Into the River: Introduction to Ritual Purification

Into the River: Introduction to Ritual Cleansing

The act of ritual purification, or spiritual cleansing, is a universal feature of nearly every tradition in the world.

Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam all practice some form of ritual purification. 

Modern witchcraft is no exception.  From ritual baths steeped in herbs and flowers to the sacred smoke of incense, ritual purification remains a cornerstone of many paths in witchcraft.

So, let’s delve a little deeper into this important aspect of ritual and magic.

Modern Witchcraft: An Introduction to Ritual Purification

Ritual Purification and Witchcraft

First, I want to point out that not every practicing witch believes in the act of spiritual cleansing, particularly as it applies to human body.

Some practitioners find the idea that the body is impure or dirty offensive.  Sometimes, this brings up difficult feelings about misogyny or their experiences with religious judgement.

I think it’s important to respect this perspective.

However, many, many magical practitioners routinely use purification in rituals.

Ritual Baths

The ritual bath is my favorite form of purification.  Particularly before elaborate rituals and spells, I relish the experience of a carefully prepared spell bath, and I often take my time coming up with creative, symbolic ideas to make it meaningful.

Sometimes, I even use them as modalities for the entire ritual, as in this beauty bath spell or this moon bath ritual.

But what makes a ritual bath a ritual bath, as opposed to a mundane one?  That question is largely personal, and specific to what creates meaning for you.  But here are some ideas to get you thinking.

Create sacred bath ingredients.

Consider hand-making your own bath products to use only for sacred baths.  

Use natural items, like sea salt, natural soaps, charcoal and essential oils to make bath salts, body washes and body oils.  Use these items only during your ritual baths.   


Over time and with consistency, the sensory memory of these scents and textures instantly brings you into a sacred mindset, preparing your body and spirit for sacred work.

Speaking of which . . .

Make it sensual.

Design ritual baths that awaken the senses.

Choose aromas, touch sensations and play music that evokes a sense of power and mystique for you personally.

This requires some patience and experimentation, but take the time to find the precise combination of elements that work for you.

Ritual bathing in natural bodies of water.

Nothing feels more natural, nourishing or purifying than taking a dip in a natural body of water.

If you know a secluded creek, waterfall or remote beach, lucky you!  Provided the weather is pleasant and you know the water quality is safe, consider taking your sacred bath in a natural body of water.

Of course, if you plan to use soap or salts, make sure they only contain natural, non-polluting, biodegradable ingredients.

Smoke Clearing

The use of incense smoke in ritual spread from Babylonian cultures to those of Rome and Greece.  

In fact, incense plays a significant role in many spiritual traditions throughout the world, including Buddhism, Christianity and many indigenous cultures.

Most commonly, modern witchcraft employees incense in ritual exorcism. 

The word exorcism does not necessarily refer to the ritual exorcism of “demons” from the body, but rather negative energies from any place, object or person.

Loose Incense

Although most people think of incense in the stick form common to new age shops, in ritual magic, we generally use loose incense blends.

Using loose incense gives the practitioner the freedom to choose which herbs, resins and oils to incorporate.  This allows for the kind of personalization so important in many magical traditions.

There are many methods of burning loose incense.  The most common involves burning it on a (affiliate link —–>) charcoal disk in a cauldron or fire safe dish.

Want to try making your own?  Check out these 7 Easy Incense Recipes for Any Magic Spell.

Salt Cleansing

Modern witches frequently use salt for the absorption of negative energy.

For example, one common ritual involves sprinkling salt in a new dwelling or ritual space, and then sweeping it up.  The used salt is then discarded safely away from the home.

With it goes all the icky vibes!

Making ritual salts.

Ritual salts are among the easiest ritual supplies to make yourself.

Literally, all you need is salt, and any natural additive you want.

If you plan to use them in ritual baths, make sure to only include additives that wash easily down the drain.  Avoid any oil (such as coconut oil) that becomes solid at room temperature or large chunks of herbs.

How to use ritual salts.

There are many, many says to use ritual salts appropriately.  Consider any of the following:

-Place used crystals in a bowl of salt and leave them overnight during the dark moon to cleanse them.

-Add ritual salts ritual bathwater.

-Sprinkle ritual salts around your sacred space during circle casting.

-Sprinkle salt around the perimeter of your home to absorb negative energy before it enters your house (the rain will wash it away).

Fire Cleansing 

Less common, but no less profound, fire cleansing dates back to the ancient rituals and practices in indigenous European cultures (among many others).

For example, the Gaelic Celts drove their livestock through the bonfire during the festival of Beltane for purification, protection and healing.

Today, we occasionally use fire to cleanse ritual tools and “burn off” negative energy.

Using fire for ritual cleansing.

Obviously, safety figures significantly in the use of fire in any context.

But for cleansing, several methods work well, provided use use common sense.

Try any of the following at your own risk:

Open flame method.  To cleanse non-flammable objects, such as ritual knives, pass them back and forth rapidly through an open flame.  This motion should be quick, and never long enough to actually heat the item past a temperature comfortable to the touch.

Bonfire cleansing.  For items actually want to destroy in order to cleanse your life of them (such as tokens from an ended relationship), consider burning them in an open bonfire.  Make sure these items produce no toxic fumes when burned.  Plastic and even chemically treated wood are harmful to your health when incinerated. 

Blessed be.

Into the River: An Introduction to Ritual Purification for Witchcraft

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