An aspergillum is a liturgical
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...
implement used to sprinkle holy water
Holy water is water that, in Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Lutheranism, Oriental Orthodoxy, and some other churches, has been sanctified by a priest for the purpose of baptism, the blessing of persons, places, and objects; or as a means of repelling evil.The use for baptism and...
. It comes in two common forms: a brush that is dipped in the water and shaken, and a perforated ball at the end of a short handle. Some have sponges or internal reservoirs that dispense holy water when shaken, while others must periodically be dipped in an aspersorium (holy water bucket, known to art historians as a situla
Situla, from the Latin for bucket or pail, is a term for a variety of elaborate bucket-shaped vessels from the Iron Age to the Middle Ages, usually with a handle at the top...
An aspergillum is used in Roman Catholic and Anglican
Anglicanism is a tradition within Christianity comprising churches with historical connections to the Church of England or similar beliefs, worship and church structures. The word Anglican originates in ecclesia anglicana, a medieval Latin phrase dating to at least 1246 that means the English...
ceremonies, including the Rite of Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...
and during the Easter Season
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...
. In addition, a priest will use the aspergillum to bless the candles during candlemas services and the palms during Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four Canonical Gospels. ....
Mass. At a requiem
A Requiem or Requiem Mass, also known as Mass for the dead or Mass of the dead , is a Mass celebrated for the repose of the soul or souls of one or more deceased persons, using a particular form of the Roman Missal...
, if a casket is present, the priest will sprinkle holy water on the casket. The aspergillum can be used in other manners where sprinkling of holy water is appropriate, as in a house blessing, in which the priest might bless the entry to the home. The name derives from the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...
verb aspergere 'to sprinkle'.
The form of the aspergillum differs in the Eastern Orthodox Church
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...
. In the Greek Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...
the aspergillum (randistirion) is in the form of a standing vessel with a tapering lid. The top of the lid has holes in it from which the agiasmos
Holy water in Eastern Christianity
Among Eastern Orthodox and Eastern-Rite Catholic Christians, holy water is used frequently in rites of blessing and exorcism, and the water for baptism is always sanctified with a special blessing....
(holy water) is sprinkled. In the Russian Orthodox Church
Russian Orthodox Church
The Russian Orthodox Church or, alternatively, the Moscow Patriarchate The ROC is often said to be the largest of the Eastern Orthodox churches in the world; including all the autocephalous churches under its umbrella, its adherents number over 150 million worldwide—about half of the 300 million...
the aspergillium is in the form of a whisk
A fly-whisk is a tool to swat or disturb flies. It is used as a regalia in some cultures.In Indonesian art, a fly-whisk is one of the items associated with Shiva. The fly-whisk is frequently seen as an attribute of both Hindu, Daoist, and Buddhist deities...
made of cloth or hair. Sometimes, sprigs of basil
Basil, or Sweet Basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum , of the family Lamiaceae , sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries....
are used to sprinkle holy water. In some of the Oriental Orthodox Churches, no aspergillum is used, but the priest will pour holy water into the palm of his right hand and throw it on the faithful.
OriginLeviticus Chapter 14
“3. ‘And the priest goes out of the camp and the priest looks, and beholds that the sore of the leprosy of the leper is healed.’ 4. ‘And the priest commands, and takes, for the one healed, two unblemished live birds, cedar wood, Coccus scarlet, and hyssop.’ 5. ‘And the priest commands, and slaughters the one bird in a pottery vessel upon living water.’ 6. ‘He takes the live bird and the cedar wood and the Coccus scarlet and the hyssop and dips them and the live bird in the blood of the bird slaughtered upon the living water.’ 7. ‘And sprinkle seven times upon him purified of leprosy, and he is purified, and sends the live bird upon the face of the field.”
- “Of the cedar wood, hyssop, clean bird, and scarlet wool or fillet, were made an aspergillum , or instrument to sprinkle with. The cedar wood served for the handle, the hyssop and living bird were attached to it, by means of the scarlet wool or crimson fillet. The bird was so bound to this handle, as that its tail should be downwards, in order to be dipped in the blood of the bird that had been killed. The whole of this made an instrument for the sprinkling of this blood, and when this business was done, the living bird was let loose, and permitted to go whithersoever it would.” Adam Clarke, 1831, vol. I p. 529
- “Verse 5. Over running water] Literally, living, that is spring water. The meaning appears to be this; some water (about a quarter of a log, an egg shell and half full, according to the rabbins) was taken from a spring, and put in a clean earthen vessel, and they killed the bird over this water, that the blood might drop into it…” A. C. I p. 529
- “The unusual ceremony in 14:2-9 reflects a primitive idea that linked physical illness with a winged evil demon, which had to be exorcised for health to be restored. The priest, as sole arbiter in the matter, met the persons outside the camp. If he appeared to be healed, the priest ordered him to slay one of two clean birds and mix its blood with spring water…Taking the other bird, a piece of cedar, some red yarn, an a sprig of hyssop, the priest immersed them all in the water and blood, sprinkled the man seven times to purify him, and then released the living bird. The lustral waters drew their purifying powers from being both fresh and reddened by the bird’s blood. Since the color red had an inherent power to frighten evil spirits, this was likely the significance of the crimson yarn, colored by dyestuffs derived from insects… Both the cedar and the hyssop (the latter actually a form of caper , true hyssop not being found in Palestine) were used for sacred aspersions… It is possible that the yarn bound the hyssop sprig to the cedar to form an aspergillum (Cazelles) although the text is not so explicit and they are evidently not so arranged in Num [Numbers] 19:6. The release of the bird symbolized the departure of the evil spirit.” The New Jerome Bibilical Commentary p. 70
Other usesAn aspergillium is also used by some Wiccans and other Witches to cleanse the ritual area (known as a Circle) prior to one of eight seasonal rituals, known as Sabbats, or a spell. Lunarized water, saltwater, or rainwater is used as opposed to Christian holy water.
Aspergillus is a genus consisting of several hundred mold species found in various climates worldwide. Aspergillus was first catalogued in 1729 by the Italian priest and biologist Pier Antonio Micheli...
, a genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...
Molds are fungi that grow in the form of multicellular filaments called hyphae. Molds are not considered to be microbes but microscopic fungi that grow as single cells called yeasts...
, was named in 1729 by the Italian priest and biologist Pietro Antonio Micheli. When viewed under a microscope, the mold cells were said to resemble an aspergillum.