Spiritual baths or bathing rituals are a traditional healing and restorative practice used across many cultures and healing systems.
Water is sacred and the sustainer of all life and is often used in elemental rituals and ceremonies for its healing powers to assist us with grief congestion, working with difficult emotions, releasing the past, cleansing our energetic body and centres, letting go, forgiveness and aligning with the unobstructed true energy of Life’s flow.
I discovered this instinctively when I was a kid as baths, bathing and swimming were very powerful for me, long before I really understood why. I remember intuitively and spontaneously creating bath rituals as a child and spending hours of my free time cleaning the bathroom and preparing this as a sacred space in our home. Perhaps a strange engagement for a young child but thankfully, my family accepted my eccentricities and just let me get on with it.
As a young adult, I became more cognizant that bathing rituals helped me cope with being in the world – that somehow this profound connection with water as an elemental ally offered me sanctuary for healing and restoring my energy field, and helped me move through some of the emotional and psychic intensity I experienced in my daily life.
Over the years, I experimented with my bath time by adding things like seaweed & kelp, Epsom & sea salts, clays & muds, essential oils & herbs to amplify the power and effectiveness of my bathing rites. This wasn’t just relaxing or pleasant fo me – it felt like a game-changer and I often felt so relieved and uplifted afterwards as though a massive, sticky weight had been lifted off me.
Over the past few years, I’ve been learning how to work more consciously with water spirits – the distinctive patterns of energy and consciousness of water itself – or simply the essence of the element. I discovered that by organising how I approached the essence of water as a cleansing, healing aid and combining this with the power of plants, intention, focus and prayer, bathing rituals were something I could lean into as a personal practice for specific purposes.
This came together in a much clearer way when I consulted with a Sangoma (traditional Xhosa healer) related to some other issues occurring in my life and part of her prescription was to engage a 7 day coconut water bathing ritual for specific clearing purposes. In this, I began understanding how spiritual baths could assist as part of a triage tool-kit for unwell ancestral issues (spiritual bathing is NOT a resolution for ancestral issues but can clear some space until you access proper support), psychic overwhelm, disruptive energetic interferences, and other kinds of unseen phenomena that was creating a lot of chaos and confusion within my system.
My explorations and discoveries have led me to learn deeper about Energy Body Mastery with a trusted teacher, as part of helping to ground, align and strengthen my energetic boundaries (essential work for anyone learning how to live-well it seems).
I’ve been combining what I’m learning with intentional spiritual baths and cleansing rituals. In addition, during my journey and visualisation work, various helping spirits and encounters with the Sìdhe (fae spirits connected to the lands where I live) have also been initiating me in cleansing rites to assist my move through deep grief and the life-transitions I’ve needed to make over the past year. It’s been fascinating and extremely helpful to receive this much-needed support.
So I’m sharing a little of what I’ve been learning so far with you. As we approach the liminal cross-quarter threshold of Imbolc in the Northern hemisphere as the movement out of deepest Winter into early Spring, connecting with the Waters of Life through spiritual bathing can be a supportive practice to engage at this time.
Welcome, I’m Annu!
I write about embodying the roots of Truth & becoming trustworthy vessels for the living Mystery in the hearth of our everyday life.
Find out more about me & this work HERE!
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WHEN TO PRACTICE SPIRITUAL BATHING
There’s no right or wrong time to engage the practice of spiritual bathing. I’ve found that it’s really a matter of deep listening to what practices I need to work with in context of what’s showing up in my life and learning through experience and necessity when and how to apply this.
But as an opening guide, spiritual bathing is an effective tool for psychic overload and energetic interference, or if you’re struggling to hear/connect with Spirit realms. This can show up as confusion in the energetic system, and in particular fog/cloudiness or excess static in the headspace. It may also be accompanied by feelings and energies moving in the body-space that don’t feel like they belong there, or when you can see you’ve breached your own energetic boundaries by taking in something that isn’t serving your well-being.
Other situations that spiritual bathing can be beneficial in are working with releasing difficult emotions or if you’re needing some additional support in allowing grief to move. The practice is also very helpful for shifting stagnation and when cleansing and renewal is needed. Remember that Water is Life, and Life is Movement. This is the essence you are connecting with the element of water.
Because of it’s cleansing, purifying qualities, spiritual bathing is also a beautiful way to bring blessings into the body and can be a meaningful way to prepare for entering rituals, ceremonies, sacred rites, retreat-work and basically any situation or event in your life that calls for this kind of deepening preparatory practice.
If, like me, part of your practice is connecting with the cosmic rhythm of the 8-Fold Year by marking the Solstices, Equinoxes and Gaelic Fire Festivals, the practice of spiritual bathing can be beneficial during these junctures as a way of moving through the thresholds.
