Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Baths for me are so much more than just a wash. It is a magickal ritual to connect spiritually and purify yourself (and also helps to keep you warm during these colder seasons!).
A few years ago, I was extremely sick with a random doctor's diagnosis of "gastroenteritis" (I don't think this was the correct diagnosis, but that's a story for another day), which resulted in me vomiting non-stop for around 2 weeks, becoming severely dehydrated and malnourished, and I eventually required a drip-feed in hospital. They sent me home after half a day with some anti-sickness pills, which were then thrown up within the hour.
My poor boyfriend had to endure these 2 weeks (and the following months of recovery after) of agonising crying, screaming and crawling on the floor to get to the toilet, alongside having to produce a new "sick bowl" every half an hour. I could barely lift a finger to text my friends to let them know what was happening. It was such an awful experience all round, but this is not the point of my post today. Instead, I will share with you the one thing that truly, completely, healed me from this "mystery" illness.
So of course after trying the unresponsive medication, I chose to contact my grandfather for more "holistic" advice. Unable to diagnose me over the phone, he instead gave me useful dietary pointers to help clear my system of whatever was irritating it. Apple skins, which contain pectin, are great aids for stomach aches and pains. Plain yoghurt contains probiotics, which are vital for removing toxic waste in our digestive processes. Herbal teas with ingredients such as ginger, honey, cranberries or carrot, all contain powerful vitamins to help clear bacterial infections and settle irritation. And of course, garlic is a natural anti-septic.
Whilst all these foods were helping to heal my body, my mind was still in survival mode during the recovery stage. My stomach, chest and back muscles were in agony by this point, from all the heaving and convulsing, and so I had a long, hot bath to try and ease some of the strain.
When I sank into that scorching water for the first time, I knew it was the solution to all my problems. The heat helped my aching muscles relieve themselves of the stress as I laid back, and the fresh smell of this newly ran bath was heavenly. As soon as the water encased my stomach, I no longer felt an overwhelming sense of needing to vomit. It was like this big watery blanket had wrapped me up safely and calmly, and taken me away to a land of mineral magick, where all I need do was float. I closed my eyes and enjoyed this experience for a good hour, until the water was no longer warm and my skin had turned to that of a prune's.
From that moment on, the bath became my new favourite place to be. Before this "Cost of Living" crisis, our gas bill was very cheap. One bath cost about 40p, so I decided to have about 6 a day to begin with. It was a LOT of water wasted, and I am definitely not advising anyone to have that many baths every day, but it sort of balanced out as during the initial 2 weeks I hadn't showered, washed my face, or brushed my teeth at all. I reduced my bath use to twice a day after the first week because I felt guilty about wasting money and hurting the environment, then down to once a day every other day, and eventually once a week. Nowadays things are more expensive, so I have a bath here and there when I really feel like it.
Which brings me to my post. I don't believe that bathing "cured" my illness; if I was going to be fully honest here, I would say I became extremely stressed due to outside factors during that period of time, which added to my current anxiety and literally made my body break down. "Gastroenteritis" is just a symptom of the wider issue - we tried to cut out certain foods, improve our hygiene and cleanliness, even tried to change our mealtimes, all to try and prevent the illness returning, but it actually came back a few months later and I was bed-ridden again for 3 weeks. My diet has never been an issue for me; I'm not the healthiest or most diet-conscious person out there, but I've never been taken ill by any foods before, and the closest I'd ever got to a hospital before that was having chickenpox as a baby. For me, this sickness was more psychosomatic, which makes perfect sense why being able to finally relax in a bath helped to heal my mind of its toxicity.
Water is often considered a negative element, due it being draining, downwards and sometimes suffocating (even the Ancient Chinese agree to move your bed away from walls near a bathroom in Feng Shui). This means it is not a great element to practice with if you are naturally melancholic or socially anxious - it can make you become draining and suffocating, which are not the qualities most people would be accepting of! However, if like me, you are often a raging ball of fire who needs to be toned down, and perhaps even have an exorcism performed on, then water is an excellent element to work with. Its purifying qualities really help cleanse your system of toxic energy by literally "flushing" them out, whilst simultaneously bringing you to a state of calm, inner peace, and spraying away your destructive fires. If you are feeling a boiling anger raising within you today, perhaps drink a glass of water as your first point of action, and re-evaluate if your anger is justified - if you still feel "sparky", go for a swim!
You may have reached this part of my post and be wondering - what does a bath have to do with "spiritual connection"? And what exactly is a "spiritual connection"? A quick Google search defines this as: "Our ability to intuitively understand something that impacts our soul and gives meaning to our lives." To me this makes sense, because I often believe there is a higher power around us, but I have never believed in a certain God or deity, or followed any organized religion. The layman would call this "agnostic", but this fails to acknowledge my obvious use of witchcraft in my daily life, and to me performing any kind of ritual which helps me meditate and experience the presence of something more powerful than me is a spiritual connection. Relaxation is just one of those methods I call a "ritual", and because I was able to feel so comforted, intimate and at peace with the water in that bath, I feel that it is more than deserving as a way to connect with my soul.
I tend to have more clear baths than colourful baths. As a child I LOVED bubbles and toys, and as an adult I still love bubbles and toys, but the clear water on its own was what I used to heal with, and to be honest it's a good job I didn't use any lovely smells because it probably would have made me throw up again! To simply have the perfect pamper, though, I would obviously choose the biggest pink fizzy bomb there was and garnish my bath with petals of rose, jasmine, and hibiscus (and maybe lace the linings of the tub with a few too many candles).
