The old maxim states: Cleanliness is next to godliness. While the expression comes from the Christian community, it is good to note that maintaining a state of spiritual cleanliness facilitates spiritual contact with the Divine, alleviates spiritual illness, and can help bring one a state of psychological peace as well. Personal rituals of spiritual cleansing are often viewed as something to be done on ‘special’ occasions, if done at all by the community at large. With a measure of focused intent, daily bathing habits can be transformed into spiritual cleansing habits as well, which can serve to help one maintain a healthy, harmonious, and happy spiritual life.
A common method of spiritual cleansing used is that of a ritual bath. The act of drawing the bath may be accompanied by the lighting of special candles or a ritual incantation. The thing that sets a ritual bath apart from an ‘ordinary’ one is the intent and mindset of the bather. The person who is taking a ritual bath will mindfully add items to their bathing routine that serve to nullify and remove spiritual impurity and miasma. They will also maintain a mental focus on washing away and removing said impurity and miasma as they bathe.
A simple ritual bath may consist of the bather adding a quantity of salt (preferably sea salt, but even Epsom salt can work in a pinch) to the water. Salt, as I mentioned in my previous article, is known to draw away and eliminate spiritual impurities. If it is possible to have the salt content of the bath approximately as strong as sea water, it is traditional to use this concentration. Thriftiness, however, may dictate that a smaller quantity of salt be used. If a mere teaspoon of salt is added to the water with focused intent, it is equally effective as a greater quantity. The higher salt concentration may, for some sensitive people, prove more intense of an experience then the lower concentration, but either amount will serve the same purpose.
Other additions to the bath may be herbs associated with purification. While it may be romantic to toss a handful of herbs into the bath, it is far more practical to tie them into a cheesecloth bag or bundle, which is then suspended beneath the tap as the water is added. Care must be taken to avoid herbs that are problematic for the skin and can have detrimental effects upon the body when they come into contact with mucosal membranes.
When one uses herbs in a ritual bath, they are drawing upon both the chemical properties of the herb and the spiritual ones. Of all the herbs one can potentially use in a spiritually cleansing bath, lavender is one of the best choices. Lavender is gentle upon the skin and is not problematic for the majority of the population. It’s bracing scent engages one’s sense of smell and can be used to help purify one from within via breathing. Lavender is also associated with healing and is useful for mending the minor spiritual bumps and bruises we encounter over the course of our day.As one bathes, it is helpful to maintain a mental focus upon removing miasma and spiritual impurities from their body. In maintaing this focus, one additionally removes them from their spiritual aspect as well.
One is not limited to using baths for spiritual cleansing. A shower done with the same mental focus is equally effective. The addition of salt or herbs to a bath is not a substitute for the deliberate act of washing the body and maintaining a mental and spiritual focus of removing miasma and spiritual impurities. The act of washing oneself can, in the event of limited time and resources, could be done even by way of washing one’s hands. Greater concentration and focus is needed if one is using washing their hands to rid their spiritual ‘body’ of impurities because the corresponding physical action is so limited.
The use of applying blessed oils varies between faith practices. The general purpose is to promote one’s spiritual well being and confer some of the blessings of the Divine upon the person anointed. This is frequently done in the Christian faith as part of their purification rite known as baptism. This is a rite that is done once in a Christian’s life and serves to sever the newly baptized Christian spiritually from their previous life, cleanse them of spiritual impurities, and spiritually rebirth them into their new life. In a different context, anointing with blessed oils can be used on a regular basis to cleanse spiritual impurities and provide a barrier from the future acquisition of them. Like bathing, the application of oil should be done whilst focusing upon the objective of one’s efforts – in this case, cleansing oneself of spiritual impurities.
The practice of smudging is an adaptation from Native American practices, as it is popularly done. Variants of this practice have been found elsewhere, though they go by different names. Incense or a strongly scented herb is burned. The smoke is then wafted at the person being cleansed or the person will pass through the smoke. This is understood to remove spiritual impurities from their person. In a magical sense, one is being purified by way of the classical elements of air and fire. (Bathing in salt water, one is purified by way of the classical elements of earth and water.)