The Ritual Bath

The doors of the sky are opened
The doors for the firmament are thrown open at dawn….

As people who might recall my marking of the Days Upon the Year with a fiveday of ritual bathing might guess, I am kind of a fan of the ritual bath.

This isn’t for ritual purity reasons, particularly (though the priests performing temple rituals would bathe in the temple’s sacred pools beforehand); it can serve that function, of course, but that isn’t why I find them a useful tool or technique.

A ritual bath is a consciousness-altering tool. If used to prepare for other forms of ritual, it can soothe and center the mind in order to create a useful ritual mindset, cultivate openness to sanctity and/or the Powers, or create a breathing space between the day-job mindset and everything else. The idea of washing up may be a fairly mundane task, but accompanying it with intention, with a set of ritual actions, with deliberate additions of particular substances, with prayers or recitations, transforms it into something else, a meditation perhaps, or a work of magic.

This kind of thing can be done with many other tasks, but I think that the bath is pretty much ideally suited for it. Culturally speaking, after all, there is an expectation of separateness for Bathroom Activities, which can make it easier to construct and maintain the sort of structure that lends itself well to changes of state of mind. The use of water, itself, provides multiple layers of transformative properties, whether the magical associations of transformation, emotion, or the primordial, the mental constructions of cleanliness that are thereby evoked, the use of temperature to construct emotional responses or soothe physical discomforts, and so on.

(And all of this can be done in the shower, too, though I’ve found that it takes a little more effort to construct the transformative mental state. It’s a bit more brisk and businesslike, which also has its uses.)

I don’t actually do the ritual bathing thing all that often. (I have need of it now, so it’s on my mind.) It would probably do me some good, really.

I go up into the Field of Rushes,
I bathe in the Field of Rushes.

– quotations adapted from Pyramid Text 325

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