One of the most common things initiates with the right training and gifts do is treat spiritual conditions. These treatments are prescribed via divination and tailored to the afflicted individual, and they can take many forms – tea, subfumigation, massage, and frequently a bath. A successful treatment depends on a successful divination, the inherent power and spark in the materials used, the blessing of the practitioner’s spirit, and the initiatory gift of the practitioner. Put it this way: the knowledge of the initiate is crucial, but also the initiate’s connection to spirit, and the spiritual power in their hands (“fos”) is an irreplaceable element. It’s absolutely essential, and rarely can be honestly offered by a non-initiate.
A spiritual bath, as mentioned above, can be a treatment, custom prescribed and made for the recipient, or it can be a standard recipe for standard purposes: remove negativity, enhance luck, attraction, etc. These recipes are held in houses and lineages and shared among their members. Some are prepared and blessed by initiates, and some are prepared and blessed by individual practitioners, members of houses who serve their personal spirits, for their own use. The traditional format is almost always a basin of liquid filled with fresh herbs, perfumes, fruit, flowers, and other living ingredients. Dry can be used, but fresh is more traditional and usually preferred. Imagine a very hot climate, a long day, and now you’ve got a basin or large gourd of cool, fragrant liquid ready to sluice over your head and body. Fresh, clean clothes for afterwards, and a nice rest. It’s transformative. Now transport that format to a temperate climate, it’s not high summer, and this feels a little different. We’ve definitely moved indoors, but still, it feels a little more like an act of discipline than a gift. Watery gifts in temperate climates involve steam, warmth, and soaking…a good long soak. But still, negativity needs to be washed away, then we can fill that void with something positive like luck and soak in that!
What do I mean by living ingredients: ingredients that hold a connection to life, like plants or milk, rather than a refined chemical. Think animistically – ingredients have both material and spiritual aspects. It’s similar to Michael Pollan’s concept of real food or Ayurveda’s focus on diet as medicine – the value is in the whole plant, herb, or dish, more than one component that can be extracted. The sum is greater than the parts. I’m not advocating chemical phobia here, or dismissing manufactured ingredients, those have their place and purposes, but I do reduce them to supporting parts, not main players. Nor are natural ingredients an excuse for poorly made products that can’t fulfill the function of their form well.
So what’s a spiritual bath product? There are lots of commercial ones, I mean, without Lanman and Kemp we’d be in world of hurt! But that’s mainly due to some items becoming classic and becoming imbued with specific qualities: Florida Water, Hoyt’s Cologne, Pompeia: all of those are perfumes that are both sought after, non-substitutable spirit offerings, and spiritual ingredients in their own right. But there are stand alone bath products offered by big commercial producers and small crafters. Some of these are strictly riding on imagery and a familiar scent, and maybe some herbal correspondences, and some are more thoughtful, “fos” filled creations. There is no substitute for a treatment when you know you need a treatment. There is no substitute for a good, traditional bath from time to time, especially if you do spiritual work for others, intense personal work with other people, or are an initiate at some level – but a spiritual bath product made with living ingredients, imbued with “fos,” and blessed can be a great way to extend the benefits of a traditional bath, a very accessible way to share some of the benefits of spiritual bathing to friends and family, for spiritual practitioners in non-initiatory traditions, and anyone looking to re-enchant their world. Conjure some beauty, se bon bagay!