Anointing is a practice in which oils, ointments, and other substances are applied to people or objects, typically as a part of religious ceremonies. Anointing is an ancient practice, with various cultures all over the world practicing anointing, and it continues to be an important part of the practice of many religions today. Many people have been anointed at some period or another in their lives, and some people are anointed on a regular basis, in keeping with the teachings of their faith.
The practice of anointing someone is sometimes known as unction, especially in Christian tradition. Someone may be anointed as part of a religious ceremony, especially an initiation, and people are also classically anointed at death and for other major life events, like marriages. Statues may also be ceremonially anointed on special holidays, especially in Asia.
A wide variety of substances can be used to anoint someone. Water is a common choice, as are essential oils, dairy products, and fats. Someone may also be anointed in ashes, paint, and a wide variety of other substances; typically the substance is blessed before being applied. The forehead is a common spot for anointing, as are the hands and feet, and sometimes other points on the body are viewed as sacred sites for the purpose of anointing as well.
Most classically, people are anointed by religious officiants, such as priests, although people can also anoint themselves. The Christian practice of sprinkling oneself with holy water upon entering a church is a form of anointment, for example, and some shamans and holy men anoint themselves before embarking upon important ceremonies.
Often, anointing is used as a form of purification and sanctification, with the anointed individual being considered, at least for a brief period of time, free of sin and evil. People have often asked to be anointed before battle, in the fear of dying in battle, and anointing is practiced both before and after death in cultures all over the world, as part of the grieving process and to protect the spirits of the dead.
Being anointed can be a very intense experience, as it often takes place in a very controlled, sanctified environment. While someone is anointed, prayers may be spoken or sung, and the anointed one may also join in on the prayers. Because anointing is associated so closely with initiation and life changes, the event can be momentous for the subject as well as his or her loved ones.