One of my favourite things to do is to create ritual bath salts. This simple act of kitchen medicine making allows me to weave creativity and self-care into one practice while soaking in a warm tub provides some of the best healing magic I know of. The recipe I am sharing here is one that I created in honour of the new year of 2018, a year that has been ushered in with a bright full moon in Cancer, a year that many hope will be softer and kinder than 2017.
I wanted to create a ritual bath salt that was uplifting, luminous, and energetically cleansing. One that would inspire my senses, ground me in earth magic, and offer me a sense of sacred simplicity. Depending on where you live, you may be able to gather some of the ingredients from the land around you. Otherwise, you can find them at a good herb shop. The primary ingredients are sagebrush, cedar leaf, and essential oil of palo santo, each of these sacred plant medicines is filled with healing power.
Sagebrush: wild sagebrush is one of my favourite aromatic herbs to use in creating sacred smoke blends, body oils or bath salts. Here in BC I can gather Artemisia tridentata and if you live in a desert type area you likely have a local variety growing near you. If you are not able to harvest this on your own or get it from a herb shop you can also use garden sage (Salvia officinalis), which is a different plant entirely but easier for most folks to get their hands on. Both sagebrush and garden sage are aromatic herbs that help to create a purifying energy, clear the mind and awaken your senses.
Cedar Leaf: living in the Pacific Northwest, I have always been surrounded by cedar trees, and when I see the graceful curving branches of thuja plicata I see the Queen of the Evergreens. Western red cedar has a long history of use by First Nations peoples, providing them with materials for clothing, canoe making, basket weaving, and of course sacred medicine. Like white sage the leaf of the cedar tree is considered purifying and so can be burnt in an offering or used to prepare one for spiritual practice. The scent of crushed cedar leaves is clean and sweet, not as sharp or citrusy as other evergreens. It has an earthy quality to it that I love. Find out what kind of cedar grows near you and use what is available. Look for small deadfall branches when harvesting- there is often more than enough to be found scattered on the ground.
Palo Santo: palo santo (bursera graveolens) is a sacred tree native to South America. It is part of the Burseraceae family, also known as the torchwood or incense tree family, from which we get frankincense and myrrh. It has long been used by South American shamans and medicine people for its ability to cleanse negative energy, support relaxation, and enhance spiritual insight. Many of you will be familiar with palo santo as a burnable, often sold in small sticks which have been harvested from dead wood. When it is harvested in this traditional way it is sustainable and entirely ethical, however, due to its rise in popularity people are now harvesting from live trees- so please ensure you are buying from an ethical source. I have used the essential oil of Palo Santo in this recipe, which has a sweet and heady aroma that I adore. You can learn more about it here.
The Power of Ritual Baths
These three sacred plant medicines will be blended with salts to create a beautiful ritual bath salt blend you can use to support you in moving through transition spaces with clarity and intention. To get the most out of this medicine prepare it with intention, focusing on the task at hand and perhaps speaking your hopes and prayers into the blend you are creating. When you are ready for your bath I recommend tidying the bathroom first, lighting candles, and giving yourself enough time to soak without having to rush anywhere afterward. Run a hot bath, pour the salts in (along with your prayers), breathe in the scents, and enjoy the healing warmth. If you are doing ritual work for purification, visualize that which you are releasing being washed away with the bath water and give the tub a good rinse afterward. After a ritual bath I may choose to meditate, write in my journal, do some restorative yoga, or simply head off into the dream space.
Sacred Smudge Bath Salts
- 2-3 TBS crumbled or roughly ground white sage leaf
- 2-3 TBS finely chopped cedar leaf
- 2 cups Epsom salts
- 1 cup pink Himalayan salt
- 35-70 drops palo santo oil
In a large bowl blend the plant material and salts together by hand. Add the palo santo oil, starting with just 35 drops or so and see if that is enough. It is a strongly scented oil and doesn’t take much, however, if you want a rich scent you will want to go up to 70 drops which is a .5% dilution rate (3 drops of essential oil per oz of salt base). Stir the oil in well and store in a glass jar until you are ready to use.
*Don’t have a bath? Add 2-3 TBS of melted coconut oil to the blended salts in order to make a salt scrub you can use in your shower.