How to Take a Cleansing Ritual Bath

lady in a bathtub with rose petals and candles

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Imbolc is known as a time of purification and cleansing. A great way to incorporate this into your magical practice is to take a ritual cleansing bath. The purpose of a ritual cleansing is to not only clean the body, but also to cleanse the mind and soul. It's a chance to meditate and reflect upon the things you wish to wash away–whether it's a bad habit, negative feelings, or anything else.

This isn't something unique to Paganism. In fact, many religious groups use bathing as part of their ritual purification. Rabbi Jill Hammer writes, "The ritual bath, the mikveh (gathering of waters), is an ancient Jewish tradition relating to the concept of taharah (ritual purity) and tumah (ritual impurity)." In Buddhism, most temples include a ritual basin full of water, the tsukubai, which is used for purification of the hands and face. As you bathe, you literally rinse away what you choose to eliminate from your spirit or body.

Perform a Ritual Bath

To perform a ritual cleansing bath, you'll first want to set the mood. Try to do this with some semblance of privacy, so you can have peace and quiet. This is supposed to be restful and empowering–and it's hard to achieve that if you're yelling at the kids to keep the noise down. If other people live in your home, either send them away while you're taking your bath or ask that you not be disturbed for a while.

You may wish to light some candles. Bathroom lighting tends to be harsh, and there's something very soothing about bathing by candlelight. Some people prefer to turn off the overhead lighting and just use natural light instead, which is easily done if you have a window in your bathroom. You may also want to light some incense, if there's a particular scent you find soothing or inspiring.

Finally, some people like to add music. Put in a CD of your favorite instrumental music, or of natural sounds. Noises like whale songs, waterfalls, rainfall or ocean waves are all appropriate. If you prefer not to have any music, that's fine too–it's really a matter of what relaxes you best.

Herbs for Cleansing and Purification

As you run the bath, you'll want to incorporate herbs that are associated with cleansing. The best way to do this is to tie herbs into a muslin cloth or bag, and hang it on the faucet so that the warm bathwater runs through it into the tub. Herbs associated with cleansing and purification include but are not limited to:

  • Sage
  • Chamomile
  • Cinnamon
  • Lemon Balm
  • Sandalwood
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Hyssop
  • Sweetgrass
  • Peppermint

Once you've filled the bath with warm water, running through the herbal mix, immerse yourself in the tub. Make sure you're completely relaxed–for some people, this may take a few minutes, but that's okay. Try to clear your mind completely. Focus on the warmth enveloping your body. Breathe deeply, taking in the scents of the herbal oils in the water. If you've got music playing, allow your mind to wander wherever the music may take you–a sandy beach, a forest glade, wherever. Close your eyes, and become attuned to the rhythms of your own body.

Visualize, for a moment, all the negative energy in your body. As you focus on this, imagine it being swept out of your body, bit by bit, one particle at a time, through the pores of your skin. See it being released from your body, and diluted into the water. While the negative energy is leaving your body, think about how rejuvenating the bath is. See your body, your spirit, your soul being cleansed and purified by the herbs and the water.

When you feel ready, stand up and get out of the tub. After you've gotten out of the water, release the plug so that all the negativity absorbed by the water can be drained away.

Talaj is a Pagan practitioner in Florida. She says, "Where I live, it's not too chilly at Imbolc–we don't have snow or anything–but it's still cooler than normal. A hot bath full of herbs helps me get grounded, reminds me that winter is going to end eventually, and is a really good way for me to relax and reconnected to my gods."

Important note: if you only have a shower stall, and not a bathtub–or if you just don't have time for a long bath–you can do this cleansing rite as a shower. Hang the cloth bag of herbs over the showerhead, so the herbal water runs over your body while you shower.

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Your Citation
Wigington, Patti. "How to Take a Cleansing Ritual Bath." Learn Religions, Apr. 5, 2023, Wigington, Patti. (2023, April 5). How to Take a Cleansing Ritual Bath. Retrieved from Wigington, Patti. "How to Take a Cleansing Ritual Bath." Learn Religions. (accessed June 1, 2023).