Now that we’re regularly being reminded of the importance of washing our hands with soap and water, you might want to begin a practice devoted to the Goddess Hygieia. The word “hygiene” comes from the same root word as her name.
Generally described as the daughter of the Greek God god of medicine, Asclepius, and his wife Epione, (thus, the daughter of medicine and healing), Hygieia is recognized as the protector of good health, especially through practices of cleanliness and sanitation. Thus, just as all acts of love and pleasure are rituals of the Goddess, all acts of cleanliness and health are rituals of Hygieia. When you wash or bathe, when you clean your food and eating surfaces, when you breathe fresh air, when you get enough sleep, when you go for a brisk walk, when you do yoga or meditate, you are performing rituals to Hygieia.
She was sometimes seen as one manifestation of Athena, Goddess of the Polis. This makes sense, as the need for hygiene increases as more and more people live in close proximity. Her worship spread after a devastating plague.
Wikipedia tells us that the Romans also worshipped Hygieia, but that:
Hygieia was imported by the Romans as the goddess Valetudo, the goddess of personal health, but in time she started to be increasingly identified with the ancient Italian goddess of social welfare, Salus.
As we’re seeing now, in the midst of this plague, personal health and social welfare are intimately intertwined. Washing your hands, strengthening your immune system, and practicing social distancing are ways to keep yourself healthy AND ways to ensure the welfare of everyone around you, which then rebounds to keeping yourself healthy.
Some ways to invoke Hygieia:
Read this article and focus especially on the diagram. It provides an excellent visualization tool to use when you wash your hands.
Consider charging the soap in your house and any soap dispenser you use outside your home. Ask Hygieia to bless it. If you make your own soap, consider doing it as a magical act of reverence to Hygieia.
Make offerings to the Goddess. If you can send donations to local clinics, if you can donate soap or sanitary wipes to a local homeless shelter, if you can burn sage to help cleanse a room, do it as a ritual to the Goddess. Hygieia looks favorably upon all who perform acts of kindness and support to home health workers, nurses, medical technicians, massage therapists, and doctors.
Singing “Happy Birthday to Me” several times is a good way to make sure we wash our hands long enough to kill germs. But you can also sing or listen to this Hymn to Hygieia:
Or, you can recite William Cowper’s prayer to her:
Eldest born of powers divine!
Blest Hygeia! be it mine
To enjoy what thou canst give,
And henceforth with thee to live:
For in power if pleasure be,
Wealth or numerous progeny,
Or in amorous embrace
Where no spy infests the place;
Or in aught that Heaven bestows
To alleviate human woes
When the wearied heart despairs
Of a respite from its cares;
These and every true delight
Flourish only in thy sight;
And the sister Graces three
Owe, themselves, their youth to thee,
Without whom we may possess
Much, but never happiness.
May She bless you and your home in these trying times.
Now, go wash your hands.
Picture found here.