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A blessing, (also used to refer to bestowing of such) is the infusion of something with holiness, divine will, or one's hope or approval.

Etymology and Germanic paganism

The modern English language term bless likely derives from the 1225 term blessen, which developed from the Old English blǣdsian (preserved in the Northumbrianmarker dialect around 950 AD). The term also appears in other forms, such as blēdsian or bldsian (before 830 and derived from Proto-Germanic *blōðisōjanan), blētsian from around 725 and blesian from around 1000, all meaning to make sacred or holy by a sacrificial custom in the Anglo-Saxon pagan period, originating in Germanic paganism; to mark with blood. Due to this, the term is related to the term blōd, meaning blood. References to this indigenous practice, Blót, exist in related Icelandicmarker sources.

The modern meaning of the term may have been influenced in translations of the Bible into Old English during the process of Christianization to translate the Latin term benedīcere meaning to "speak well of", resulting in meanings such as to "praise" or "extol" or to speak well of or to wish well.

Abrahamic religion

Within Roman Catholicism, only bishops and priests can give blessings. The laity and the deaconate cannot bless themselves but ask for God's blessing, the only solitary exception is the deacon blessing the Paschal candle.

Within Eastern Orthodoxy, Anglicanism, Methodism, Lutheranism, and similar traditions, formal blessings of the church are performed by the clergy, and sometimes deacons, but as in many other religions, anyone may informally bless another.

"To be blessed" means 'to be favored by God'. Blessings therefore are directly associated with God and come from God. Therefore to express a blessing, is like bestowing a wish on someone that she will experience the favor of God. "May you have a blessed Christmas", therefore can also be translated as: "May you experience the favor of God during this Christmas period."

A curse, at least in its most formal sense, is the opposite of a blessing.Compare charm.

In the Bible, blessings and curses are related; the book of Deuteronomy prescribes that obedience to the Law of Moses brings God's blessing.

One of the first incidences of blessing in the Bible is in Genesis where Abram is ordered by the to leave his country and is told:

The Priestly Blessing is set forth at Numbers :

May the ' bless you, and keep you;
May the ' make His countenance shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
May the ' turn His countenance to you and grant you peace.

The New Testament commands Christians to bless and not to curse ( ; ; ). This supports the Christian doctrine that God is a God of love & mercy and that the Bible teaches that cursing and anger should be left to God - not us (in the sense that He will judge our works).

This formula has been introduced into Christian worship as well. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus pronounces blessings on the poor, the humble, and the persecuted in the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount.

In the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches blessings are bestowed by bishops and priests in a liturgical context, raising their right hand and making the sign of the cross with it over persons or objects to be blessed. They also make blessings to begin divine services and at the dismissal at the end. Within the Eastern Orthodox churches a priest or bishop may also use a Blessing cross to bestow blessings. In the Roman Catholic Church a priest or bishop blesses the faithful with the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance during Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

Islam has no clerical caste, and therefore no blessings reserved to specific individuals. Islam itself is regarded as being a "Blessing upon mankind". Muslims will frequently pronounce "peace and blessings be upon him" when mentioning the name of Muhammad. Muslims will also greet one another with a blessing on such occasions as Eid.

In Judaism, a blessing (or berakhah) is recited at a specified moment during a prayer, ceremony or other activity, especially before and after partaking of food. The function of these blessings is to acknowledge G-d as the source of all blessing. A berakhah typically starts with the words, "Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe..." Judaism teaches that food ultimately is a gift of the one great Provider, God, and that to partake of food legitimately one must express gratitude to God by reciting the appropriate blessing. Jewish law does not reserve recitation of blessings to only a specific class of Jews; but it does mandate specific blessings to specific occasions, so that, for example, women chiefly recite the blessing for lighting Shabbat candles.

Other uses

A blessing can also be a request for permission, as in "gaining your parents' blessing" would consist of having been granted consent. Clergy will normally receive a blessing from their ecclesiastical superiors to begin their ministry. In the Russian Orthodox Church pious laymen would go to a starets (elder) to receive his or her blessing before embarking upon any important work or making a major decision in their life. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, a member may receive a special blessing, known as a patriarchal blessing, as guidance.

In Spanish, there is a blessing which can be used as a tender farewell, especially from a parent: Vaya con Dios ("Go with God"), also Adios (A Dios, "to God"), similar to the French Adieu.

Blessing is also a term used for marriage in the Unification Church, see: Blessing Ceremony of the Unification Church.

Blessing is the collective noun for a group of Unicorns.

In a darker turn of phrase, a Blood (street gang) initiation rite will involve getting blessed, a process by which a inductee is punched as hard as possible in the forehead.

In Hawaiimarker anything new (a new building, a new stretch of road to be opened, a new garden) receives a blessing by aHawaiian practitioner in a public ceremony (involving also the unwinding of e.g. a maile lei).


  1. Barnhart (1995:73).
  3. Sefer ha-Chinuch 430


See also

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