Ritual Bathing

The most common purpose of bathing is personal hygiene. Bathing creates a feeling of well-being and the physical appearance of cleanliness.

Bathing also serves several other purposes:

  • Decontamination from chemical, biological, nuclear or other exposure-type hazards.
  • Recreation
  • Therapy (e.g. hydrotherapy), healing, rehabilitation from injury or addiction, relaxation (e.g. Blessed Rainy Day)
  • Religious, or, less frequently, other ceremonial rites (e.g. Baptism, Mikvah)
  • Celebration and socialization, e.g. running through fountains after winning the World Series, or jumping through a hole cut in the ice over a lake on New Year's Eve.

Bathing is usually done in a bath (i.e. a place designed for bathing), but may also be done in places not specifically designed for the purpose, such as rooftops (sunbathing).

Bathing may incorporate any of the following methods;

  • Partial or Total Immersion (placing the body within water),
  • Sprinkling (asperging, baptism),
  • Vapor Bathing (Sweat Lodges or Steam rooms and Saunas),
  • Showers (water running over the body),
  • Sponge Bathing (often used during healing or bathe a specific part of the body),
  • Open air bathing (may include ocean and river bathing or public baths)
  • Hand washing (immersion of the hands either within a vessel containing water or under running water).

Cleanliness may be next to godliness, but to many people around the world bathing is about so much more than cleansing. Water plays an important role in many spiritual practices, symbolically it cleanses the soul, as in baptism, whether the ceremony involves a mere sprinkling or a full immersion in water. Our connection with water is therapeutic and spiritual.

In our fast-paced, busy, modern world a quick shower is often the preferred method of cleansing. Yet, many cultures still celebrate and honor the vital life force of water with rituals of cleansing, in many it is considered important to Ritually Bathe one selves prior to certain festivals.

The Burmese New Year is celebrated with a water festival in which everyone pours water on each other to wash off the misdeeds of the past.

Devotees of the Lord Shiva observe the Shivaratri Festival by following the prescribed rituals of which includes the devotees fasting, awakening early in the morning of the and taking a ritual sunrise bath, preferably in the holy waters of river Ganga and this is followed by the Ritual bathing of 'Shivalinga' (Idol of Shiva in the temple) with water, milk and honey and wood apple or bel leaves added to it, (representing the purification of the soul) in the numerous Shiva temples. Puja, meditation and chanting of ‘Om Namah Shivaya’ accompany the ritual bath.

Once a month married religious Jewish women go to the ritual baths, called a mikvah (symbolizing the end of her menstrual period), there they thoroughly wash with soap, shampoo etc in an adjacent bathroom. Only after they are completely clean do they then go into the Ritual Bath. In the bath they submerge themselves several times in the water, say a blessing, a lady, called a Balanit, oversees the submersion and saying of the blessing. The women who attend this Ritual Bath are said to emerge spiritually cleansed.

Within Islam there are two types of 'ghusl' (Ritual Baths) which are preceded by Istinjaa and wuzu. These Ritual baths are broken into two categories, the 'farz' (compulsory) of which there are seven ('ehtelamm' — night emissions, 'janaabat' — intercourse, 'haiz' — menstruation, 'niaas' — after childbirth, 'mayyet' — bathe the dead and the 'majnoon' — bathe the mentally ill who has fallen onto the ground) and the 'sunnat' (recommended).

Within Paganism the practices of Ritual bathing encompasses several different purposes including:
Spiritual Cleansing: Spiritual Cleansing is the process of removing negative energy from the body and/or auric field. This may be accomplished via a bathing Ritual similar to that performed in Ritual Preparation or it may incorporate asperging or sponging. Whatever method is employed the desired outcome is to spiritually purify the body mind and spirit.

Physical Cleansing: The most commonly practiced form of bathing, the process of removing dirt and residue from the days activities. This is generally accomplished via immersion or showering, unlike some other methods it utilizes soaps, and shampoos, often commercially produced to break down and remove dirt and oils.

Therapudic (healing): Balneotherapy (from Latin: balneum, "bath") is the treatment of disease by bathing. Hydrotherapy, formerly called hydropathy involves the use of water for pain-relief and treating illness.

Historically therapeutic bathing dates back to ancient times, medicine women often used bathing as a way of purifying the body, in times when few people bathed regularly. The Roman, Greek, and Egyptian baths were known as temples of beauty, and many therapies were developed to either heal or beautify those who entered through their doors. The Romans were believed to be the first who used different colored plasters for specific ailments.

Ritual Preparation: Ritual preparation includes clearing ourselves of our mundane thoughts and stresses before we begin devotion, magick, or other spiritual practices. Grounding, centering, and smudging are all common ways of achieving this, many Pagans incorporate a ritual bath as a powerful component for clearing daily stress, negative energies and to assist in beginning the transition to a meditative state before beginning the magickal or ritual workings

Self Indulgence: Contrary to popular belief, it is healthy to indulge yourself (as long as your indulgences are a balanced, healthy part of your life), indulging yourself tells your body, mind and spirit that you are worthy, loved and honored. Many women already indulge themselves with a bathing ritual even if they don't know it. A lovely warm bath, some soft relaxing music, scented oils or bath salts, a candle, a good book and some all over pampering, followed by wrapping in a large soft fluffy towel, and then more pampering of rubbing oils or creams into one's body. Sound lovely? Sound familiar? This common form of bathing which is popular amongst women is the basis for an Indulgence Ritual, by incorporating some ritual elements such as a chant or elemental call, visualization and charged candles, followed by a blessed meal and you have a simple ritual you can perform as often as you feel required to do so.

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