SPIRITUAL BATHING: Healing Rituals and Traditions from Around the World

Rosita Arvigo, Author, Nadine Epstein, Joint Author, Thayer Allyson Gowdy, Photographer . Ten Speed/Celestial Arts $24.95 (182p) ISBN 978-1-58761-170-4

Arvigo and Epstein, authors of a previous book on contemporary uses of the Mayan tradition, offer an intriguing historical-cum-spiritual tour of world religious traditions involving water, its ritual use and spiritual significance. The authors rightly note that water has played an essential role in the rise of world cultures throughout history, and it has been assigned spiritual meaning within various cultures' belief systems. They review 15 cultures' selected beliefs and rituals, some more successfully than others. A tilt toward pre-Columbian Mesoamerican spiritual traditions—separate chapters are devoted to the Mayans, Aztecs and Incas—is arbitrary but understandable, given the authors' previous book and training with a Mayan shaman. But it does result in relatively stinted treatment of sacred water rituals within such dominant religious traditions as Christianity, in which baptism is one of the world's best-known water initiation rituals, and Hinduism, which has been shaped by the spiritual significance of India's river waters. Practical applications in home ritual are commendable but sometimes strained. While flower baths can be easily done at home without special accessories, a bather will need a fairly large garden for regular baths and, for ideal infusion, sunny conditions more frequent in Belize—author Arvigo's home—than in, say, Seattle. Still, the book shines light on a common element and underappreciated aspect of ritual that flows through different epochs and world cultures, and its more than 100 color photos greatly enhance the text. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 10/01/2003
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