So, as one of my close friends told me, There’s clean…and then there’s my idea of clean.” She was talking about my oven, but I’m thinking bigger.
Many folk traditions used botanicals, salts, powders, and other creations in their home or on their person to add to the healing and cleansing power of their bathing or washing procedures. This cross-cultural activity ranges into antiquity and has been updated into “new world” folk practices in North America and certainly continues in other regions of the globe today.
I have several favorite methods for incorporating ritual bathing into my life. There are times when things just feel heavy in my home, my person, my heart, or mind. It’s a hard feeling to describe but if you’ve felt it, you’ll understand.
As I write this, it is winter in the midwest and I think I have seen the sun no more than a dozen times since about November. It gets on top of me a little (a lot, actually…). I noticed that a particular cleansing or blessing bath does me some good.
There are a lot of ways to go about this, from simple to quite fancy! It really depends on what you have on hand, what you like, and what will feel like it does the job for you. Here are a few examples of what I like to use, and that could work for you:
- Salts of any variety, with my favorites being sea salt or kosher salt. Epsom salts are also great for this!
- Dried or fresh herbs, particularly lavender, basil, rose petals, rosemary, or citrus peel. Chamomile is good too.
- Essential oils- but we need to talk about safety! See the “Supplies and Tips” page.
- Candles for your bathing area. White nice but pick a color you like. No rules!
- Incense if you enjoy it
- Either a tub, or a basin that you can put your mixture in
Your Lovely Tub Bath.…
Put some white candles, or the color of your choosing around the bathing area, incense if you want it; whatever it takes to make your space feel special. Mix your chosen elements together and pour them carefully into your bath, swish them around in the water, get in, and let the botanical and wholesome salts influence your body, your energy, and your mind. Soak as long as you want or have time for. Let all of that extra heaviness go right down the drain. Some people choose to step out of the bath between two white candles, like an otherworldly doorway. I love that idea. Be careful with your towel ends and open flame.
*Tip I learned the hard way: put a washcloth or other thin cloth over the drain to catch any floating herbs and avoid them clogging your drain. The water will still drain out for you, don’t worry.
Alternate Shower Option:
Not everyone has a bath tub. Or, maybe you have a tub but a leisurely bath just is not in the cards for you but you feel like you need more than just the average “clean” one day. You can use all of the principles above in a different way.
Your herbs and salts aren’t going to dissolve and steep for you if they’re dumped on the shower floor, right? Not to mention plugging your shower drain…
Try this instead….
Make yourself a “body tea.” Mix your preferred items into a kettle or pan of water and heat on the stove. Let them steep in there like a tea but don’t boil them or it’ll take eight years to cool down before you can use it. Heat it until you can put your finger in it just enough to feel hot-ish but not enough to burn.
I’m serious. Test the temperature.
Bring either the pan to the shower with you, or pour into a bowl or basin. Turn on the shower, do your regular shower-ish stuff, and then use the mixture as a body wash. No, it won’t foam, but it WILL cleanse your body and mind in its own way. I do this one a lot because I don’t have a lot of time between episodes of someone yelling “MOM!!!” when I am in a bath., so it’s showers for me, more often.
Wash the mixture in downward strokes on your body, toward the floor. Some traditions say to dump the entire thing over your head but that just seems like too fast and not enough time to enjoy. Use it as a wash, as you see fit (avoid delicate areas….trust me.)
When you have just a little left, you might enjoy pouring that last bit over your head. You might need to pick or rinse some herb bits out of your hair. It’s worth it!
Close your eyes while you do it, especially if you have salts in there. Burning eyes can pretty much wreck your moment. As in the tub, step out into a candlelit bathroom, dry off with a soft towel. Beautiful. Just beautiful.
Here are a couple resources for how others have used ritual baths, in past and present:
Life is a journey….simple pleasures matter.