We can all feel the difference between a messy room and a clean room. Clutter, refuse, and objects that are not in their proper places create confusion, imbalance, and waste our time. This is true for our physical lives as well as for our emotional and spiritual lives. In our relationships, for example, we can see how continually bringing up issues from the past that need to be released and buried can damage the present.
Think of a clean kitchen. Maybe the kitchen is sparkling and spotless or maybe it is a little dingy around the corners but more or less clean. Now imagine someone walking through that kitchen with mud on their feet, leaving their muddy footprints all over that clean kitchen floor. If this were really your kitchen what would you do? Would you leave the muddy footprints where they are, ignoring them and hoping that they would go away? Or would you get out the mop and go to work on them?
Most of us would not leave muddy footprints in our kitchens, but I am constantly surprised at how many folks refuse to clean up the muddy foot prints that have trekked all over their hearts, minds, bodies, and souls. The problem of course is that one cannot take a bottle of pine-sol to the soul, so what can we do?
As it turns out, quite a bit. Folk healing and magical traditions world over have remedies that address the state of spiritual muddiness we all encounter from time to time. Below are some of the time honored traditions I have been taught and can personally vouch for.
There is a saying in my family when one of us gets really sick. We say “I am so sick my hair hurts!” Have you ever been that ill, where your hair literally hurts? Thankfully I am not sick in that way very often these days but when I am I immediately know what to do.
I wake up early in the morning before anyone else is up, I fill my bathtub with hot, hot, water and I pour in a handful of blessed salt, Angelica Root, Peppermint, Cinquefoil, Rosemary, a chunk of Bloodroot, a pinch of Lavender, and a sprinkle of Life Everlasting. Yes, I’m taking a bath to ease my body, to get the sweat up so that my lymphatic system goes into action, but I am also taking sacred bath — a bath of healing, restoration, and blessing.
Often in my work I advise someone to take a “sacred bath” — it is an easy and inexpensive ritual act that may be done at home whenever the need arises. Many of my clients know the basics of sacred bathing, quite a few of them have sacred bathing traditions in their own families. Even so we are well served in revisting the art of the sacred bath.
First we must ask ourselves, what is a sacred bath? I use the term sacred bath to denote a bath taken for ritual or ceremonial purposes as opposed to a bath taken only for physical cleaning. Sacred bathing is a tradition found throughout the world. The use of water in combination with the just right botanicals and minerals, blessings, and focused intention has been with us since ancient times. Special waters herbs roots, oils, and other preparations are often involved in sacred bathing. Blessing ways, petitions, affirmations or mantras may also be part of you sacred bath. Though sacred baths are taken for a variety of reasons, they usually have something to do with cleansing and purification of the body, mind, and spirit. To that end, let us consider the one element that every sacred bath has in common.
It all begins with water ~
Water is one of the four classical elements honored in the Western Sacred Arts, the element of Water is also acknowledged and represented in many Asian and African traditions as well. Universally water is seen as an ideal element to work with in rituals concerned with healing, restoration, and cleansing. It is also commonly included in ceremonies designed to deepen an individual’s relationship to their intuition and inner knowing.
Tales of sacred springs, holy lakes, and blessed bodies of waters populate both myth and fairy tales while even today in largely Catholic areas holy water is gathered and used in the daily blessing of family, home, and land.
Often the realm of the dead and the realm of the living are separated by, among other things, a river or body of water. This has found modern translation in the teaching that whenever one is visiting a graveyard or trafficking with spirits of the dead, a good way to cleanse away any negative or malicious energy is to cross running water either in a vehicle or by foot as the belief is that the departed will not be able to move past that natural boundary line. We also find the notion of water’s protective qualities emphasized in the belief that setting a glass of clean water on a bedside table may protect whoever slumbers from unwelcome nightmares.
With the level of emphasis placed on water it should come as no surprise that the kind of water we use in a sacred bath is quite important. In myth and folklore we often find very specific rites given that involve bathing is specific bodies of water at specific times of day and even during specific times of the year. To this day in many countries pilgrimages are made by people of all faiths to bodies of water that are believed to be particularly blessed.
For our purposes I will assume that sacred bathing is a rite my readers desire to perform at home, where there is not necessarily a sacred body of water near by. I will also note that for some of us who, like myself, live in water-poor parts of the world any body of water is sacred! No matter where you are bathing, it is always advised to procure water from a natural source usually a spring or underground natural aquifer. If your water comes from a man-made reservoir or desalination plant for instance, you may want to represent water from a natural source by taking a cup or bowlful of spring, river, or lake water and adding it to your bath. If you choose to do this please note that some water does contain bacteria and other impurities that can be dangerous. Many rivers, streams, and springs have information about their bacteria levels available on the web, but if you cannot make sure that the water you have is safe then boiling it for at least ten minutes is a good way to quickly purify it for use.
Those are the outer, external considerations around the most essential element. But as you prepare your sacred bath, I encourage you to consider your inner relationship to the element of Water as well. What does water mean to you? What do you think and feel and envision when you hear the word “water”? How much water do you drink every day? How many ways do you use water on a daily basis? How many aspects of your life are directly supported by the presence of water? You are going to water for sacred purposes so take a few moments to reflect on your relationship to it, practically and spiritually, will do nothing but deepen your entire experience.