|An ancient mikveh. Photo via
The element of water has long been sacred to people of all walks of life and/or religions. Beyond the fact that water is necessary for life, it has been used in rituals and ceremonies in every walk of life. To those of the Hindu faith, all water is sacred, and a morning cleansing is a basic morning requirement. In Islam, there is the ghusl, a washing of the whole body in pure water, which is done for a variety of reasons, including before the Koran is touched. Christians have baptisms and the story of the “living water”, found in John 4: 1-42. Buddhist funeral rights include pouring water into a bowl to represent rain falling into the rivers that flow into the ocean. In Judaism, ritual bathing has several forms, including the mikveh, used to cleanse men, women and utensils.
|Ancient Roman bath. Photo via Stan Zurek.|
Perhaps the most well known ritual bathing came to us from the Romans, some accommodating up to 6,000 people at a time. Romans, Greeks and Egyptians all practiced ritual bathing, and healing was often done at the baths; a half dozen healers, each with their own specialty, might tend to one person at a time during ritual bathing. Ritual bathing lost it’s popularity with the rise of Christianity, as cleanliness was akin to proof of sin in the bath houses. Being dirty was proof of purity. Eventually, in the 1800′s, the plague sent England into researching indoor plumbing and better hygiene.
|Lanman & Kemp trade card
advertising Florida Water, 1881.
What is used to do the ritual washing is up to the individual practitioner. A simple salt water solution is an easy, inexpensive choice, but can be drying to the skin. Rose or lavender water both smell pleasant and have a loving, calm influence on the senses, so would be perfect for this use. Florida water is often used for magical housework and has a very clean smell. Whatever you choose to use, make it something that you don’t often use for anything else, thus creating a specific mind-set when it is used. Just the sent will help center you and remind you of how important the domestic work that you do is.
Sources of info:
Zot Ha-Torah by Jane Golub & Joel Lurie Grishaver
Ancient Rome by Simon James
The Development of Islamic Ritual by Gerald R. Hawting
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