So I’m making natron tonight for the first time for use in cleaning and cleansing. Natron is a dried powder, a mixture of sodium carbonate (washing soda), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), and sodium chloride (salt), and has been used since Ancient Egypt in mouthwash, bleaching, baths, and mummification, that last one because this stuff is powerfully dehydrating. Unfortunately, I’m having to omit the washing soda since I can’t find it nearby, but Kemetic practitioners seem to do well with just a baking soda and salt mixture.
To make natron, mix the dried ingredients together (one part baking soda and one part salt, or four parts washing soda to one part baking soda to one eighth part salt), and mix in water until completely dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil uncovered and stir frequently until it evaporates to about a third the original volume; around this point, the solution will thicken very quickly to a consistency of very thick oatmeal. Turn off heat, spread out in a baking pan, and bake at 250 deg F for several hours until completely dry, taking care not to burn the top. Alternatively, you could set out the mixture until dry, but take care to cover the top with cheesecloth to keep out dust; because of its dehydrating properties, you may not be able to dry it out in the air depending on the humidity.
Protip: use a stew pot or a pot with very tall sides, since the bubbles from stirring and the fizzing will get salt water everywhere, leaving residue all over the pan, the stove, and the spoon. It comes off easily enough, since it can dissolve in water readily, but it may take some scratching off with a nail or knife in the crevices of a pot. I’m told that even small measurements of the ingredients used will go a very long way; some first batches made in 2005 only just now ran out even with constant use.
Why might you use natron, you ask? One book on Hermetic ritual, using sources from the Greek Magical Papyri, says that natron can be used to form a ritual circle for protection by sprinkling the powder around in a circle around the ritual space, or can be used in a dilute solution to purify an area by sprinkling it around the place. (I read an article earlier about melting natron with sand and other ingredients to make glass for ritual mirrors, finding it fascinating but then finding myself embarrassed when I realized that, after it discussing that it took 3d4 hours to make the mirror, it was talking about Dungeons and Dragons. Fah.)
This is easier to prepare in some ways, at least compared to holy water (which involves literal questing across Northern Virginia to find in some out-of-the-way botanica), but takes longer, involves more cleanup (scrubbing off encrusted natron from the pots and stove compared to straining out some herbs from a pot), and I don’t get as much experience in chanting a prayer.
The parallels to an RPG are striking.
Update 4/1/2011: Epic fail. Turns out that, as a cleansing agent, natron kicks ass. When I put it in the baking pan in the oven to dry out, I noticed it started turning brown, which was confusing since it was too wet to be burned. Later, I noticed that the baking pan, which was a hand-me-down from my mother and was ancient beyond recognition, was cleaner than it had been when it was first bought, and the natron simply lifted off the years’ worth of grease. Whoops. Another batch, then, will be attempted soon.