If you can do this before moving in, so much the better, but it's never too late.
1. Blessing the Borders
If possible, go all around the outside of the home, censing and sprinkling as you go. If you do this, though, do not use salt or salt water. Salt can harm plants. If you wish to use all four elements, use sand or cornmeal for Earth. Before you circle, say:
Blessed be this land.
Our home stands on sacred space.
As you go around it, pay attention to your land. You should know it already, but inspect it again with ritual awareness. If you can't go around the outside, go around the inside, keeping as close as possible to the walls. Either way, go clockwise, since this is the traditional direction for circumambulating anything sacred.
If you live in an apartment or condominium that has common land, you can circle that. Without land, you will still need to make an imaginary trip around the borders of the building. Have everyone close their eyes while one of the adults describes the building's edges in as much detail as possible. Start at one corner and go clockwise around the building, giving approximate measurements. If your children are too small to have a good grasp of feet or meters, give the measurements in terms of their or your bodies, or as steps. Include all architectural features -- doors, windows, steps, pillars, fire escapes, etc.
If, on the other hand, you own some land (even just a yard), go around the entire border of it, paying special attention to its corners. You may want to put markers at them which you can use as altars for offerings to the spirits of the land. Stone markers are best because they are permanent, but posts will do. Posts have the advantage of being easy to carve, paint, or burn a face or protective symbols in if you wish. (See appendix 1 for protective symbols.) These can be naturally shaped stones, but pillars are better because their impression of verticality clashes with the horizontal ground and says, "Here is a border." As phallic symbols, they also serve as reminders of the power of the border spirits.
Border markers needn't be large. A foot high is fine. The important thing is that they be visible, at least to those who know their significance. This shouldn't be a problem if the land is your own, but on common land you may need to go without, or you can use sticks pushed in flush with the ground, small rocks, or features already in place. Sometimes when a house built, concrete markers are placed at the corners of the property by the builders. Look for them, and use them if they are already there.
Before you erect each marker, pour out some wine and place an egg and grain or cakes in the hole where it will be put. As you do so, say:
We give these gifts to the spirits of the land
who were here before we were.
Though we may now claim this land as ours
it was yours long before
and it will be yours when we are gone.
Do not begrudge us its use
but may there be friendship between yours and ours.
Then erect the marker while saying:
God of the borders, watch over our land.
Both the spirits of the land and the God of the Borders should be given offerings on special occasions such as the anniversary of moving to the house or when your household is in need of particular protection.
In some parts of the British Isles the borders were honored in the past by entire villages in a custom called "Beating the Bounds." The villagers would process around the village's borders, and at landmarks or corners children were whipped or ducked in cold water. The explanation given was that it would "help them remember." Similar rituals were held in Greece, Rome, Russia, Norway, and other parts of Europe. No, I'm not suggesting you whip your children, but they could be the ones to put out the offerings.
Border guardians rarely have names, but the Romans, with their love for naming, called theirs Terminus. He will not mind if you call him that.
2. Threshold blessing
Bless the main threshold before entering for the rest of the ritual. If you wish to bless the others as well, do so, but without the invocation of the threshold guardian. Bless the threshold with the elements and leave an offering beside it, or even pour out a whole bottle of wine or beer on it (if poured right, the liquid will go outside rather than in; most thresholds in new houses have a lip to help seal the door when is closed anyway), saying:
Watcher of the threshold
Who looks both ways
Who guards coming in
Who guards going out
Watch over our family
and all of our guests.
Guard our coming in
Guard our going out.
Open onto a home filled with love and peace
and hospitality for all guests.
If this is your first home, add:
God of all beginnings,
look with special favor on this,
our first home.
If you have an image of a threshold guardian, install it near the main door.
It is an unfortunate fact that many of the things that have happened in your new home before you move in might not have been pleasant. Unpleasant happenings leave their traces behind and could cause problems if allowed to stay. The first thing that should be done after entering, then, is to clean. An actual physical cleaning is a good idea, especially vacuuming and sweeping, both wonderful ways to banish. If you concentrate on ban-ishing undesired influences while you clean, it will be especially effective. After the cleaning, take all your noisemakers,your bells, rattles, drums, and horns. If you have a drum for your household guardian, definitely use it. Make as much noise as possible while shouting:
Everything that is bad
Everything that could hurt
Ritually, noise is said to disturb harmful spirits. Psychologically, it acts as a catharsis, and the following silence seems peaceful in comparison. (And children will love it.)
