'Tis the season for schmutz, coal and other nasty business. All this merriment and ho-ho-horror is just a cover up for what's really happening in the world. Christmas is a secular holiday. The advertisers of 1881 hired Thomas Nast to draw them something to help get the word out on their new drink they named Coco-cola. Nast drew a Northern European elf he called Santa Claus. It's been all downhill ever since.
In the Vodou tradition, this time of year from the end of the Ghede season to the Three Kings ceremony in January is for Petro work. Hot, fast and busy, these rites celebrate the island born spirits of Haiti. We honor them by doing the most notorious of all rituals at this time of year - the bath.
You read it right, we make a special bath this time of year, to cleanse, clear, fire up and get ready for a new round of Vodou work. Look at it this way - we've just spent the entire month of November Anba Dlo, meaning under water. The Ghedes are rude, crude -- and dead. They are cold literally and figuratively. As we rise up from our watery grave, we need heat, warmth and fire to get our internal engines back on line. What better way to do this, than with a fiery bath.
Bain Noel or Christmas Bath is probably a misnomer of the highest caliber. It's not really a Christmas bath, it is simply done at this time of year. Here at the houmfort, we work this ritual by making a fiery bath of herbs, alcohol and perfumes. We light it on fire and dance over it, bathe in and then wash down the temples, our ritual gear and our materia magica. We bottle it up for the family to take home and wash down their houses for safety, security, fertility. You can use it sparingly all year long, or go all out in a blaze of glory and bathe in it for that super special thing you've been waiting to do.
So to participate in the season of giving, let me give you all one recipe Sosyete du Marche uses that you can replicate on your own. Gather the following materials:
A metal bowl - must be metal, as the alcohol and perfume will leach chemicals from plastic (not to mention melt).
A pair of bricks to protect the surface you are working on.
One teaspoon each, of 3 minerals - ex. dirt, salt, sugar
A handful of 3 plants - for example, basil, peppermint, rue
One cup each, of 3 liquids - for example, water, alcohol, coffee
One cup comprised of three different scented liquids - perfume, essential oil, toilet water
Long metal spoon
Long neck lighter
Your Magical Instruments (tarot cards, wands, rings, crystals, whatever you wish to cleanse and empower for the new year).
Work safely and smartly. Lock up the animals and put the kids in front of the TV watching something. Set the metal bowl on the bricks. Place the minerals, the plants and the liquids in the bowl. Mix it with your hands and as you do, think about what you want for the new year. Stir the bowl's contents vigorously, to 'heat' up the material. Carefully add 1/4 cup of Florida Water to mixture and mix in with the metal spoon. Thoroughly wipe off your hands for the next step -- or you will wish you had.
Now, light the red candles, and place one on each side of the bowl. Say an Our Father, a Hail Mary and the Apostles Creed. Ask God to make next year fulfilling, and that you be blessed to extent that you can receive. Then, using the long handle lighter, light the mixture. Florida Water is EXTREMELY volatile, so be careful not to spill it (that's why you wipe off your hands - if you don't it will ignite on your skin). CAREFULLY stir the material with the metal spoon as it burns. The Florida water is heating up the mix, and should not necessarily burn the herbs though it might, and that's ok. While the fire is going, pass your Magical instruments (wands, decks of cards, crystals) through the flames, cleansing and heating them up. Even after the flame has gone down, the heat coming off the mix is enough to cleanse anything passed over the bowl. Once the flame has gone down, you can do any of the following:
1.) Soak a rag in the liquid and wipe down your window sills, door frames, floors and entry ways, to protect, seal and defend your home. Place the now used rag beneath your welcome mat or in the basement. Live in an apartment? Get a flower pot, put the rag in it and then plant something on top - real is better, but artificial works. Place your protective plant by the front door.
2.) Pour off the Liquid and take a physical Bain Noel bath. Shower or bath, so you are clean. Take the liquid and red candles into the bathroom. Place the candles on the floor outside of the tub, and light them. Step backwards into the tub, between the candles. Pour the Bain Noel liquid over yourself. Be sure to get some on your chest and on your back. Wipe DOWN from head to feet, shoulders to fingertips, hips to toes. Step forward out of the tub and allow to air dry. Dress in clean clothing, tie your head in red and sleep ALONE for the night. In the morning, go about your business.
3.) Take the solid material of the bath and a bottle of fresh Florida water. Place the material in a glass bowl and then pour the Florida Water over it. Let it soak for a day, then strain off the liquid and rebottle in glass. You now have a weaker yet still potent version of the bath you can use again.
4.) Take the material (the solids) and wrap them tightly into a ball/packet and place it on your altar where it will continue to pulse it's power for the year.
The Bain Noel is a reminder of the fragility of our lives. Its herbal mixture is a to help us remember to put the spicey in with the sweet, for balance. And that with a little effort on our part, we can have a wonderful life filled with blessings. Ayibobo.
Now pass the eggnog, will you?