Relaxation does not mean every method of healing will work for everyone - we are all different, and like with any medical treatment, a one-size-fits-all "prescription" of self-care doesn't exist. What relaxes me might not relax you, and vice versa. However, by showing you different methods which have worked to help both myself and my clients to relax, I can give you inspiration to find those methods which work for you. Go forth and research, good soul, for you bare the intelligence and resources to release your soul!
To give you a little starting point, here are 10 mini Water Rituals to try for yourself in your own time...
Drink More Water! I see you, desk workers, drying your eyes away to dust as you endlessly scroll through the emails and ignore your cracking, parched mouths... Go and pour yourself a glass right now and stay hydrated!
Wild Swimming You don't need a public pool or a giant garden for this - scout out the best parts of the beach, local rivers or lakes, even natural springs are great places to swim for free and feel free, too. You don't really need to be a fantastic swimmer, but if you don't feel confident in the water on your own then bring a friend along. I barely even "swim" either, I just splash around and float for a bit to enjoy the feeling of water. In England you're going to have to learn to put up with the cold temperatures, though!
Steam Your Face I use steaming for a few of my facial treatments, and you can make a DIY steamer with a bowl of boiling water and some drops of your favourite essential oils. The humidity helps to clear sinus problems, and sitting there (preferably with a towel over your head to contain the steam) can help you meditate. Plus, the steam "opens" your pores in your skin making your dermal layer more flexible and easier to exfoliate dirt away.
Collect Water There are many different forms of water all over the earth - from lakes, rivers, seas and oceans, to ice, hot springs and salt basins. There are also different types of rainfall, including tropical monsoons, arctic thunderstorms, and mild drizzles. All of the molecules from these water sources will look completely different, and each form of water can be used for different magickal purposes. For example, dew drops can be used for beautifying rituals (add to your cleansing routine), spring water can be used for purification (mix a few drops with your floor cleaner for a blessed mop!) and storm water can be a very powerful banishing agent (no need to lay salt anywhere in your home when you can just splash around some thunder!).
Crystalize Your Water It is said that quartz carries spiritual energy, and when placed with water can "charge" it, making it much more pleasant to drink. You simply need a glass or bottle of water and a piece of quartz crystal - place the glass on or as near to the crystal as possible, without submerging it into your water, and leave it for about 24 hours. Make sure both items are in a space which is free from clutter or disturbances (perhaps on a windowsill in the least used room of your home). This gives the quartz a full cycle to completely charge your water, and you might notice it tastes better!
Go Fishing What could be more relaxing than sitting by the water's edge for hours in your favourite outdoor chair and sipping a few beers as you wait for the fish to play? Most people that go fishing don't really catch anything, but the experience is what matters - letting the time float by doing not very much and anticipating something that might never happen, gives you the gift of patience. And when you eventually catch something, you are filled with a sense of pride and purpose - for you were always destined to succeed, you just needed to wait for the right moment!
Watch a Really Sad Movie It's ok to cry, really! Is it ok to laugh? Is it ok to smile? Then with the idea of balance, it must be ok to feel sadness, too! Watch something "heart-breaking" or a "real-life drama" with a box of tissues and be ready to let loose your tears. Your emotions have been holding off their release for a while now - it's time to give them a little nudge!
Visit some Hot Springs These natural baths are dotted all over the world, and some of them are safe for humans to enter. Bath in the UK is home to the only "hot" springs in the country (the Romans built their "baths" on top of them, which you can now use as public spas today), although there are a few natural springs around the Peak District which are classed as "tepid" or "lukewarm". There are ample hot springs all over the USA, Israel, Turkey, Iceland, Canada & Japan, to name a few countries to look for. Some downsides of natural springs include the rotten egg smell from the sulphur that is produced, and the muddy earth at the bottom of the pools can be a little unpleasant, but overall sitting in this natural phenomenon is highly relaxing, soothing for sore muscles, and spiritually connecting. The heat also helps boost our bodies' temperature regulation response, and the resulting sweating helps to drain out toxins and waste.
DO Go Chasing Waterfalls! The glorious splashes and pours of a waterfall are spectacular to watch and beautiful to embrace. Don't throw your head under one, of course, just step back and admire it. Watch as every particle gushes with the force of gravity, splattering and crashing as it hits the pools below. Imagine you are on the edge of this fall, flowing with the stream - see how quickly nature moves outside of your control? You can choose to fight against the current, and go down in an almighty great fall, or you can become at one with the current, and move with it instead - now you get to choose which way it flows...
Make your own Aromatic Spray You need but only a few things: your favourite herbs or flowers, essential oils, a tea strainer, and an empty spray bottle. This spray can be used on your skin, hair, bed sheets or as a general room freshener. Simply strain your chosen herbs with boiling water, and leave the concoction to infuse for at least 10 minutes. Leave it to cool to room temperature (or use it to steam your face!), then pour into your spray bottle, and add about 10 drops combined of your essential oils (you can add more after giving your mixture a shake and checking if there is enough scent for you). Now you can leave your bottle in the fridge for whenever you need to use it - if you would rather it remain at room temperature, add about 5-10 drops of a tincture (herbs strained and infused in 80%+ alcohol for 2 weeks) or natural preservative to prevent bacterial and mould build-up in your water. Ideally, if used and stored properly, your spray should last at least 6 months!
I am sure there are many other creative ways to access and utilize our most abundant substance on earth, but I think I shall leave the idea-making up to you now, my dear reader. How do you feel about water? Have you felt inspired by the bath? Would you like to see more elemental rituals to try in the future? Let me know your thoughts...