negative has happened -- a death, for instance. Other people
do it to give their new home a fresh start.
it doesn't even have to be a new home; more people are having their homes
blessed every year or two, cleaning out the old energy the same way they
clean out the garage.
song in every room
Snyder was having her third home blessing. She'd had one after each of her
previous two moves as well.
definitely get a sense of inviting some other spiritual energy into the
house," she said. "It marks my living here. It's like putting a stamp on it
-- a really, really nice stamp."
blessing Engel did for Snyder lasted about a half-hour as she moved from
room to room, excising the old energy and filling the space with new. At
Engel's encouraging, Snyder invited a group of friends and neighbors to
witness the blessing -- which, when it's Engel, also means taking part in
a big believer in group participation," she said. "I teach everyone a song
beforehand and then, as we go from one room to the next, we sing it -- verse
one here, verse two there, and so on. Each stage has a different prayer,
too, that I teach everyone. And at the end, everyone lights a candle and
says an individual blessing or their wishes for the home."
While home blessings are trendy, "they certainly aren't brand new," Dugan
said. "They go back centuries. It's just that they aren't used very much
anymore, in part because people don't know to ask for them."
Henes said that lack of awareness is a cultural issue.
"Every culture in the world has blessings -- except ours," she said. "They
have home blessings, baby blessings and retirement blessings. Our culture is
bereft of ceremony."
Dugan agreed that for many of her clients, the ritual itself often is as
important as the benefits it promises to generate.
believe that rituals are vital in our lives," she said. "Many of the calls I
get are from people who do not have a church home. People who belong to
faith communities get rituals [during weekly services], but those outside
the church don't, and I think they feel that void."
Because of the interest in ritual, there tends to be a lot of flourish to a
modern-day home blessing. "Drumming, chanting, censing, smudging, ringing
and singing" are all part of Engel's services, for instance.
That's a far cry from the ancient rituals, Dugan said. "Most of those were
pretty short," she said. "You stood at the threshold of the front door and
said, 'Bless this house.'"
Belief is optional
Believing that a blessing can bring fresh energy to a home isn't necessary
for benefiting from one, Dugan said.
happen to believe that you can feel a positive energy after a blessing, but
I also realize that there can be a psychological benefit," she said.
of the things I do to prepare a blessing is sit down with the homeowners in
each room and say, 'What do you want to have happen in this room?' If we're
in the kitchen, for instance, they might say, 'We want to eat meals as a
family instead of gathering around the TV set.'
lot of people haven't thought about things like that. And just saying what
they want for each room helps give them a focus for that room."
for now, home blessings are strictly a word-of-mouth affair. The
practitioners have websites (see accompanying list), but most of their
business comes from referrals or people who attend a ceremony as a guest.
It's all very low-key.
can't hit people over the head with this stuff," Engel said. "You have to
respect them and accept them where they are."
Strickler • 612-673-7392