by Mambo Rinmin La Via Bel
Water is recognized in many religious belief systems as essential to all life. Without water, there would be dehydration and death. In universal religious practices, we seek the restorative hydration of hope and healing that water brings to the body, the soul and the spirit.
Throughout history, water has been considered essential for physical health and spiritual well being and has been long part of ceremonial practices in many of the world religions. Life form cannot survive without the sustaining qualities of water.
From the beginning of time, every culture understood that water was a divine gift, life-giving, cleansing and renewing. In the beginning, life was created in vast ocean waters. Early life form could be supported without light, but no life could be sustained without water. We can compare the evolving of life form in the sea to the mother’s womb, where human life begins in an aquatic environment, protected from extreme heat, cold, noise and injury. The womb could be identified as a pouch of water that surrounds the first form of life.
Recognition is given to the birth of life and the life-sustaining power of the water. Many sites of the origin of water or where springs have formed have been dedicated as sacred. These sites are considered blessed and forming from the source or womb of the earth. All faiths have springs, caves, waterfalls, rivers that have been dedicated to the sacred, with many beatific apparitions observed and miraculous healings documented.
We can turn to any religious practice and find some use of water as a connective and healing practice. Many spiritual rituals require the element of water, from baptism, to libations, to cleansing baths and other rituals branching many countries, cultures and religious practices. Water offers the opportunity for purification and renewal. Tracing back to ancient religions and traditions, even bathhouses offered opportunities for both physical and spiritual cleansings.
Early Egyptians worshiped the Nile; their priests bathed themselves in the waters prior to entering the sacred temples. In India, bathing in the Ganges had been an important part of ritual purification. Jewish women cleanse themselves with the ritual-cleansing bath called the mikvah, and the Kabalistic tradition of meditation utilizes water. St. John the Baptist baptized Jesus Christ in the Jordan River, water bonding heaven and earth. Holy water is used as ritual purification in Christian churches and homes. Muslims are required to wash their face, hands and neck in a ritual manner five times a day prior to their daily prayers. Meditation is frequently practiced by water used for its contemplative powers and healing sounds. In South America, it is common practice for healers to administer flower baths for cleansing of the spiritual body. The Celtic religion honored Sulis, whose temple is on the site of hot springs in Bath, England. Sweat lodges and bathing were integral to the American Indian spiritual traditions. Inca temples were designed so that water would flow from the temples to the ceremonial sites and villages below. There is not one religious belief that does not utilize water and some form of bathing within that tradition.
African based religions utilize the restorative power of the divine infused in baths through ritual and ceremonies. Libations of water are poured opening the way for the various works to be conducted. Water is the vehicle used to apply and bond the healing elements to the individual, hydrating or healing deep within the roots of the spirit.
Water in spiritual rituals becomes a conduit of prayer, washing away negative vibrations thoughts and emotions that form the root of many physical and emotional problems that obstruct spiritual clarity. Water as this vehicle of energy, combined with plant life and other elements of the earth, provide for a powerful unifying energy, which combined with prayer, becomes the metaphysical purification process for the spirit.
In African-based religions, and in particular, the religion of the Voodoo Religion, each Loa (also known as Orisa, Deity, Holy Spirit, Saint, Guardian Angel, etc.) governs a physical territory, such as the ocean, the lake, the rivers, the earth, the fires, the wind, and the rain. When an individual requires work, or more specifically a bath that will cleanse that individual in the spirit, we call on the Loa for healings within their territories. These healings include the provinces of love, family, business, life direction, and the clearing negativity or spirit problems. The bath is made of various elements of the Loa whose intervention is sought, combining the forces of nature (water, leaves, drinks, fruits, etc) and divine through prayers invoked, directing the force to the problematic area or concern for the individuals being bathed.
Priests or priestesses in African based religions administer these baths. Through the “hand” of the priest/priestess and prayers, a petition is made to the divine force to cloak the individual being bathed, to receive the protection and blessings of the Loa. These works call the attention of the spiritual forces, praying and petitioning for divine intersession on behalf of that individual seeking the healing.
Because of ancient ties, the old traditions are honored, and the healing practices of the priest or priestess in African-based religions, are powerful. Bathing is an integral part of African-based religions, but it is not unique as this healing concept appears many other religious practices, and is also becoming a large practice in the holistic healing traditions. African-based religions are rare in that they carry on unbroken traditions of healing and prayer that are connected to the divine.
Many cultures and traditions have given in to the demands of modern life and have broken fragments of these works, calling on one aspect of the tradition, ignoring the ceremonial aspects that brought the power of the work. In doing so, some of these powerful works have become diluted or ineffectual within the greater context of the spiritual tradition. These works were not intended to be broken from a practice, and utilized as one part replacing the whole. Often holes are left for negativities to breed in these spiritual openings creating new obstacles and problems for individuals calling on these powers without the ceremonies, rites and privileges necessary to perform these works.
It is important to follow time-honored traditions, observing the rituals and ceremonies and through the strong connection of the divine by those who have undergone rituals of elevation, trained and studied with spiritual masters. Given in the correct manner, spiritual baths bring the hope and miracles that life can hold to the supplicant. These healing waters refresh and restore faith, and infuse a deep healing to the individual receiving the healing bath, washing away negativity, and disease. Its restorative powers can bring healings to families; bring opportunities for increased financial stability and love.
This year, the National African Religion Congress has dedicated their annual conference to “Healing Waters,” with a grand ceremonial bath culminating on Sunday, August 12th in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This is a rare opportunity to participate in a healing ceremony and spiritual bath to be given at the ocean. This bath will be given to help those who are seeking change in their life, for direction, for clarity for peace within family, and improved relationships.
Spiritual bathing brings opportunity for change, clearing the way for these healings to take place. Within this power, it is in our hands to walk the refreshed path with renewed faith and belief in God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Loa and the miracles of healing that they have bestowed on us. Join us in Atlantic City for this ceremony of hope, healing and miracles.
Presented by Mambo Rinmin La Via Bél LePeristyle II Piladelphia, Pennsylvania