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Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary


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purification by washing the body, either in whole or part. Ablutions appear to be almost as ancient as external worship itself. Moses enjoined them; the Heathens adopted them; and Mohammed and his followers have continued them: thus they have been introduced among most nations, and make a considerable part of all superstitious religions. The Egyptian priests had their diurnal and nocturnal ablutions; the Grecians, their sprinklings; the Romans, their lustrations and lavations; the Jews, their washings of hands and feet, beside their baptisms; the ancient Christians used ablution before communion, which the Romish church still retains before the mass, sometimes after; the Syrians, Copts, &c., have their solemn washings on Good Friday; the Turks their greater and less ablutions, &c.

Lustration, among the Romans, was a solemn ceremony by which they purified their cities, fields, armies, or people, after any crime or impurity. Lustrations might be performed by fire, by sulphur, by water, and by air; the last was applied by ventilation, or fanning the thing to be purified. All sorts of people, slaves excepted, might perform some kind of lustration.

When a person died the house was to be swept in a particular manner; new married persons were sprinkled by the priest with water. People sometimes, by way of purification, ran several times naked through the streets. There was scarcely any action performed, at the beginning and end of which some ceremony was not required to purify themselves and appease the gods.

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Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Ablution'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. 1831-2.

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