Friday, February 20, 2015

The Kalevala on the sauna

While The Kalevalas 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
    Produced honeyed vapor.
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 Lönnrots first version of The Kalevala in 1835, and is the same day as Finnish Culture Day.

What great background for my Saturday night sauna!


Need a personally inscribed copy of “Some Like it Hot: The Sauna, Its Lore and Stories”?
Send $20 (which includes tax and shipping costs) to:
Nikki Rajala
P.O. Box 372
Rockville, MN 56369

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Kalevala, Finland’s national epic poem

The Kalevala is the national epic poem of Finland. It was compiled by Elias Lönnrot between 1833 and 1840. Full of stories of heroes who do great, mystifying, even senseless, deeds, The Kalevalas 23,795 verses are divided into 50 songs.

 Mauri, my Finnish go-to guy while I was writing “Some Like it Hot,” said, “The Kalevala is not easy reading for a modern person, with the curious poetic structure of the language. Its made of 4-phrase poems which sound very nice (but kind of archaic) to a modern Finnish ear. The national epic has, of course, inspired countless artistic minds, including that of Akseli Gallen-Kallela in painting and Jean Sibelius in music.”

Among those tales in its 50 runes, or poems, The Kalevala described common sauna scenes of daily life in 15 of the runes — which is where I come in. What was the sauna like back in the day?

In the next post, Ive included some lines from the Magoun translation. Notice the rhythm — if it reminds you of Henry Wadsworth Longfellows “The Song of Hiawatha,” its believed that the Kalevala was part of his inspiration. J.R.R Tolkien credited the Kalevala in his “Silmarillion.”

Plus, that particular tale from The Kalevala ends my series on what health concerns the sauna can cure — and why. That bit of tradition makes the perfect transition to Saint Urhos Tay (coming March 16). The Kalevala even has its own holiday.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sauna — the poor man's* drugstore

#5: Is sauna a miracle treatment?

Sauna — the poor mans* drugstore (old Finnish proverb)

* and healthy woman’s
Given all the info about the variety of ways sauna is being used for different medical concerns, it could be a miracle treatment. Given the high cost of tests and procedures, I will use this healthy womans drugstore when its a feasible choice for the concerns I have. It doesn’t cure everything (though I did feel that way when I wrote “Some Like it Hot:The Sauna, Its Lore and Stories”). 
Here’s an incomplete list of health benefits that I havent found proof for: 
migraine (rare occurrence in my life now)
hangover (rare occurrence in my life now), 
overeating (but I can take care of that on my own), 
warding off flu, 
removing toxins.

Using myself as the guinea pig, I have found sauna helps me by
soothing sore muscles and sunburn, 
easing stress and headaches, 
better sleep, 
cleansing of the skin, 
releasing of personal irritations.

Its not bad for just sitting there. But to simply relax — thats enough for me tonight.


Copies of Some Like It Hot: The Sauna, Its Lore and Stories are available from the publisher, North Star Press of St. Cloud, Minnesota, or from local booksellers. For a personally inscribed copy, send $20 (which includes tax and shipping costs) to: Nikki Rajala, P.O. Box 372, Rockville, Minnesota 56369.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Did sauna help my cold?

#4: Is sauna a miracle treatment?

If a sauna, whiskey and tar do not help, the disease is fatal. 
       (old Finnish proverb) Jos ei sauna ja viina ja terva auta niin se tauti on kuolemaksi.

That trio of treatment choices gives me pause. Apparently I haven’t been using the whole pharmacy —or maybe I’ve improved in it.

A couple of months ago I picked up a cold. Day One brought the usual range of symptoms — slight fever, sore throat, less energy, achy sinus, occasional sneezing and drippy nose. Except for the day the virus attacked, I never felt sick or totally exhausted. It was luckily a mild case.

That first evening I gave it the “sauna test” — a round of steam to knock it out. And repeated the sauna treatment several more nights in the next 14 days. Im disappointed to report that löyly didnt totally destroy that virus.

To update the whiskey and tar regimen, I maximized getting well (after a few days of sauna-only) by supplementing, with elderberry tea, zinc tabs, echinacea, lots of water and extra sleep among the new health additions. While my extra treatments didn't blast the virus either, my symptoms eased.

I’ll give credit to the sauna, not the supplements. Unfortunately I was too impatient to try only one cure at a time.