It should come as no surprise that in almost every culture, the goddesses of beauty have also been the goddesses of love. They are also often goddesses of the arts, and of such essentials to life as mirth, happiness and laughter. These goddesses are not actively worshipped in many parts of the world anymore. When they were, one way their followers and priestesses would honor them was by devoting themselves to the arts of adornment and beauty. They wore tantalizing perfumes, perfected their complexions with makeup, arranged their hair and, most importantly, they took lots of baths.
Why baths? Love goddesses everywhere have been creatures of the seas, lakes and rivers. Some ride in chariots pulled by swans or dolphins, others are carried in sea shells. Still others are mermaids whose fish tails propel them through the waves. Commune with Aphrodite, Venus, the Haitian Erzulie and the rest by taking baths in their honor. Light a candle, add Venusian oils or salts to the silky water and indulge in some hedonistic purification and water-worship.
Maidenhair fern is ruled by Venus. Set some fronds adrift in your bath to work that old green magic. This bath is an ancient one that was practiced centuries ago in Rome, and was thought to invoke the love goddess’ powers and enhance a woman’s beauty.
Sea salt in the bath is the ultimate mermaid ablution, of course. Like swimming in a hot sea. Add sea plants to this and you nearly have the real thing. The salt-based bath is a great toner for the skin, and is taken for its purification benefits as well. Seaweed (wakame is best) adds nutrients and skin-stimulating minerals to the mix.
Melissa, salt and almond oil is another love-goddess bath from long ago, taken to inspire love, beauty and happiness in the bather.
Any of the following bath ingredients may be tried in an at-home beauty ritual to honor the goddesses of beauty and love. All of these have been used at one time or another for this purpose.
As always, my usual caveat about trying out new substances: Check with an expert first! You never know if you may have an allergy to the following: acacia, basil, bay, bergamot, clay sage, clover, geranium, geranium leaf, hyssop, jasmine, linden, mint, myrtle, oak bark, orange blossom, orange leaf, orris root, patchouli, pennyroyal, pepper, plantain, rose, rosemary, sage, sandalwood, southernwood, strawberry leaf, tansy, thyme, vervain, vetiver, white oak, woodruff, ylang ylang.
In Japan, some onsen are famous as bijin ni naru yu, or baths that make you beautiful. One in particular, Shimo-Suwa, Nagano Prefecture, is said to have originated where a beautiful goddess dropped her face lotion. Other beautifying waters include the hot spring at Osawa in Izu, Shizuoka Prefecture, Arita in Wakayama Prefecture, Inosawa on Shikoku and Okutsu in Okayama Prefecture.
Among the traditional Japanese bath ingredients that boast divine connections, paramount is the mikan bath. You may float whole mikan, mikan peels or powdered dried mikan peel in your hot bath to partake of this delightful soak. The effect of the mikan is said to be not only beautifying, relaxing and, of course, wonderfully fragrant, but it is also said to exert a vitalizing effect on one’s ki or vital force.
Japan being a bath-loving country perhaps unequaled anywhere in the world (the sauna-worshipping Scandinavians and the steam-bathers of the Middle East and North Africa come close) one might even raise a case for Japan being particularly blessed by Venus and her ilk. But it’s a paradise for a bather — divine or not.