HOW TO MAKE YOUR SPIRITUAL BATH
Clarify your intention. This is the beginning to any ritual process, which means getting clear on why you’re doing this and what you actually need or are asking from it. If you’re working with a specific issue, engage contemplation, deep listening, journaling or some form of diagnosis/divinatory practice to get clear that this is the right option available to you at this time.
A special note here on laziness and ritual: we have a lot to remember about the use of ritual practice in cultures that are spiritually-amnesiac (i.e. cultures that have forgotten their spiritual roots, Truth and traditions). There is infinite loving, compassionate support available to us as human-kind, and a significant part of our Re-Membering is that we are actually supposed to be in good working partnership with the unseen worlds, and that we’re encouraged to ask for help as part of our deepening surrender in the coming together of Spirit and Matter.
But we also have responsibility in that to do our best – to investigate, to learn, to grow, to deepen, to expand – and our contemplation and Seeing into life-situations is part of this responsibility. It’s my experience that the Universe always responds to sincere need, so this is always the basic ground for the big Ask of ritual practice. To engage ritual as an easy-fix rather than combining this with the effort of our inner work is lazy and isn’t to the point. So, simply-put, spend some time getting clear about your motivation and let yourself be touched by that basic ground of need as it will allow so much more power and integrity to your practice.
Once your intention is in place, prepare your herbs (see ingredient section below) in a medium or large sized glass, metal or pottery bowl – don’t use plastic. You can crush the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle first, or place them directly in the bowl before pouring over approximately 200ml-1 litre of boiled water. Let the ingredients steep to extract the properties and allow the water to turn cool. You can strain out the solid ingredients or leave them in – just use some care to not block your plumbing system be allowing solid materials to go down the drain.
Next, prepare your bathroom space. Make sure it’s clean and clear of clutter so that you have a smooth sacred space to do your practice in.
Making a spiritual bath is not about getting your physical body clean. Therefore, take a shower or regular bath first, so that your skin and hair are fresh.
Begin running your bath and setting up your space – use white candles and have some white day-clothes or night-clothes to dress in afterwards. You can also use prayer, invocation or song as you draw your bath and light the candles. Place your bowl of herbal water close by the bath where you can reach it, and enter your bath.
Spend some time relaxing into the warm waters of your bath to allow the opening your body. When you feel ready, hold your bowl of herbal water and focus on your intention – repeat it out loud 3 times over the bowl of water from the heart with real feeling and sincerity. I like to kneel in the bath whilst I do this, and enter heartfelt prayer. When the need is great, I also allow myself to cry if that shows up. Connect with any spiritual helpers that you work with and call or sing to the spirit of the water to ask for its elemental assistance with your intention.
Once your prayer and intention feel settled in your own heart and have been offered to Spirit, pour the herbal water over the crown of your head slowly as you speak or silently hold focus with your intention. Also pour the waters directly onto your heart and belly centres, as well as the back of the neck and anywhere else you sense is needed.
If visualisation is helpful for you, apply this too by Seeing the purity of the water and the healing herbs cleanse and restore your naturally-rested energy field, clearing you of interfering energies and psychic debris.
Give thanks. Drain the bath water immediately and step out of the bath – trust that the work is done.
Allow your body to drip-dry rather than using a towel or just pat gently where needed – and squeeze out excess liquid if you have thick, long hair like me. Otherwise, let the herbal waters dry into your skin and hair overnight.
Optional: dress in white and use a white head-scarf to sleep in.
The following day (or approximately 12 hours later), you can shower as normal, making sure you wash your hair.
Repeat the follow evening if needed.
SOME INGREDIENTS TO WORK WITH…
One of the most effective and powerful bathing rituals I’ve personally encounter is by using the water of 3-4 fresh coconuts. This can also be supplemented or replaced with carton coconut water if you can’t access the fresh nut. Now, I’ll be honest here. This was shared with me by the Sangoma I worked with and it isn’t from my own cultural tradition and I haven’t been trained or initiated in any tradition that uses this. I don’t know why coconut water is so effective but it is. There are many who are formally initiated in such traditions that use this prescription as part of their healing and clearing work, so I encourage folks to reach out and find a good practitioner to work with if you need some stronger support in this regard.
