Into the Waters

The first time I bathed — truly bathed as a grown adult, no longer just an object to be scrubbed down by a parent next to a rubber duckie and a floating fire engine — it was not beautiful. There were no floating roses or delightful scents. I suffered (and still do) from an out-of-control chronic pain disorder that had sent me through all the rings of hell: disbelieving orthopedics, conventional medicine with no answers, shoulder surgery, physical therapy, specialist centers and a diagnosis of exclusion. It was the acupuncturist who first told me soaking might help.

“Water as hot as you can stand it, with epsom salts and baking soda,” she told me in a stern tone, looking straight at me across the small counter. “Soak for at least 25 minutes, but longer is good.”

She had more success with my full-body joint and muscle pain than anyone else, so, fuck it, I told myself. I’ll get in the damn bath. I dumped in the epsom salt, and then the baking soda. It wasn’t pretty. There were no swirling colors. I did not anoint the waters with oils. I clambered in, feeling outgrown in the very same tub my parents had bathed me in as a child. The water seeped up to my chin.

Twenty-five minutes is a long time in scalding hot water. I forgot a book, or even my phone, so I stared at the white tile. When I estimated about 25 minutes had passed — it had probably been more like 15 — I drained the water and climbed out. My skin was pink. The baby hairs on the back of my neck were damp. And, I noticed, my muscles were much more relaxed. The pain in my joints had eased.


photo by Bartosz Slevinaaron Madej

“Interesting,” I mumbled at myself in the mirror. And so a ritual was born. Every Sunday, I would take time to sink myself into foamy baking soda and epsom salt baths. Every Sunday, I would feel a little reborn.

By the time I was calling myself a witch in public and reading occult books in earnest, instead of catching snippets in used bookstores or on the internet where no one could corner me with proof, I had realized the power of ritual. After all, I had been doing it my whole life without even noticing — meditating every morning, talking to the forest as I walked through it, taking moments to just sit outside and feel the sun. The addition of oils and flowers and herbs to my baths made sense. It was ritual. I fully embraced the trend of bath bombs — it made me feel less like I was soaking an old machine part to lift grime and get it working again, and more like I was taking a luxury soak for no other reason than I had to use this $11 bath bomb my dear grandmother bought me. Making the bath into something more, turning the tub to a cauldron into which I carefully poured essential oils and herbs made me feel so much more powerful than the first time I relinquished myself to the waters. It made me feel more whole, somehow.

Creating ritual bath bombs was as much for me as it was for Black Cat Clothiers. Creating a ritual and manifesting physical change with just a tub and a single circular object is special. I incorporated the same herbs I’ve been using in my own lunar ritual baths — blooming blossoms & citrus for the full moon, deep greens & juniper for the new moon. They anoint my body. They cleanse before ritual. They remind me that my body is sacred. They remind me — on the best days — of what it was like before my nerves turned against me. They remind me of something deeper, older, another body of mine floating on flowered waters, something long-lost in another life. I hope they remind you of the things you have forgotten, too.

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