Repeat the last two lines as many times as you feel necessary.
4. Blessing the Hearth
If you are lucky enough to have a fireplace, light a small fire in it, saying:
The heart of our home is burning brightly.
Give it offerings, especially of incense, cooking oil, or butter, saying:
Queen of the hearth, be here in our home.
Warm it and light it.
Keep love's flames high.
If you use a Brighid's cross (see the Imbolc rite, chapter 7), hang it over the mantle. Then use a taper to carry a flame from the fire to any pilot lights you might have. By doing this, all the flames in your house become one flame, the flame of your hearth guardian.
If you don't have a fireplace, perform this rite by your stove, lighting the pilot light if there is one, or a candle or oil lamp next to the stove if there isn't. Leave this burning throughout the rest of the ritual.
5. The Shrine
Set up your household shrine. Leave offerings of bread and salt. If you are establishing a new household after starting a new family, you will have to perform the ritual to attract a household guardian (see above).
6. Consecration by the elements
On the altar of your shrine put unlit incense (air), a lit candle (fire), a bowl of water (water), a plate of salt (earth), and a flower, crystal, or mirror (spirit). Raise the image of each element up in turn and turn clockwise around to present it to the house. One of the adults says:
We bless this house by air
the breaths of song
of talking with friends,
the slow breaths of meditation and prayer
and the quiet breaths of sleep.
By air be clean
We bless this house by fire
the fire that will warm it
the fire that will cook our food
the fire that burns within us
the fire of life and love.
By fire be clean
We bless this house by water
All that we will drink
All that we will cook with
All that we will clean ourselves with
The very blood that runs through our veins
By water be clean
We bless this house by earth
from which it springs,
on which it rests
We are creatures of earth
Living upon it
Living from it
Living within it
By earth be clean
We bless this house by spirit
by active and passive we bless it
The spirit that sustains us
wrapping around us
keeping us safe in its arms
By spirit be clean
Children can do the presenting, and older children can say the words. "Be clean, be fresh, be pure" can be said by everyone.
Mix the salt with the water and light the incense from the candle. You now have consecrated water which combines the two female elements (earth and water) and burning incense which combines the two male elements (air and fire). Use these to bless the house, sprinkling and censing as you go. The sprinkling can be done by quite young children, and the censing by slightly older ones.
7. Sealing the windows and doors
Go to each window, door, or other opening (chimney, dryer vent, etc.). This can be done as you come to them while you are censing and sprinkling. With an athamé, wand, or your hand, draw a symbol of protection over it. (See appendix 3.) Say:
This opening is sealed,
guarded against all that would harm.
8. Blessing of rooms
Bless each room as you come to it by sprinkling, censing, and saying a blessing. Suit the blessing to the room and the function it will perform. For example:
May this kitchen be blessed
that all the food prepared in it
will give not only nourishment
May this bathroom be blessed,
a place of cleaning and health,
that all who use it may be refreshed.
May this bedroom be blessed,
so that it might give rest and peace
to all who sleep in it.
May this guest room be blessed.
May it help us to fulfill our duties as hosts
and bring blessings to our guests.
May this living room be blessed
that it may be a place of fun and relaxation
for all who use it.
May this storage room be blessed
that it may keep in safety
the goods that are entrusted to it.
9. Offerings to outstanding natural features
Go outside again and tour your yard. Pay special attention to any outstanding natural features -- large rocks, streams, small hills, etc. Say hello to each tree and leave a small offering of food and drink. If there are too many to do this individually, do it at each group.
Come inside and have a meal. Use your best place settings, and one of the meal prayers (chapter 6). The food should include bread (so you may never hunger) and salt (that your life might always have flavor). These really should be given to you by someone welcoming you to the neighborhood, but you'll probably have to improvise. Don't forget to provide them for others, though. You can explain it as an old custom (which it is). It is most common in Eastern Europe, but the combination of bread and salt is found in many cultures, among the Romans and the Irish, for instance. Many Americans are familiar with it from Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life.
As soon as possible after the house blessing, have a housewarming party. One of the responsibilities of a householder is hospitality. It is also one of the joys.
Traditions to raid: Terminalia (Feb. 23) (Roman), Beating the Bounds (British, date varies).