Saturday, June 2, 2012

Samedi: The Lady Bath

I've spoken of Milo Rigaud and his 1953 publication Secrets of Voodoo here at HQ before.  I’ve also mentioned the Voudon ritual known as a Lady bath.  Both converge in the book where Rigaud, a native Haitian and a student of law, ethnology, psychology and theology, discusses the ritual and the hymn to Erzulie Freda that can accompany it.  Per Rigaud:

The “Lady” bath is the bath taken under the magic auspices of Erzulie.  Generally speaking, it is desirable to summon the mystère Erzulie to come in person and administer the bath…  The bath Erzulie used to be much in vogue, but it is no longer as popular as it once was.  Nowadays initiates are content to take a substitute Erzulie bath by rubbing themselves with water in which Erzulie, while possessing somebody, has herself bathed.  The bath water used in this fashion is thought to produce good fortune and cure illness.

Rigaud gives the ingredients of the Lady bath as follows:

… three bunches of basilica leaves, seven sweet peppers, a measure of zo-douvant (Eugenia crenulata Wild) powder, baume du commandeur, tincture of benzoin and Florida Water.  Perfume may be added in any desired quantity, perfume being the most important element in Maitresse Erzulie’s toilette.

This bath is generally taken no more than once a year and this hymn to Erzulie may accompany it:

Ce chance oh! O, ce chance oh!
Ce pas wanga ou gangnin;
Ce chance oh!
Grande Erzulie Freda
Ce chance ou gangnin,
Ce pas wanga ou gangnin;
Ce chance, O Maitresse.

It’s luck, oh! O, it’s luck, oh!
It’s not a magic charm that you have;
It’s luck, oh!
Grande Erzulie Freda
It’s luck that you have,
It’s not a magic charm that you have;
It’s luck, O Mistress.

The emphasis on luck in this chant delineates the intention of the Lady bath.  The voudonist is not looking for Erzulie’s assistance in love or good looks, but specifically for her favor.  Everyone in Haiti knows that those who are favored by the beautiful Maitresse are the luckiest of all.

Header: Marilyn Monroe photograph via Mid-Century; my Erzulie is very fond of having pictures of MM used to represent her and I cannot but comply


Timmy! said...

Who doesn't like looking at pictures of Marilyn, Pauline?

Pauline said...

Only the confused or deranged, I'll say :)

Prince of Pinkness said...

Speechless and smiling! :)

At the moment, I'm afraid all I have in this list of ingredients that comes close is an essential oil of benzoin! Great pic of Marilyn, though. Perhaps now is a good time to replenish my stocks?

Pauline said...

Thanks, Scott; I'm glad to make you smile!

Some of those ingredients are pretty esoteric and hard to find outside Haiti. A hoodoo Lady bath is a bit more reasonable. Orange leave are steeped in water and Florisda Water and that mixture is strained and then added to bath water to achieve similar results.

That pictur of MM is kind of special because it is a test shot for costuming for the famous "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend" routine. The studio big wigs saw it and flipped, saying it was too risque. So what we got was that iconic pink dress that everyone wishes they could wear like Marilyn.

Prince of Pinkness said...

Ah, now that I can do. We're blessed with an orange tree, growing in a big old pot in the back yard. Thanks for the additional info, Pauline.

Never knew that pic of Marilyn was a test shot for "Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend". Love the film "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" and can hear Marilyn now saying 'it's men like you who made me the way I am' LOL