Taking a bath to cleanse your spirit is different from taking a bath to clean away the everyday dirt from your physical body.
With this practice of the ritual bath, we are creating beauty and restoration space for gathering up our soul and spirit pieces that can hide from a hard day or experience. These parts of us know these practices as safe and healing and respond quickly to the healing forces we enlist on behalf of supporting wholeness. Spiritual bathing and the ritual bath are meant to cleanse and protect us spiritually as well as within the other subtle and more physical levels. To create the desired effects, there are a few things to consider. When taking a spiritual, ritual bath, you don’t use soaps, shampoos, or do any leg shaving and such. Once the bath is prepared, you are entering a sacred healing experience and space so you’ll want to really think about separating your regular bathing with your spiritual bathing.
When we immerse ourselves in a spiritual, ritual bath, we engage an initiation process to open ourselves up to spirit, or that which we refer to as our Divine.
Ritual bathing implies that water and prayer wash away any spiritual grime — cleansing, clearing, and purifying our body and energetic field. It suggests that we are willing to listen to our higher self and begin to trust something outside of our rational mind and allow the wise inner knowing to emerge. There's an affirmation within the act of planning and preparing that speaks of our openness to ask the universe to assist and transform what we believe needs to be shifted within.
Although spiritual baths can sometimes help alleviate certain physical ailments, especially skin conditions and muscle soreness, they are meant for spiritual healing through release and restore processes. This ultimately affects our physical healing.
If you have open wounds or have just had surgery, do not immerse the wounded area in the water for several days and if you choose to anyway, which is fine for surface wounds, it's wise to sprinkle a few cups of strong herbal infusions and a handful of epsom salt only.
Consider Calendula flowers, Lavender flowers, White pine, Juniper, Oak leaf and bark, Witch Hazel Bark, Rosemary, Roses, Plantain leaf, or Yarrow leaf and flower as infusion choices for skin care to encourage closing wounds. Sea salt will sting any open skin areas with no harm other than it stings. Epsom salts does not. This with speed physical healing and gather the soul and spirit back after such a traumatic event. I suggest a spiritual foot or hand bath for the in-between situations where a full immersion bath must wait or you don't have a bath tub.
Preparing For Spiritual Bathing
- Plan your spiritual bath with s few considerations. It all begins with saying yes. Visit a working altar and prepare from there on the inside where it's all about being. Then we plan the doing part of it all. Good times are at the end of the day or week, at night when you'll fall into bed afterwards, during high holy days, or on dark or full moons.
- Take a shower before taking any spiritual, ritual bath and wash yourself thoroughly. Clean the bathtub too before filling the tub with water. We do this to open ourselves, body, space to clearing and cleansing.
- Fill the bathtub with warm water. Light candles, play music, and float flowers if you’re called to.
- Add to the water a handful of bath salts, a few cups of an herbal infusion, one cup of apple cider vinegar, 5 drops of an essential oils stirred in sea salt or baking soda first, or what ever fresh additions you know your heart is set on. Call on the healing forces of these elements to your bath.
- Eliminate distractions. Inform family and roommate you need this time. Close the door if pet distractions are unwanted for they will come in. They love these environments!
- Strip down and slowly immerse yourself totally from head to foot as best you can. Use a washcloth or clean glass to pour water over yourself and keep cleansing yourself with water.
- Pray, meditate, journey, or speak to what is holy to you for the release of any energy that you no longer wish to carry. This is our time to be deeply honest and clear in our dialogue with the Divine and to trust we are heard. Ask for spiritual support and to raise awareness of where the work ahead lies and how can we prepare.
- Stay in the bath for 15-20 minutes or until you feel complete.
- For the best results, air dry when you get out of the bath. You may use a towel for your head and put a robe on, but traditionally one does not towel dry. You decide depending on the ambient temp of your bathroom
- Massage your body with a good handmade cream, herbal oil, or sacred anointing oil you love. Consider working with sacred sound by using your drum or rattle around your body to complete this deep work.
