The history of the milk bath begins with Cleopatra, who was renowned in antiquity for her radiant beauty. This beauty was said to have been because of the Queen bathing in milk scented with honey, lavender, or rose petals. Some sources even suggest that strawberries and raspberries were used on occasion to scent her bath. It is said that Cleopatra’s boat was so fragrant with rose petals that Mark Antony smelled the perfume before he saw the vessel itself. It is no stretch of the imagination to consider the fact that Cleopatra probably shared baths with both her lovers- Caesar and Antony. Science has reinforced the legend of Cleopatra’s beauty, showing that bathing in milk relaxes the body and softens the skin, the early scientist Pythagoras being the first to recognize the positive effects.
A recipe for bath milk similar to Cleopatra’s is as follows:
1/4 Cup Powdered Milk
1/4 Cup Liquid Honey
One teaspoon Jojoba Oil
4dropsRose Essential Oil
5 drops Patchouli Essential Oil
5 drops Sandalwood Essential Oil
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients andadd to warm bath water. To create an ambient setting, light candles (use rose, patchouli or sandalwood for best effect) and/or burn incense of the same scents.
Another of the most popular love-stories based around bathing is the story of King David’s love-affair with Bath-Sheba. It began when he saw her bathing on her roof; the sight entranced him and he fell for her almost instantly, later marrying her. Their son was King Solomon. The legend is sometimes embellished, with poets describing the ardour in detail and suggesting any number of additives to the water she bathed in- few dissimilar to those Cleopatra is said to have utilized.
The ancient Greeks associated beautiful scents with the divine. One particularly beautiful ritual included an immersion of doves in scented water. The doves were then released, sprinkling water over the gathering as a representation of the blessings of the goddess of love, Aphrodite.
In Roman times, Nero built special ducts in his Golden Palace that would pour forth aromatic water, while also strewing the carpets with rose petals (some say he learned this from the liaison between Mark Antony and Cleopatra.)
Napoleon Bonaparte and his wife Josephine often used scents to enhance the atmosphere, and used baths as a sensuous display of romantic interest. Josephine is reputed to have been fond of musk, while Napoleon preferred rosemary. Indeed, at St Helena, he used his incense burner until the day of his death.
To add to the relaxing, sensual atmosphere, it can often help to prepare a bottle of champagne or red wine. Red wine is especially compatible if sandalwood incense or bath oil is used. Keeping the lighting low, using candles if possible, accentuates the atmosphere. Soft background music can also be greatly helpful.