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Faith through blood.

I spend a lot of my time praying in my bath.

I never used to be religious. I dabbled in Christianity, attempted Buddhist chants, even started growing a herb garden for pagan rituals. But none of that gave me the sense of spirituality I craved. I had a friend ask me if I had ever felt a oneness with nature. My response was 'depends what drugs I've taken'. It made him, and everybody else laugh, made me sound cynical and cool to all his friends who stood around us like an audience, but it wasn't what I felt. I felt angry that I hadn't. I had tried drugs, but it didn't work. It had felt too easy.

But that has all changed. Now I too have felt that oneness with the world and I am infatuated with it.

My bath isn't particularly pretty or special, like an old freestanding Victorian roll-top, or a custom-made Jacuzzi with Mediterranean-feel mosaic tile work. It's very old. Its tiles are a peculiar shade of peachy beige, probably bought by my parents on sale at the local DIY store. It takes up an entire wall, back to back, like an arguing couple, with the built in shower unit in a desperate attempt to make room in what is, despite the estate agents talk, a rather small space. The grouting is stained, there are some strange cracks in its faux-porcelain body and I don't think it really matches the rest of the décor.

But that is irrelevant to me. Those who truly understand God know you do not need stained glass windows and ornate carvings to pray. All you need is faith.

I like to run my baths really hot, scalding almost, so that when you first dip a tentative foot in, it is withdrawn hot and pink as a new born child. I like the fact it forces you to take your time. The process is sensual, foreplay almost, allowing a body part at a time to be accustomed to the water, inching yourself in bit by bit. I enjoy the way I catch my breath when I first immerse myself, the will power it takes to remain fully submerged. It adds adrenalin to the whole process.

Once I'm in the bath, for the first five minutes at least, I sit and reflect. In a mosque, one must cleanse themselves before they pray, and I wish to do the same. I sweat out the impurities of the day, the heat bringing black dots in front of my eyes like swarms of locusts, my heart beating heard against my chest like a trapped animal.

It is not meant to be a pleasant experience, though the disorientation is refreshing. The pain is a part of it all. It teaches concentration, allowing a realisation of sins through the flesh in a way that can't be realised in the mind. I take my time, though every second that passes can be achingly difficult. The effort shows my dedication and I force myself to enjoy it. I like to think I am drowning myself in anticipation.

The actual prayer is different from all this; there is no pain.

I know when I am ready because I reach a certain state of mind, a point where the scalding heat and the wooziness in my head bring a detachment from my body. It is like my actions become magnified to the point where it feels like I am watching myself, my movements in slow motion

I stand back and observe, hold my breath as two hands my own, and yet not, take grasp of the blade. In my youth I used to break open disposable razors, or steal Stanley knives from my father's garage, but now there is a ritual to my actions. Pagans see the power in rituals. It is the symbolism of actions, not the actions themselves, that determine the strength of your incantation. Rituals strengthen actions, force one to focus in a way you just cannot in more random acts. The precision is needed for power.

I buy sterile scalpels from a medical wholesalers - this isn't meant to be a health-risk - and as if conditioned by my regular prayer, I now find that the crackling sound as I remove the wrapping sends chills down my spine. The whole process has become like intercourse with a loved one. There is an intimacy in my actions, so different from those shared with anybody else. We know every move and we dance with one another, because we know which steps to take, can anticipate every reaction right down to the last jagged breath. You can't achieve ritual with a stranger.

I'm not a masochist. Or if I am, masochism has nothing to do with this. Pain is in the mind, and my mind is focused on higher things. The cuttings do not hurt. My skin has been softened by the hot water so the blade penetrates easily rather than scratching the surface first, and the heat allows blood to the surface more easily, so I don't have to go as deep to bleed for longer. I don't use bubble bath or any other perfumed products that would sting excessively – I want to see the water at its clearest anyway, so I can relish the contrast at the end.

I don't always cut in the same place, but I tend to focus on my upper arms, chest and thighs as these aren't visible when I am fully dressed. Part of me would like to cut elsewhere, but I know it would raise concerns from the atheists out there, the non-believers who don't understand and assume suicide or inner turmoil. But on the other hand I like the restriction. These areas of my body have now become living monument to my prayers, like notches on a bed post, or carvings in a cave wall, each raised line commemorating a moment that words cannot express. I find my scars erotic, though not everybody feels the same. Running my fingers along each raised line - my own Braille inscriptions - sends shivers down my spine. The sensation makes me remember, causes my heart to ache in anticipation for the next time.

The cuttings feel like dragging a piece of thread across my skin, my pale flesh giving way to the pressure to reveal layers of hidden beauty, as when a girl spreads her legs. It is a gentle creation, like that of a spider and its web, not the harshness of human construction the metal might imply.

The blood doesn't all come at once, but first in thin dots like surgeons markings, swelling to a thin line like an old friend, before trickling down in tributaries, veins in a marble work surface or roots from a plant. Each thread gradually becomes more enlarged and swollen, as if getting excited, slowly engorging with one another to form one heavy stream.

I stay as still as I can while I wait for the blood to reach the water, not wishing to disturb its natural diffusion. The moment is magical. Fascinating. They say blood is thicker than water, yet it seems like an equal at first, just one droplet exploding, thinning to a small cloud that makes me think of octopus ink in the ocean. But it is deceptive and keeps coming, another drop, and another, and then a continuous steady flow, the water gradually turning pinker, then redder, spreading as if it wills to take over everything, including me. I want it to. I submerse my body, taste the copper in my mouth as if I am bathing in communion wine, revelling in it like a desert traveller in an oasis fountain. It makes me feel elated and I engulf myself in the sensation, using my hands to spread it all over myself, all the intimate areas I reserve just for this.

But as soon as it begins it is nearly over. The blood stops flowing and the feeling wears off. Eventually I am just sitting in a bath of bloody water, and I have no choice but to get out, wrap my wounds and wash out the bath. Such a waste as it swirls down the plughole.

But then there is always tomorrow to sin and purge.

I'm not suicidal. I'm not manifesting the emotional pain rotting inside through physical actions. I have just discovered a part of me that excites me like nothing else. What can I say, I like blood. It is a gift given to me by God. It makes me feel so mortal. Makes me feel so close.

I am an addict, I know that. But it just feels so good.

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submitted by: Anonymous
on: 02 Feb. 2007
in Ritual

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