Are Ritual Baths Really That Important?
Even if your regular bath is really a quick shower, I’m going to assume that you take part in the centuries-old habit of cleansing the body. But what about cleansing the spirit? Just as dirt and pollen stick to your skin and get under your nails, spiritual yuck can stick until you remove it. Ritual bathing is present in nearly every culture, whether it’s a literal bath, the dunk or sprinkle of baptism, or even bathing under the sun (or moon). And for good reason! Although you can spiritually cleanse yourself by smudging or with an anointing oil, bathing is something very special.
Anyone who knows me very well knows that a bath is one of my favorite things. I think I inherited that preference from my parents. We had the typical shower/tub bathroom that a lot of families had in the 80s. But upstairs, the original bathroom in the old house where I grew up had an antique clawfoot bathtub that had been there since my grandmother used it in her youth. It’s still there today.
Mom and Dad always preferred a bath to a shower. My brother and sister were thoroughly modern and wanted the quick convenience of a shower. But I took after my parents. I guess I came by my love of bathing honest. Maybe it’s genetic? But bathing has always been a ritual for me, even before it was an actual ritual with a purpose besides getting clean.
Soaking in a tub filled with tea (bathing tea, not drinking tea) made from herbs, or maybe just a few drops of oil, or maybe even plain salt, is good for the spirit. Purification baths are probably my favorite. If I’m feeling down or frazzled, or if I seem to attract all sorts of negativity from others, my go-to is a cleansing / purification bath.
You can also use a bath for manifestation. After washing away negativity, you can bathe to attract something that you want in your life. Maybe you need money, or maybe you want to work on grounding. It doesn’t matter. There’s a bath for it.
Ok, so let’s get real. What if you hate bathing? Or what if you don’t have a bathtub at all? That’s not really a problem. Instead of soaking in the bath, you can prepare your bath like a large pitcher of tea. After showering, just pour it over your head. How easy is that? You won’t get the meditative benefits of a long soak, but you will get the cleansing or manifesting benefits from the ingredients that you choose for your bath tea. You can meditate afterward.
Dandelions are great for a purification bath. So is rue, although some people are sensitive to it. Hyssop is a classic purification herb, and so is sage. Eucalyptus, peppermint, and rosemary are also wonderful.
For manifestation or bringing good things to my life, I like basil, bay leaves, rose petals, cinnamon, calendula (marigold), and also lavender because it’s so versatile. You can add a splash of milk to make the bath sweeter.
As much as I can, I harvest from my property. But there's nothing wrong with using dried botanicals.
Making the bath tea can be a part of the whole ritual. Fill a large, heat-safe container with your herbs, dried or fresh, and pour boiling water over them. I like a stainless steel mixing bowl for this, but you can also use a large cooking pot or deep casserole dish. Just don’t use anything that could melt or shatter when you pour in the boiling water. Let the herbs steep for as long as you want. Crush them with a large spoon, if you like, as they steep. I usually wait until the water has cooled or until it looks like a very dark tea. Strain out the herbs and it’s ready. You can store it in the fridge if you’re not ready to use it just yet.
When I take a ritual bath, I begin with a quick shower to get physically clean. Then I rinse out the tub and fill it with the warmest water that I can stand. I usually lay a white towel on the floor and set another one out for drying off, bring in a fresh bathrobe, turn on some calm music, and light a candle. Then I’m ready to add the bath tea to the water.
The bathing ritual is whatever you want it to be. The important things are to get the water over your head at least once, drain the water while you are still in the tub, and don’t rinse the bath off your skin.
Some people like to air dry. Some towel off. I think it’s fine either way.
If you’re taking a purification bath, you can follow it with a sweet or manifesting bath. That’s a lot of bathing, I know. But if you clear away the negative, you might notice a spiritual void that will be filled with something. Why not fill it with something positive? That’s the same reason I burn frankincense and myrrh or another uplifting incense after burning sage. I believe that the sage leaves a void as it purifies. Better to fill the void purposefully than to leave it to its own devices.
Ritual bathing is time consuming. I get it. Nearly every person I know who doesn’t take part in ritual bathing on a regular basis says the same thing: I’ll get around to it. Or maybe they only do it on special occasions. That’s totally fine. You do you, friends and neighbors, and I mean that in a good way! I get in the bath every day, and I use a ritual bath at least once a week. In my fridge, I have two large containers. One has homemade cold brew coffee, and the other has some sort of bath -- the two important things in life. Ha! But your practice is your own.
The main thing that I want to stress is how wonderful it is for the mind and spirit. If nothing else, it lets you disconnect for a little while from the bizarre, often angry, and usually hectic world that we live in. That may be the most beneficial thing of all.