THE CHRISTMAS CLEANSING BATH
As the year comes to an end, as Vodouwizan we begin to reflect on everything that has transpired. Everything that occurs around us leaves its mark, be it positive or negative. No matter how good our spiritual hygiene might be, over the year we collect unwanted negativity; that which is directed at us from others, that which is forced upon us by experience, and that which we pour upon ourselves. As Christmas is a time of joy, it makes sense that it is a time when we want to most fully embrace joy and have it as the focus for the year ahead.
Christmas is also significant in Vodou for another reason. We see this as a magical time, a time when the very air is hot and filled with potential (and I don’t mean temperature wise, although that can certainly be the case here in New Zealand, and of course in Haiti). What I am referring to is spiritual heat, the spiritual force we call “Fos”, the power with which we effect change: in short, magic. At Christmas time, we know through the scripture that God descends to Earth and is born into the world as the Christ Child. It is that moment, that bringing of God to Earth, that creates the spiritual heat that we as Vodouwizan tap into at this time to begin a journey of change.
Each year, Vodou sosyetes around Haiti and now around the world celebrate this time with the annual end of year bath. These baths are most often called the ‘Christmas baths’, as they are most often performed on Christmas Day. Not all sosyetes practice the same way, however: some houses may do the baths on Christmas Eve, others on Chrsitmas Day, and others still the day after Christmas Day. In some places this is a three day ceremony that begins on the 24th and culminates in the baths being performed on the 26th. The Spirits are all called to add their energy to the bath, sacrifices are made and the dancing and singing helps to heat up the baths. In some houses these baths are taken on New Year’s Eve to prepare for the coming of the New Year.
The Christmas Baths are cleansing in nature. They are powerful baths which remove all negativity, all that binds and limits, all that restrains, any weak curse or evil spirit. These are all washed away by the Christmas Baths. All doubt, limitation, anger or aggression can be washed down the drain with these baths, leaving you renewed, a new person, similar to a newborn and full of potential.
Vodou Houses throughout Haiti have wonderful traditional recipes for these cleansing baths, often passed down through generations. These recipes remain the secrets of the sosyetes, and are only passed on to initiates. You wont find an age old traditional recipe here, but what I can share with you is a recipe based on a traditional recipe.
A white enamel bowl (if you cannot get white enamel, a white plastic bowl or bucket will do).
A bluing square or ball
1 bottle of Florida Water
1 bottle of Holy Water
3 litres of warm water
A large handful of fresh parsley
A small handful of rue (fresh or dried)
1 small white candle (emergency size is fine)
1 white glass encased seven day candle
1. Light your small emergency white candle. Make the sign of the Cross and pray the Our Father, Hail Mary and Apostles Creed. You may also pray any other prayers to God you might wish to make. Then ask Papa Legba to open the gate to the lwa for you, and call on your spirits to see what you are doing and to assist you in the creation of this cleansing bath.
2. Take you white enamel bow, and using the bluing, draw 7 small crosses around the inside of the bowl. I like to make 6 around the outside and 1 in the middle, but this is just my own aesthetic. You can make the crosses however you wish.
3. Cut the lemons and limes in half. For this recipe you will only be using the TOPS of the fruit, so set the bottoms aside for use later… Lemons are great for laundry, while limes go great in a Margarita.
4. Squeeze the lemon and lime halves into the bowl. Put the lemon and lime skins in the water as well.
5. Now add the bottle of Florida Water, the Holy Water, and the warm water. Then add the parsley and rue.
6. You will want to rub all of this together. Use your hands and rub the ingredients together, similar to how you would wash laundry by hand. As you rub, the heat generated from your hands rubbing the ingredients helps to infuse the bath with spiritual force; and the more heat you generate, the stronger your bath will be. While you are doing this, remain clearly focused on the bath. Talk to the ingredients and to the bath, telling it to cleanse away all negativity, all evil directed to your or your name, all that might wish you harm or ill or anything but well. Tell the lemons and the limes and the parsley to cleanse you, refresh you, make you anew. Tell the Rue to protect you, while you are so clean, from all outside influences.
7. Place the seven day candle (or a large table candle in a glass holder) into the bath, light it, and open your Bible to the 51st Psalm. Recite the Psalm three times over the bath, and leave the candle there to burn for three hours. Remove the candle when the three hours are up, and put it aside to burn for your spirits.
8. You can strain off a little of the mixture into a spray bottle, we’ll get to the use of that later.
9. Take a shower and wash off the events of the day. Make sure you are physically clean from head to toe. Once you have done this, take the bath that you’ve prepared and pour it over your body, from your shoulders down to your feet. As you do, focus on cleansing, or perhaps recite the 51st Psalm. Dress in white clothing, and put on a white hat. Don’t speak to anyone.
10. Collect the left over ingredients, the lemon and lime casings, the bits of herbs, and put them into a plastic bag. To this bag add 4 pennies. Now, take this to a crossroads, and with your back facing the crossroads throw the bag over your shoulder, then walk home via a different route.
