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Old 10-04-2011, 11:40 AM   #1
hammarberg
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Default Traditional Finnish sauna

Ok, time for some Sauna talk.

I know there's few Scandinavians, Finns and few from other countries, who are already familiar with the consept of Finnish sauna. At least about the practical side of it.

I was just reading about native americans, their legends and rituals.(the whole thing brought again to my attention by my new interest in growing my own tobacco.) Many tribes seem to have a sweat lodge tradition with all the ceremonial and spiritual stuff beside the physichal cleansing it does.

I just read some history about this practice and noticed a striking resemblance to what Finnish tradition and legends teach about our type of sauna. I'm not repeating the things i've just read about Native American sweat lodge, many of you(Natives specially ofcourse) know this stuff already better than i do.

Anyway, it is so interesting how these traditions are so close to each other. Finns have almost totally forgotten about their "tribal" heritage and old tradition which preceeds "swedish/russian" and christian time here... Before medieval times Finland was like North America before Europeans came. Nobody knows for sure when the Sauna was invented, but it has been in use for several thousand years for sure.

Even today, for many Finns(including myself.) Sauna is holier place than any church. For some reason this paganistic practice was not eradicated, maybe because men of church also saw the positive qualitites this practice has.

Sauna is a holy place. It's a place where mind goes quiet, place where hatred and anger is forgotten, thoughts clear and where living and the dead meet each other. When a mother was pregnant and ready to give birth, she did so in sauna. The newborn was then bathed there for the first time and the passe ancestors would welcome the new life. Also when people died, they were bathed in sauna again to prepare them for the burial. After that the body of the dead would be put to the barns balcony to wait for the burial day, if there was no barn, then the body would be kept in sauna all those days. So it was a place where people's lives began and into where they were brought to start their journey to the spirit world. This practice was still alive some 90 - 100 years ago.

On the more usual ocation, people g to sauna to clean themselves, physically, mentally and spiritually. Physically its bit tough for anybody unexperienced, because differening from usual sauna, Finns heat the place up to 80 to 100 degrees celcius. This allround cleansing effect is something i can comfirm personally. Going to finnish sauna and bathing there cleans your body, it really quites the mind, it makes you calm and peaceful. On the spiritual side it has effect too. It has same type of effect as a decent meditation has.

It was said to be a place where you can meat your ancestors and talk to them. Also people believe you can talk to god or spirits while in there. The legends tell that when the water hits the hot stones of the "kiuas", the rising steam will bring your thoughts to who ever you want to talk to, be it god, the spirit of the forest or your great-grandfather.

So if one takes a really serious kind of sauna session, there's not much talking in there. Although the sauna is also known to be the place where Finns would make peace amongs themselves if in an argument and where to make business deals etc. So it's kind of a multi-purpose thing.

Normal sauna session takes about 30minutes to few hours depending on the peoples liking. Swimming is also a very important and normal practice, both at summer and winter. More crazier types even go swimming into the snowbanks and sometimes bath/wash themselves in snow.(I do this, it's great.)

Swimming makes a nice cooldown after a tough "löyly." Löyly is the Finnish word for the steam, or "sauna-spirit."

Sauna is also said to have it's own guardian spirit, "saunatonttu." Tonttu means an elf. This guardian is normally seen as a form of a small bearded man. This was kind of a guy you would have to make offerings at times, and NEVER offend. Othervise the sauna guardian would set the sauna on fire or play some other nasty trick.

Oh, i almost forgot, one of the most important cleansing practices we have about sauna is use of "vihta" or "vasta." The thing called with this name is a bundle of usually birch branches. It is used to sort of whip-the-crap-out-of-your-body. It might sound a bit masochistic practice, a room at 100 degrees celsius, even more when water is thrown on the stones and then you have to whip your self with a bunch of treebranches.(Those ofcourse have their leaves on them. )

But the whole experience with all the heat, swimming an whiping yourself with birchbranches is very deeply cleansing and soothing experience. And it can be of spiritual nature if you add prayer or meditation it. It's one of the most well preserved traditions among here and rightfully so. Search the web, i'm sure you'll find out more if your interested. Or ask.

It was nice to notice how Native Americans have very similar practice too. I hold a huge respect for them and their traditions, and there's so many familiar practices in their tradition, it's mind blowing.

Well, that's about it, i hope there's people here who are willing to talk about this stuff. The stage is yours.
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Old 15-04-2011, 12:10 PM   #2
edelweiss
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Thanks for this report, Hammarberg.

You reminded me of how much I am missing going to sauna.

I envy you Finns for having a private sauna practically in every home.


Last edited by edelweiss; 15-04-2011 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 20-04-2011, 11:13 AM   #3
hammarberg
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You welcome.

Nice one you have in that picture, really traditional one i see.. If you like it, why don't you build your own one day?
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