(Update 1/10/2018: Interested in more about this ritual? Check out my more polished, fleshed-out writeup over on this page!)
Towards the end of last year, I visited some friends up in New England, one of whom is a Tata Quimbanda, or a Quimbandero priest. It was fascinating to see how he worked, and the tradition of Quimbanda (about which I knew next to nothing beforehand) suddenly struck me as something potentially useful and interesting; I’ve since been reading about it and getting started in my own little layman way to build a relationship with the spirits I’ve been recommended to work with, my personal Exu and Pomba Gira and a few other spirits that go along with them. This was all found out by means of a consulta, basically a Quimbanda check-up that determines what’s going on. From what I noticed, they use the same divination system as in Palo or in Santeria with four shells, chamalongos, so I was able to keep up with what was going on despite the frequent use of Kikongo and Portuguese in prayers. Thing was, pretty much every answer came up the same, the one that means “ask again”. Usually when this happens, it means that there’s a lot of resistance or blockages in the situation, and the consulta was finished with the tata going “baths baths baths baths baths baths baths”.
So, clearly, I needed a bath. Lots of them, actually.
According to the consulta, I have a bit of an infestation of kiumbas, which can be thought of as spiritual leeches or obsessive manes from the Roman tradition. This happens, largely, when one isn’t cleaning off properly over a period of time and you get so spiritually icky that the ick starts to coalesce and latch onto you, or when you get into a dirty situation and don’t clean off immediately to get rid of the dirt. And, truth be told, I haven’t been banishing a lot lately; I’ve been taking a daily ablution before the gods as all I usually need with the very occasional angelic banishing ritual I picked up from Fr. Rufus Opus years ago. I do make a habit of washing off with a few things, like Florida water, after visiting graveyards or hospitals (which I’ve recently found out is a rule I should be following regardless), but beyond that, I generally don’t do a lot of deep and thorough cleansing. I thought I didn’t need to, and I was wrong.
The tata had said that this is actually a common thing with a lot of ceremonial magicians as a part of the work we do. Our main line of working involves working with spirits in different planes, notably conjuring spirits below (demons and shades) and spirits above (angels and planetaries), as well as spirits of this plane (elementals). Kiumbas don’t necessarily belong to souls of the dead, but of any plane and of any type; they’re like aggregations of ick, and every plane has its own kind of ick. Crossing the planes, calling down various forces, and the like brings down a lot more than just the spirit we’ve called, I’ve come to find, and over time they stick without proper banishing and cleansing, and calling down those same forces to get rid of the stuff they’re familiar with sometimes doesn’t do as thorough a job as they’re held to do. They get rid of most of it, but not all of it.
And, honestly, I’ve noticed that since my jaunt to nine different graveyards in one night without properly cleaning off afterwards, several spiritual parties, a few workings here and there, and the like done clustered together last year, my practice and life has generally gotten “stuck”. Problems were slow and subtle, but getting bigger without my conscious knowledge of it. I found myself having less and less time for practice and more and more time for vain, petty shit. At one point, a small detail blew up into almost a nervous breakdown for me, opening up a Pandora’s box of emotional baggage I thought I had chained and buried years ago. So…yeah, I probably needed a bath to fix all that shit up.
To that end, I was recommended to start taking lots of spiritual baths and to keep taking them periodically. Honestly, this is something I should have been doing all along, but before this consulta I had only taken one or two spiritual baths since I started practicing the occult back in 2011. So, starting at the beginning of January, I dusted off my notes and combined mine with the herbs and recommendations from the tata, and begun a series of baths that will last me through the rest of January and which I’ll do at least once a month from here on out.
The manner of a spiritual bath I use involves repeated immersions in consecrated water designed to cleanse your body and spirit in combination with praying the Seven Penitential Psalms. The whole process takes an hour to do at most, so be sure you can have that amount of time alone to yourself without being disturbed.
- A tub full of hot water
- A glass of holy water
- A consecrated candle
- A Bible (preferably a cheap one)
- Holy oil or Abramelin oil
- A clean white or lightly-colored towel
- Clean white clothes
- Optionally, some Florida water or Kölnisch Wasser and/or Van Van oil
- Optionally, holy incense like frankincense
- Optionally, an herbal wash prepared in a large bowl
- Before drawing the bath, take a shower first. Be thorough and wash every part of your body, including the anus and feet. Use shampoo, soap, body wash, or whatever you prefer, but be thorough. Dry off as normal, preferably with an older towel or another cloth that isn’t the white towel.
- Draw the tub full of hot water. While it’s filling, brush and floss your teeth, clean out your ears, and whatever personal hygiene activities you normally do. If you choose, add in a few drops of Van Van oil and a small amount of Florida water or Kölnisch Wasser into the tub as it fills. Also, if you want to finish the bath with an herbal wash, prepare it now in a bowl set aside with hot water.
- Set the candle somewhere above the tub in the bathroom. Light it and consecrate the flame. If you choose, light some incense and do the same.
- Take the glass of holy water (a shotglass will suffice) and pray over the water, pouring the holy water into the tub in a cross formation. Pray the Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary over the tub of water.
- Step into the tub and begin soaking in it. Let your skin get used to the heat first before continuing.
- Immerse yourself completely in the water. If you’re big and have a small tub, this may take several repositionings of the body and at least one dunk of the head.
- Pray the Asperges Me. Before crossing yourself, take a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the tubwater as you cross yourself.
- Say slowly and firmly the first Penitential Psalm (Ps. 6) from the heart. Use the copy of the Bible, but be sure not to drop it or get it wet in the water.
- Pray the Our Father, Glory Be, and Hail Mary. Like before, before crossing yourself, take a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the tubwater as you cross yourself.
- Silently recount why you’re taking this bath: whatever transgressions you have done, whatever bad situations you have found yourself in, the problems in your life that have arisen, all the spiritual ick on your body, soul, spirit and mind. Let them go into the water, dissolving into nothing while leaving you and your sphere clean.
- Repeat steps 7 through 10 for each of the other Pentitential Psalms (Pss. 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143).
- Stand up and begin draining the tub. Pray from the heart that you be clean and cleansed in body, soul, spirit, and mind and freed from all pain, plague, poison, illness, injury, infirmity, death, disease, and defilement, and that you be made pure and perfect despite of and because of your imperfections.
- If you chose to make an herbal wash, get the bowl and pray over it that it accomplish whatever it is you want to accomplish with it (cleansing, empowerment, defense, etc.). Pour it over your head slowly so that some liquid runs down the front of your body and some runs down the back, repeating the prayer the whole time. With your hands, wash yourself from top to bottom with the wash, not forgetting the more sensitive and hard-to-reach parts of your body.
- Air dry from the bath. Take the white towel and put it on the ground, in front of a fan or heater is ideal, and sit on it until you’re sufficiently air-dried. If you can’t afford the time for this, dry off with the towel from the neck down, leaving the head to air-dry.
- Put on the clean, white clothes. Take the holy oil and cross yourself on the forehead and back of the neck, praying Psalm 23. This “seals in” the effect of the bath and insulates yourself a bit from external things until the effects of the bath are completely settled into your sphere.
That’s basically my procedure for taking a spiritual bath. Yes, it’s a little long, and I do get a little faint from spending that much time in a hottub constantly praying and reimmersing myself, but it works. The mental clarity and stability I have afterwards is hard to obtain in other ways, and it’s such a dramatic shift that for the first few baths I felt physically like shit but mentally awesome and brilliant. Be careful if you have any medical condition that prevents you from spending so much time in a hot bath; adjust the heat if you need to.