Sauna Popularity And Tradition

Did you know that an ancient Roman named Acerbi traveled to Finland and described sauna? There is a great illustration in the book, Sauna. The Finnish Bath, by H.J. Viherjuuri, published by Otava in Helsinki in 1957. Also, in the same book is an illustration by Albrecht Durer, entitled “Women in the Bath” in 1496. It is much like a sauna suit as can be seen by the wooden walls, the birch whisk, the pile of stones on the stove and the wooden tubs. It seems that there were sauna-like baths in Europe during the 15th century. How about that?

One more thing. Taisto informs me that an ancient people, the Scythians, had a custom of digging a hole into the ground, building a fire in it to heat a pile of stones and building a teepee-like structure over the whole thing. Then they sat around the fire and tossed hemp seeds onto the hot stones, hemp being a marijuana-like substance. Boy, were they happy afterwards!

Selk sauna means a backside beating or thrashing. The second part of the word "sauna" refers to a steam bath that Finns take. Perhaps it loses something in the translation but it does rhyme. I LOVED it! Incidentally, the writer did not sign his name but just put down One Finn.

Well, One Finn, thank you for reminding me that sow can be pronounced in two different ways. But what I love is the verse which took some doing and especially the pun on selk sauna. So I'll have to amend my saying that sow-nuh is how sauna is pronounced, with the sow being pronounced as if referring to the pig family. How about that? It's really clever and perked up my entire month. I have suspicions regarding the identity of the author, folks. I feel it's someone whom Taisto and I met who loves riddles. Speaking of riddles, the Finns traditionally, at least those I've known of the immigrant generation, came from families that entertained themselves during long winter evenings by springing riddles on their families, and let me tell you, some of those riddles were really difficult. By the way, you can also read the article "Laskiainen," by Mae Lumppio, which was fascinating. Laskiainen, according to Lumppio, has a lot of traditions attached to it, traditions based on the Catholic Lenten period. It is interesting to note that they forbade potatoes so that boils wouldn't plague the culprit who ate them. Those must have been more prosperous times. From what members of the immigrant generation I've known said, potatoes and salt herring were all that most of them had to eat. They ate potatoes 365 days of the year and were lucky to get them. The torpparit (crofters) had no sheep herds and only some had cows. Most of the thirty or so Finns whose oral histories I've taken spoke of the shortage of food. They certainly never had a voluntary fast day because they were fasting all the time. Lumppio's article was indeed fascinating because it presents a group of totally different customs from those. One thing is sure, folks, the average Finn who immigrated to the United States came from poor people. Although the poor had customs aplenty, they sure were not financially able to acquire all the goodies outlined or to own many farm animals. One thing is certain: the custom of baking nisu (Finnish coffeebread) was something that the immigrant Finns brought with them.