- If possible, don’t take another shower or bath for 24 hours. Fall into bed for rest or retreat into nature and lay on our Earth for restoration.
Limpias. So what is a Limpia?
To perform a limpia, the curandera or shamanic practitioner uses herbs, flowers, prayers and songs, and the sacred sound of drum or rattle to help purify a person's mind, body and spirit.
Traditional healers work from a place of knowing that physical illnesses or 'conditions' are 99% rooted in the spiritual body. Fresh plant material is chosen and bundled together and swept over the body gently, and sometimes with a little more than gentle shaking and tapping (to whacking pretty good if needed) on the surface of the body from head to toe and front and back of the body. The herbs are regularly smudged through the process and prayers are softly spoken through the wafting, aromatic smudge smoke. Once completed, the energies are tapped into the Earth for composting and the spent herbs which can look quite black and dingy at times, are buried in a ceremonially reverent way.
My teacher Rocio, a born and betrothed shamanic healer from Ecuador, has traveled extensively teaching the power of daily limpias as part of one’s care for their body, mind, soul, and spirit. For times when the gardens sleep, there are the aromatic pines and fresh culinary plants which carry profound support for daily limpias. Rosemary and Thyme are favorites of mine.
Daily limpias are considered part of self care in many cultures and it's common to see limpia plants available in markets in other countries who retain this honoring of spiritual healing through profound, simple and sometimes daily practices.
Another essential element of the limpia is the smoke of copal, palo santo, white sage, or other plant you consider deeply clearing and protective for this kind of work. Copal is a dried resinous tree sap, palo santo is an aromatic wood that is burned in many different Central and South American ceremonies, and white sage grows here in the states. Do consider tiny amounts for smudge as each of these plants are experiencing threatened existence due to over harvesting. A little goes a long way.
The Simple Acts of Self Care
We could Sun or Moon infuse fresh aromatics or any dried plant material that calls to us and place them in a beautiful bowl set in a window for as long as feels complete. With dried herbs, these can be slowly simmered for 10 minutes and stirred with spoken prayers before placing in the sun or moon light for cooling and infusing. Crystals, flower essences, essential oils, or drops of plant tincture can be added to the water. Do a little bit of research on crystals as there are some that are best left next to the bowl of water for infusing. Follow your intuitive knowing. My midwife gathered tiny bottles of ocean water from different places around the world. She added 1/4 of the bottle with vodka to preserve it, labeled them and had they lined up near here bathtub to as add to a ritual bath or certainly here for making your waters for a limpia. For the record, one can just do a limpia without the water as well. So you decide what's needed.
Make a fresh plant wand for the limpia. It's simple. Bundle a handful of fresh plant material together, such as fresh soft needled pines, flowers that call, and aromatics such as any fresh spices or mint trimmings that you're growing or have purchased at a store. It's pretty easy to get organic Rosemary , mints, Oregano, Thyme and more these day. I also love parsley for my Yemaya ritual to honor the Ocean.
Then simply work out your logistics of bringing your infused water and plant bundle with you. You can decide to have infused water as part of this or just sweep the fresh bundle through your smudge smoke or essential oil mist and work the fresh plant material over your body. Bring your fresh plant medicine bundle and bowl of infused water to:
- stand in your tub or shower.
- stand on a towel in any room you feel safe.
- do outside anyway (yes even in winter many do this!) and return to dry by the wood stove. You can just work with the smudge and fresh plant bundle without the water for this. You decide.
- into a sauna. Lovely!
- bring your bundle to the waters of Nature and stand in the water, dip your bundle in with you and begin.
This is an excerpt from a lesson in "Birthing an Herbalist in 13 Moons" online herbal course. I hope you found this informative and helpful and do send along questions if you need clarification. The rules are rather simple. Follow your intuitive connection with the plants, trust and enjoy. Thank you for coming into my world for a bit today. Much Love, Jen