11. Return home without speaking to anyone. Take the bottle we prepared earlier, and beginning at the back of your house and moving to the front, spray the floors, etc. Move to the front of the house and out the door. As you do so command all negativity that may linger to leave your home. Now go to bed. Make sure you have fresh clean white sheets to sleep on.
You are now in a spiritually clean space. From now until the good luck bath on the Feast of the Epiphany, January 6th, wear as much white as possibly, and always try to wear a hat of some sort. You head is now refreshed, and this is a good time to keep it that way.
THE NEW YEAR LUCK BATH
The Feast of the Epiphany, the Catholic Feast which celebrates the visitation of the Magi to the Holy Family, is the the time when we celebrate the Good Luck Baths. Although some sosyetes in Haiti will celebrate both Cleansing Baths and Good Luck baths in the same ceremony, it is more common to find a gap between these two baths. This allows the effects of the cleansing baths to fully manifest before bringing in a new energetic experience; that of luck, prosperity, abundance, whatever you are looking to carry into the New Year.
Ideally I would recommend that you attend a ceremony where you could receive the good luck, however if for whatever reason that is not possible you should at least look at purchasing one from an Houngan or Mambo. Failing that, you can make one for yourself: although this will not be as strong or as long lasting as a bath made by a member of the clergy. Here is a variant on a traditional recipe you can use if you choose to do so.
A white enamel bowl (if you can not get white enamel, a white plastic bowl or bucket will do).
1 bottle of Pompeii Lotion perfume
1 bottle of Reve d’Or perfume
1 bottle of 4711 perfume
1 bottle of Florida Water cologne
1 handful of star anise
1 handful of fresh basil
1 cup of rum (Rhum Barbancourt, from Haiti, is the best, but aany good rum will work.)
3 small white emergency candles
1 white glass encased seven day candle
1. To prepare the Good Luck Bath on January 6th, take three white emergency size candle and with these form a triangle on the ground. As you light the first candle say, “In the name of the Father”, as you light the second, “in the name of the Son,” and finally as you light the last candle, “in the name of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
2. In the centre of the triangle of candles, you will want to place your white enamel bowl. Sometimes it is easier to place this on a stool or chair in the centre of the candles, depending upon how you like to work. You can place it directly on the floor, go with what is the most comfortable for you.
3. Now, begin with your regular opening prayers: recite the Our Father, the Hail Mary three times and the Apotles Creed. You will then want to call on Papa Legba much in the same way as you did for the cleansing bath. Ask him to bring forth all the spirits that walk with you, to assist you in preparing this Good Luck bath. Tell the spirits that you want to prepare this bath to bring luck in all matters, love, money, family, for yourself and all those with him you share your home. Light another white candle and place it on the edge of the bowl.
4. Add all of the ingredients with 2 litres of warm (not hot) water. You want the water to dilute the alcohol a little, otherwise it might sting sensitive skin, and will certainly cause problems if it gets in the eyes.
5. Now you really want to get in there with your hands. If you take a look at the photo above you can see the hands of the Houngans rubbing the herbs. For those of you that have done hand washing of laundry before it’s like that, you want to get in there and rub the herbs. Get everything out of them that you can. As you rub them they will break down, and you’ll see the liquid take on a green hue. It will smell amazing with the crushed herbs against the various notes and accents of the perfumes and alcohol. Talk to the bath while you make it, tell the herbs and waters and perfumes that they are there to bring luck in the year ahead from the spirits, the more you put into this, the stronger it will be. If you know songs for the spirits that walk with you, then sing them. Petro songs are great for this, as you want the bath to be as strong and hot as possible.
6. Once the bath is prepared, take the white 7 day candle (or a table candle in a tall holder) and use this to illuminate the bath. Begin by making the sign of the cross over the bucket three times with the candle saying something like, “this light illuminates the darkness, so nothing that would bring me harm can step into the light of God which surrounds this bath. And so I bless and illuminate this bath, knowing that whatever we ask of Our Lord God shall be given to us, in the name of the Father + and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit + Amen.”
(NB: The + marks where you will make the sign of the Cross with the candle.)
7. Place the candle in the centre of the bath. If you are using a table or pillar candle, make sure it is above the level of the water otherwise it could set some of the alcohol in the colognes on fire. Let it burn there for 3 hours, then take the candle out of the bath. Put it aside and let it burn as a continued offering to your spirits.
8. Take the bowl containing the bath to your shower. Begin by showering normally, making sure you are clean and refreshed. Then, beginning at your feet, pour the bath over you in an upwards fashion, all the way up to your head. DO NOT dry off. Instead allow yourself to air dry. Collect the herbs, etc., from the bottom of the shower stall and bury them in your backyard. If you do not have a yard, inside a large pot plant will do.
6. Once you are dry, you can go to sleep in clean white sheets.