Madonna dei Bagni
"Madonna of the Baths"
Sunday after Ascension
This Madonna is particularly associated with the healing waters found near her sanctuary, which harken back to pre-Christian rites. Here is a beautiful traditional invocation sung in her honor by Marcello Colasurdo:
'O Bacile cu 'e rrose
If you can't make the trip out to Scafati this year, consider cleansing yourself using this traditional folk recipe, courtesy of the Santuario Madonna dei Bagni Facebook page. This practice is still done in the comune of Angri in Salento, Campania.
Before it gets dark on the Vigil of the Ascension (that is, the day before Ascension), gather fresh roses and mint. Remove the rose petals and mint leaves; combine with water in a basin. Pray that the water will be blessed; you can pray from the heart in your preferred language, or use this traditional prayer to the Madonna of the Baths in Neapolitan:
Maronna re’ Bagn
facile e acqua che scuri e che rose,
Puort l’ammor e
Santific e Purific
Leave the basin with the water and flowers out overnight on a balcony. (Or, if you live in New York and balconies are hard to come by, a fire escape or rooftop works.) It is believed that in the night, an angel, or Jesus, or the Madonna will come down from heaven and bless the water. In the morning, wash your face with the water.
Another traditional blessing which occurs in honor of the Madonna dei Bagni is the pennellazione.
The person giving the blessing—typically, an old woman—dips a hen feather in blessed olive oil, then traces the sign of the cross on the forehead and throat of the person to be blessed. As la Contrada Madonna dei Bagni - Scafati remarks, the hen in Italian folk magic represents death and resurrection (cf. the Madonna of the Hens, another one of the famed Seven Sisters) because she scratches at the earth, penetrating into the chthonic kingdom of the dead. But, for the contadini italiani, death is intimately related to life: From the death and burial of the seed, comes the life of the plant. From the death of the flower, comes the life of the fruit.