something of a cleansing
an essay by Innas Tsuroiya
photo by sonja katanic
1. When I was a kid, children books I had read taught me to choose kindness. When I grew up I found out it means to prefer emotional intelligence over smartness -- but I didn’t find that in my used-to-be dysfunctional family. We argued a lot, fought a lot, prayed for each other a lot, hexed each other but not as much. Kindness was out of equation.
(I came from a family who practiced Javanese witchcraft so everything is of spirituality and the mystic. We’re accustomed to think about alternative ways if we stumbled upon difficulties. Perhaps it was cruel, it was violent to do that to our loved ones but magic is a part of our love too. We think there’s abundant beauty in that.)
2. Last year, in early 2017, after all this time we got exhausted for misunderstanding each other and putting mild curses and practicing empty forgiveness. We came to a consensus. Maybe there was something wrong with us, maybe we were cursed by our own power. We had to cleanse ourselves before working out to be a loving united household.
My eldest brother, who has been learning esotericism for quite some time, proposed some ideas. House-cleaning ritual, changing meditation mantras, trying to be a vegetarian for three days, drinking particular herbs, many things. It seemed like a lot of hard work, a lot of labor.
3. Of all things, my family believes in the power of flower baths. We think it recharges our energy and is a sign of healing. Almost like a restoration of what has been lost -- mutual kindness, perhaps. A sense of understanding. The capacity to grow together as a group of people who share bloodlines.
4. We mix water from seven wells, special oil with a specific fragrance, several kinds of flowers: red rose, white rose, orchid, jasmine, ylang-ylang, frangipani, you name it all.
At first we must wash our face gently and chant prayers; we pray to become whole and complete again, to become aware of what we are capable of, to become more generous with each other. Then we washed our hair and body with the flower baths. We washed our arms and legs and neck and back and chest and stomach and private parts. The ritual was to wash our entire body.
5. Indulge yourself in the petals. Savor the kindness, savor the aroma. Flowers are nature’s most romantic gift for you. Savor everything.
We felt the warmth of a flower bath with special oil the way the inside of our throat felt when we drank hot tea. It taught us what it means to sense, how to really be alive. There’s something energetic with the presence of those flowers. They have been living forever in this earth. There must be some history lessons that we can pick up.
6. When I soaked myself in the fragrant water I was reminded of how much violence that constitutes beauty, how much violence that constitutes magic and secrecy. I’m thinking about alternative ways beauty exists nonviolently the way I have learned to think about alternative ways to exist and survive. When I washed my face with rose water and ylang-ylang I was reminded of how much gene I shared with those flowers. It’s like sisterhood, even parenthood maybe, sans the generational trauma. The luxury I would almost never experience firsthand.
7. The magic happens when you first touched the surface of water with your palms. The magic lingers even after weeks you bathed. I love how it brings the best of you, I love how it brings the best of us all. Flower baths reunite my family from the moment we agreed to begin that ritual. In the end we immerse ourselves in the power of flowers and redeem our violence. This is our new love language; our celebration of beauty, kindness, and new magic.
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