Sacred Disposal — Diana Olsen
There’s always one detail left over after executing the perfect ritual:
what to do with the residue–the wax that melted on your altar cloth,
the ash left from the incense, the bits of salt either in a bowl or
sprinkled at the perimeter of the circle. All of these may remind you of
a ritual well done, but they do present a problem, both energetically
and physically, when you wish to move on to your next magical act. Few
books really say how to dispose of these items beyond a vague suggestion
to bury them. Since burial may not always prove Earth-friendly, please
consider the following options for disposing of used ritual items.
These methods require me to use more than one “sacred vessel” to sort out my
disposal needs. A flowerpot sits on my altar, serving as a ritual litter
basket. In case of overflow, I keep the empty glass holder for a
seven-day candle next to the altar after cleansing it with a salt-water
I sort the physical debris from ritual into three categories: the
recyclable, the nonrecyclable, and the biodegradable. For those
interested in conserving matter or cost, most items can be reused. I
advocate cleansing and reusing whatever possible as a courtesy to Mother
Earth. Some other occultists may argue that this practice leads to
frustrating energy buildups, but I have never had a problem in my
Among conservation methods, you can try melting down
wax from old candles and reusing the wax to make new candles or figures.
Also, I always save and cleanse my stones unless I am using them for an
offering, in which case I always bury them or offer them in a body of
I always take time to sort my ritual debris. I usually place recyclable
items, such as certain types of plastic used for wrapping, in the glass
candle container. After the jar is full, I sort out the items into
pieces to send to the recycling plant and pieces to cleanse and reuse.
Fortunately, few of the standard ritual items that I know of are
non-recyclable. Those rare items that are nonrecyclable, usually residue
from package wrappings and so on, I place in a box or garbage bag and
send with reservations to the landfill. A quick sprinkling of salt water
seems to clear any psychic residue I might send along, and I also mutter
a prayer that the items reach sunlight so they have a better chance of
I think the only items that have ever significantly caused
me this problem was the plastic wrap from candles, but with recent
changes in recycling technology even those plastics now go to the
Biodegradable items, as much as possible, go in the flower pot on my
altar. I take leftover wax, wet and dry herbs, and even incense dust and
put it in the compost heap in the back of the property where I live.
This way their remains can break down, and they can reincarnate as new
Remaining salt, juice, and wine are tricky as each has a chemical
composition that can damage some plants. These byproducts I try to
consume myself, or else I offer them at some dirt crossroads.
In the process of determining how to handle my ritual byproducts I’ve
also learned how to manage typical household damage from ritual
My favorite technique for removing candle wax from clothing,
cloth, and carpet is to place a paper towel over the stain and then set
an iron on low over the paper towel. After a few moments, the wax melts
into the paper towel and is nicely removed from the inappropriate area.
Red or white wine stains come out nicely with a mild solution of sea
salt, water, and lemon juice.
Burns do not come out well, ever.
After an intense ritual, I don’t always have the energy to give my altar
the immediate cleansing it deserves. In these cases, I have learned to
apply a “three day rule.” I clean my altar within three days of the
ritual, giving it a good cleansing with salt water, sage, and sometimes
a candle blessing as soon as I’ve completely wiped off all the dust.
There are exceptions to this rule:
If the energy from a ritual was particularly intense or volatile,
I try to have it cleaned by the next day at the latest. Ideally, after such an intense ritual, cleaning
should occur within two hours.
Cleaning up can usually take a small delay, but it is still important
magical maintenance, just as crucial as house cleansings. Energy builds
in all the magical workings you do. By cleaning out ritual byproducts
regularly and promptly, you can better control the type of energy that
In extreme cases of neglected “housekeeping, ” the buildup
can lead spells astray and make room for some poltergeist activity. In
milder and much more common cases, the energetic “gunk” acts as a
demotivator, leading to a feeling of lethargy or disinterest for the
more psychically sensitive in a living area.
When this occasionally hits
me, I’ve always found a good, old-fashioned house cleansing sets me back
in the mood to do my work. By giving my altar a good scrub, I can
further motivate myself to return to my magical practices.
Don’t limit your cleaning to ritual tools and your altar. I admit that I
personally am a lousy housekeeper, but even then, once a month (New Moon
is a good time for this) I do my best to clean up flat surfaces, dust a
bit, and bring some order to my natural entropic state. Although the
process itself can be exhausting, it eventually rewards me with energy
and a positive outlook. The physical cleanliness will reflect itself in
the astral and make house cleanings and blessings a quicker and more
rewarding process as well.
If you need to clean your altar immediately, a simple solution of water
and sea salt that has been blessed will work. I’ve used this solution in
plastic spray bottles, sometimes enhanced with essential oils like
cedarwood for purification or sandalwood for psychic energy. If I have a
need to perform ritual two days in a row, a quick spritz across the
altar prepares the space for me so I can start on my work before giving
the space the intensive cleaning and attention it deserves.
For full ritual closure, you might want to offer a prayer to an
appropriate underworld, Earth, or reincarnation deity. Here is a simple
prayer that you might want to use:
“Blessed Gaea, all giving Mother
I return these children to you.
Hold them, love them, consume them.
Until again, they are ready for the world.
All things, even disposal, should be done with reverence. Humor is
appropriate, too, but keep in mind that these objects served your higher
purpose well and deserve to be honored for that service. All ritual acts
are sacred–even the ritual act of disposing.