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Blessed greetings to each of you today! I pray that the day finds you well and keeping warm if you’re in a cold climate like I am. Today is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere (it happens in June in the southern hemisphere) – it is the shortest day and longest night of the year and it marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere. The solstice has held significance for many cultures around the world since the beginnings of human history and it continues to hold significance for many of us today. One aspect of the solstice that many of us who practice African and other Indigenous traditions and forms of spirituality embrace is using the dark days of the solstice to shed any unwanted energy and to use the lengthening of the days – often called the return of the light, which also coincides with the New Year celebration – to bring in new energies that we would like to remain with us throughout the new year.

One way in which to clean and renew our energies is through the use of baths. As anyone who is a regular reader knows, I love baths! Not only for their relaxing properties, but also for the energetic shifts they can be used to direct when combined with rituals of prayer. I’d like to share an easy bath ritual that can be used by anyone, regardless of your spiritual or religious system, to clean negative energy away and bring in the positive.

Cleaning off:
Run a warm bath and dissolve a heaping handful of sea salt in the tub. Take another handful of salt and mix some dried dill and a small amount of water in a small bowl. Sit in the bath and use the salt/dill mixture to scrub your body. As you scrub, concentrate on and voice any concerns you have about your life, and focus on any negative or unwanted energy that you would like to dismiss. If it is a person, speak his/her name, say that you release him/her and ask that he/she move on from you. If you observe a particular tradition you may want to pray to whichever energy destroys or moves things away from you (Examples: Aspects of Oya and Ogun for Orisa devotees; the destroyer aspect of Siva for Hindu devotees; The Crone for Wiccans). You may want to combine this bath with the burning of dill or sage. Do not linger in the tub, scrub, pray and then get out of the tub and be sure to wash the tub out when you are done. Do this at night.

Bringing in:
Run a lukewarm bath and dissolve 2 cups of whole milk or one cup of cream, the water of 1 coconut (a can of coconut milk will also work), a sweet perfume oil (almond or gardenia are particularly nice), white flower petals (roses or carnations work well), a small amount of honey, and, if you have it on hand, efun or cascarilla (this can be purchased at a botanica or spiritual shop). Sit in the bath and use the water to wash over your entire body, including your head. Rub the flower petals on your body and as you do, concentrate on the things you would like to bring into your life. Be specific about these things. If you have a person in mind, speak his/her name and ask for strengthening or the budding of relationship. If you observe a particular tradition, you may want to pray to whichever energy heals, moves things closer and symbolizes new growth (Examples: Obatala, Osun and Orisa Oko – or whomever one’s crowning Orisa is – for Orisa devotees; the creative aspect of Siva, Krisna and Visnu for Hindu devotees; The Maiden for Wiccans). If you have previously burned sage or dill, you should now burn a sweet incense or oil. Do this in the morning and, if it’s not too cold, open the windows and blinds or curtains to let in fresh air and sunlight.

Many people like to do the “cleaning off” ritual on or close to the solstice (so tonight's a great night to do it) and do the “bringing in” ritual the next day. Some also like to do the cleaning off ritual for 3 nights in a row and then do the bringing in ritual 3 mornings in a row. Do whatever feels best to you, just making sure to start with the cleaning off and end with the bringing in. Let me know if you try the baths and how you feel after.

Here’s to shedding all the negative and bringing in the positive – Ase!

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