While The Kalevala’s mythical heroes enjoy their saunas, the gender roles are clear. Men are depicted bathing and talking while women attend to the tasks: cutting and making whisks, lighting a fire to heat the sauna — and making sure a fresh shirt is available.
In Rune 4:1-8, Aino prepares bundles of whisks for her family. In Rune 18, Annikki takes a secret sauna. In Rune 23, lines 351-370 tell how a young bride-to-be is taught to prepare an evening sauna for her new in-laws.
I particularly like the section of Rune 45:211-228 (Magoun translation in which Vainamoinen prepares the sauna and then cures the people of diseases that Louhi (the old witch woman from the North with teeth few and far between) has cursed them with.
Steadfast old Vainamoinen
Through the glowing stove stones
He speaks with these words:
“Come now, God, into the sauna.
To the warmth, heavenly Father,Healthfulness to bring us,
And the peace secure to us.”
Welcome löyly, welcome warmth!
Welcome healing power!
Löyly into the floor and ceiling,
Löyly into the moss in walls,
Löyly to the top of the platform,
Löyly onto the stones of the stove!
Drive the Evil far away,
Far away from under my skin,
From the flesh made by God!
Come now, God, into the sauna,
Healthfulness to bring to us,
And the peace secure to us.
This just in:
The Kalevala Day is celebrated Feb. 28 in Finland, to match Elias Lönnrot’s first version of The Kalevala in 1835, and is the same day as Finnish Culture Day.
What great background for my Saturday night sauna!
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