Penitential Psalms Bath

Throughout the many experiments, conjurations, exorcisms, and other acts of the Work we do, it is important to keep our own spiritual hygiene intact and pure.  Just as we need to keep our bodies physically clean in order to remain in good health, we also need to keep our souls spiritually cleansed to remain healthy both in body and soul.  While a sprinkling of holy water, smudging with sage, or dusting of white chalk can suffice in a pinch, every so often it is good to undertake a thorough, complete method of cleansing, just as how washing the hands and face is no real substitute for a full shower.  One of the most time-honored ways of spiritual cleansing is through a ritual bath, where instead of the body being cleaned, it is the soul that is being cleansed through spiritual actions combined with sacred physical motions and supplies.  The following is one such ritual bath that uses holy water and praying the Seven Penitential Psalms to purify and expurge the soul.  This process for a ritual bath was first mentioned in this 2015 post.

The Seven Penitential Psalms have been known as such since the sixth century ce, and are especially expressive of sorrow, regret, and atonement for sins and wickedness.  Thus, their recitation helps purge the soul not only of the pollution it has garnered from being engaged in the world, but also the pollution it has generated into it as well.  These seven Psalms are, in order, according to both their Greek/Septuagint and their Hebrew/Masoretic numbering and the Latin/English introductions to each:

6 6 Domine, ne in furore tuo arguas me…
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation…
31 32 Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates…
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven…
37 38 Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me…
O Lord, rebuke me not in thy indignation…
50 51 Miserere mei, Deus, secundum magnam misericordiam tuam…
Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy great mercy…
101 102 Domine, exaudi orationem meam, et clamor meus ad te veniat…
O Lord, hear my prayer, and let my cry come unto thee…
129 130 De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine…
Out of the depths I have cried to thee, O Lord…
142 143 Domine, exaudi orationem meam: auribus percipe obsecrationem meam in veritate tua…
Hear, O Lord, my prayer: give ear to my supplication in thy truth…

For this ritual, you will need:

  • A tub large enough to immerse yourself in
  • A small bowl
  • A Bible (ideally a cheap one)
  • Holy water
  • Holy oil
  • One white candle (ideally one that has been previously consecrated or blessed)
  • A clean white towel
  • Clean white clothes, including head-covering

The bath is ideally done in the evening during a waning Moon as one of the last things of the day before retiring to bed.  The process, as described below, takes around an hour, so be sure to allocate enough time.  Note that this bath is a powerful ritual, and when combined with the fact that you’ll be sitting in a hot tub of water for a sustained duration of time, you may feel woozy and unsteady.  Please take care with yourself that you do not slip, pass out, or injure yourself in the process of this bath.  Take your time.

Before beginning the ritual bath proper, completely clean yourself physically with a thorough shower.  Wash every part of your body, including the ears, navel, anus, and feet.  Use shampoo, soap, body wash, loofahs, washcloths, or whatever you prefer, but be thorough.  Afterward, brush and floss your teeth, clean out your ears, clip your nails, shave your face or body, and do whatever other personal hygiene activities you might normally do to be completely and thoroughly clean and fresh.  Spiritual cleansing works best when performed upon a physically clean subject, whether it’s cleaning the house before cleansing the airs or cleaning the body before cleansing the soul.  Since the ritual bath will begin right after this, it is not required to dry off from this shower, but if you choose to do so, use a separate towel than the white one called for in the ritual.

  1. Draw the tub full of hot water, and set the small bowl near the tub where it can be easily reached from within it.
  2. Set the candle somewhere above the tub in the bathroom.  Light the candle and exorcise the flame:

    I conjure thee, thou creature of fire, by him who created all things both in heaven and earth, and in the sea, and in every other place whatever, that thou cast away every phantasm from thee, that no hurt whatsoever shall be done in any thing.  Bless, oh Lord, this creature of fire, and sanctify it that it may be blessed, and that it may burn for your honor and glory, so neither the enemy nor any false imagination may enter into it, through the Most High and Holy Creator of All.  Amen.

  3. Once the tub has enough water, take a small amount of holy water (a few ounces will suffice), pour it into the tub in a cross formation, and pray over the water:

    With this water consecrated, sanctified, and blessed by the grace of God do I cleanse myself and free myself from all defilement, impurity, and filth.  Grant, o Lord, with this holy living water that you have given mankind, that I may be made clean and cleansed in the eyes of God and men.

    Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be over the tub of water.

