Few things in life are as comforting and relaxing as a warm bath. Some may consider a long soak in the tub to be a First World luxury, but it is also a healing practice. Water has the ability to cleanse both body and soul if we take our time and approach the bath as a ritual, particularly on or around the time of the full moon.
Our bodies are more than 60 percent water. We spend nine months floating around in amniotic fluid. We have an intimate, life-giving relationship with this powerful, fluctuating element that rules about 71 percent of the earth’s surface. This beautiful chant from the Reclaiming Community reminds us of that connection:
Born of water,
Think of how it feels by the sea. Everything just seems lighter and easier at the beach. The negative ions in the air actually create a biochemical reaction that boosts serotonin, which alleviates stress and depression. Because of her unique ability to press our emotional re-set button, the ideal ritual bath is within Mother Ocean herself if geographic location and conditions allow. If not, then we can get the same effect from adding pure salts to our bathwater.
Begin by filling the tub to the desired level, and be sure that the water isn’t too hot. Soaking in a superheated bath actually revs up the nervous system, which is the exact opposite of what we’re trying to do. Just barely above body temperature is best for relaxation, so keep the water to a maximum of 100° F (37° C).
Then add two or three handfuls of unrefined sea salt or Himalayan crystal salts to your bath. (Do not use table salt, as the refining process removes beneficial minerals). The skin is an organ of elimination, so the saltwater will draw out toxins from your tissues as you soak. If you have aching muscles, you may want to try Epsom salts, which are higher in magnesium. This will flush out the buildup of lactic acid and relieve soreness.
Adding pure essential oils can further enhance the ritual bathing experience. Andrea Butje of the Aromahead Institute recommends three safe ways to enjoy essential oils in a bath:
- Add 5 drops of essential oil to a tablespoon of carrier oil, and then add this to your bathwater.
- Add 5 drops of essential oil to a cup of whole milk before adding to your bath.
- Blend 5 drops into 2 oz. of natural salts and 1 teaspoon jojoba before adding to your bath.
All of these methods help ensure that the essential oils won’t be absorbed undiluted. They will bond with the fats in the carrier oil or milk, instead of being attracted to the lipids in your skin. Then you can enjoy the aromatic benefits of essential oils and minimize the risk of possible irritation.
The following essential oils are excellent for pre-ritual grounding and centering:
- Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica): calms nervous tension and defuses anger.
- Frankincense (Boswellia carteri): improves concentration and soothes emotions.
- Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia): fights depression, eases fear, and relaxes the mind.
- Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha): provides clarity, focus, and strength in troubled times.
- Sandalwood (Santalum album): promotes compassion, elevates spiritual awareness, and strengthens resolve.
- Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides): settles nerves, reestablishes a connection to the earth, and restores balance.
Ritual bathing connects spirit and body, cleanses the aura, and opens up our chakras. It is a signal to the Goddess that we are listening to Her and opening ourselves to transformation and deep healing.
While soaking, you may wish to offer a prayer or chant that expresses gratitude for the cleansing power of water and the intention to fully release all that doesn’t serve your highest good. Above are some of my own, but the best prayers and intentions always come from your own heart.
This is the first in a four-part series on purification rituals with the elements. The next installment will focus on Air.
Butje, Andrea. “3 Ways to Use Essential Oils in a Bath.” Web blog post. Aromahead Blog. The Aromahead Institue, 24 Nov. 2014.