My own tradition-remembering is based in these lands of Scotland and we have powerful and effective plants and herbs to work with here too. Below you’ll find local herbs or relatively accessible non-native ingredients to work with. I’ve placed them in three main categories of Cleansing, Protection and Blessing but many of the plants are interchangeable for these purposes, so work with your intuitive capacity or divination skills to create recipes according to need:
Cypress – fresh or dried sprigs, or as essential oil
Garden Sage – fresh or dried bunches
Hyssop – fresh or dried sprigs or flower-heads, or as essential oil
Juniper – fresh or dried sprigs with berries. Crushed dried berries or Juniper essential oil also work
Lemons – whole or just using the juice
Nettle – fresh or dried bunches
Sea Salt or Epsom Salts
Scots Pine – fresh or dried sprigs
Thyme – fresh or dried, or as essential oil
Vervain – fresh or dried sprigs or flower heads, or as essential oil
Willow – fresh or dried leaves and bark
Angelica – fresh or dried flower heads, or as essential oil
Bladderwrack – fresh or dried
Burdock – dried root/powder or tea
Cedar – see Juniper
Elderflower – fresh or dried flower heads
Mugwort – fresh or dried sprigs, or as essential oil
Sea Salt or Epsom Salts
Thistle – fresh or dried flower heads and leaves
Valerian – fresh or dried flower heads
Yarrow – dried or fresh flower heads
Many garden flowers have the capacity to carry blessings, especially white ones:
Calendula/Marigold – fresh or dried flower heads
Catnip – fresh or dried sprigs
Chamomile – fresh or dried, as well as essential oil
Chickweed – fresh or dried bunches
Coltsfoot – fresh or dried flower heads
Cornflower – fresh or dried flower heads
Damiana – dried herb or fresh or dried flower heads
Evening Primrose – fresh or dried flower heads
Gentian – fresh or dried flower heads and/or root
Hawthorn – fresh or dried leaves, berries and blossoms
Heather – any colour, fresh or dried bundles
Hibiscus – fresh flower heads or dried tea
Jasmine – fresh or dried flower heads, or as essential oil
Lady’s Mantle – fresh or dried flower heads
Lilac – fresh or dried sprigs
Red Clover – fresh or dried flower heads
Rose – petals, fresh or dried, as well as essential oil and rosewater
Violet – fresh or dried flower heads, or Violet Leaf essential oil
TAKING GOOD CARE
DISCLAIMER: I am in no way offering prescriptions or diagnosis in this article, so please take full responsibility when working with plants, herbs and essential oils for healing and personal practice, and consult qualified practitioners if in any doubt. Even though many of these ingredients are considered safe, there are quite a few here that must not be used during pregnancy, breastfeeding or if you’re trying to conceive, or if you have related allergies. So do your homework and reach out to knowledgeable guides when you need to.
The same goes if you are experiencing severe or chronic symptoms of any kind – please consult your doctor or professional health care practitioner.
If you are harvesting fresh herbs or plants, always sit with the plant first to connect and ask for permission from the plant to offer it’s essence to your ritual. If/when you feel a Yes or lifting energy/light in your belly or heart, the plant is offering itself, so give thanks before you cut. And in the spirit of reciprocity, leave an offering of gratitude such as a blessing, a strand of your hair, a nip of organic tobacco or a libation of appreciation.
Only use fresh ingredients for each bath and make sure you discard your one-time use herbs and water infusions properly. I like to offer the used herbs back to the garden, where I have a special place for this. But your kitchen bin or composting are are fine too.
STRENGTHENING YOUR ENERGY BODY
One last thing that’s important to mention is that, ultimately, it’s vital to find the right practices that help to strengthen the energy body in a substantial way if, like me, you’ve found yourself relaying on spiritual bathing as a regular triage go-to.
Preventative care and holistic well-being means actually learning about your energy body, and what your naturally-resting energy field actually feels like. Engaging regular embodiment practices and energy work to fortify the vertical spiritual-spine alignment, grounding with the Earth, establishing intelligent healthy boundaries (including psychic boundaries) and plugging directly in to the clearest truth are the real learning curves here. And using rituals like spiritual baths instead of doing this core work isn’t helpful long-term if you’re struggling with any of these issues. There’s nothing wrong with this, as it’s part of our learning here – so just be aware.
There are many embodiment and energy practices and approaches that can help with this, including Qi Gong, Tai Chi, yoga and other forms of movement, somatic unwinding and martial arts, as well as visualisation, meditation, breath-work and energy body mapping. Strengthening the energy body is about learning how to move and clear your energy in alignment with your physical body, heart centre and head space in context of Embodying Truth.
That being said, Spiritual Bathing is a beautiful and beneficial ritual that can be included in your personal practice, and a powerful triage tool or blessing practice to turn to when needed as part of our learning and taking responsibility for our state of Being.
I’m constantly learning too on this journey and it’s always an honour and joy to share deeper on these topics and practices in 1-1 Mentoring Sessions and Holistic Bodywork, so welcome to be in touch to arrange if this could benefit you.