  4. Step into the tub and begin soaking in it.  Let your skin get used to the heat first before continuing.
  5. For all seven of the Penitential Psalms:
    1. Immerse yourself completely in the water so that the water touches every part of your body and all of every hair of your head, soaking through to your scalp.  If you’re big and have a small tub, this may take several repositions of the body and at least one dunk of the head.
    2. Pray the Asperges Me.  Before crossing yourself, take a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the water as you cross yourself.
    3. Recite the given Penitential Psalm.  It is best to read directly from a hardcopy of the Bible, but if you do so, be sure not to drop it or get it wet in the water.
    4. Pray the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.  When crossing yourself for the Our Father and Glory Be, like before with the Apserges Me, take up a handful of water so that you wash yourself with the water as you cross yourself.
  6. Silently consider why you’re taking this bath: for whatever transgressions you have done, whatever bad situations you have found yourself in, the problems in your life that have arisen, all the spiritual pollution on your body, soul, spirit and mind, let them all dissipate into the water, dissolving into nothing while leaving you and your sphere clean.
  7. Stand up, and, without leaving the tub, reserve a small bowl of water from the tub, and set it aside.  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.  While praying, continuously brush yourself off in a downward motion from your head down your body into the water and into the drain.  Remain in the tub until all the water has drained.
  8. If you can afford the time, air dry from the bath.  Take the white towel and put it on the ground, and sit or stand on it until you’re sufficiently air-dried.  If you can’t afford the time for this, pat yourself mostly dry (not completely) with the towel from the shoulders down, leaving only the head and neck to air-dry.
  9. 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.  Be sure to cover your head as well with a white handkerchief, bandanna, beanie, or other comfortable hat.
  10. Take the small bowl of the used bathwater and throw it into the street from the front door, as far as you can without getting any on you or your property.

After this, the ritual is complete.  Abstain from intoxication, sexual activity, vices, and heated speech for the rest of the night, and avoid going outside and all unnecessary engagement with people when possible.  It is best if you go to sleep shortly after the final step of the ritual, with the consecrated candle remaining lit and moved to the bedroom by where you sleep.  Sleep with the head-covering on overnight.  After having woken up after sunrise, you may continue to go about your life as normal.

If desired, ingredients such as Florida Water, Kölnisch Wasser, Van Van Oil, hyssop extract, or other scented/herbal cleansing agents may be added to the bath prior to adding the holy water, taking care that only a small amount needs to be used.  Likewise, when the candle is lit, incense may also be lit using a similar conjuration of the smoke, such as frankincense, copal, church incense, or other similar materials to further encourage a holy atmosphere or to suffumigate the body while it air dries may be helpful.  However, adding ingredients to the bath or using incense smoke to suffumigate with during or after the bath are not needed for this ritual as given, which relies on the inherent blessing of holy water and the power of the Psalms themselves.

What follows are the Penitential Psalms and the Anointing Psalm from the Bible, according to the New International Version translation.  If another version is desired or preferred, such as the King James Version, use that instead.  However, it is traditional practice to read Psalms directly from the Bible for ritual purposes, but if no cheap Bible is around or if you are uncomfortable bringing a Bible to the bathtub, printouts may be used instead.

The First Penitential Psalm, Psalm 6:

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long…?

Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love.
Among the dead no one proclaims your name.
Who praises you from the grave?

I am worn out from my groaning.

All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears.
My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes.

Away from me, all you who do evil, for the Lord has heard my weeping.
The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.
All my enemies will be overwhelmed with shame and anguish;
they will turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

The Second Penitential Psalm, Psalm 32:

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord does not count against them and in whose spirit is no deceit.

When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy on me;
my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found;
surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my loving eye on you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.
Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.

Rejoice in the Lord and be glad, you righteous; sing, all you who are upright in heart!

The Third Penitential Psalm, Psalm 38:

Lord, do not rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your wrath.
Your arrows have pierced me, and your hand has come down on me.
Because of your wrath there is no health in my body;
there is no soundness in my bones because of my sin.
My guilt has overwhelmed me like a burden too heavy to bear.

My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.
I am bowed down and brought very low; all day long I go about mourning.
My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.
I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart.

All my longings lie open before you, Lord; my sighing is not hidden from you.
My heart pounds, my strength fails me; even the light has gone from my eyes.
My friends and companions avoid me because of my wounds; my neighbors stay far away.
Those who want to kill me set their traps, those who would harm me talk of my ruin; all day long they scheme and lie.

I am like the deaf, who cannot hear, like the mute, who cannot speak;
I have become like one who does not hear, whose mouth can offer no reply.
Lord, I wait for you; you will answer, Lord my God.
For I said, “Do not let them gloat or exalt themselves over me when my feet slip.”

For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.
I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.
Many have become my enemies without cause; those who hate me without reason are numerous.
Those who repay my good with evil lodge accusations against me, though I seek only to do what is good.

Lord, do not forsake me; do not be far from me, my God.
Come quickly to help me, my Lord and my Savior.

The Fourth Penitential Psalm, Psalm 51, the Miserere:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.
Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice.
Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.

Create in me a pure heart, o God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, so that sinners will turn back to you.
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, o God, you who are God my Savior, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.
Open my lips, Lord, and my mouth will declare your praise.
You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.

May it please you to prosper Zion, to build up the walls of Jerusalem.
Then you will delight in the sacrifices of the righteous, in burnt offerings offered whole;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.

The Fifth Penitential Psalm, Psalm 102:

Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me; those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside.
My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
For her stones are dear to your servants; her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the Lord, all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute; he will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high, from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.”
So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.
So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

The Sixth Penitential Psalm, Psalm 130:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.

If you, Lord, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you.

I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.

Israel, put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.
He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.

The Seventh Penitential Psalm, Psalm 143:

Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you; I thirst for you like a parched land.

Answer me quickly, Lord; my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord, for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God;
may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
destroy all my foes, for I am your servant.

The Psalm of Anointing, Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.