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Key words
bath, sauna bathing, Karelian traditional culture, traditional folk healing, mythology, curative ceremonies
About the Author

Tel.: +7 (8142) 57 24 08;

Pitkyarantskaya street 16—81, 185000 Petrozavodsk, Republic of Karelia, Russian


P h D (Philology), Associate Professor of Baltic-Finnish Philology, Petrozavodsk State


 Sauna bathing forms one of the core ethnic features of the Baltic-Finnish (western Finno-Ugrian) dating back to ancient times. The bath was extremely important for peasants in the agrarian culture, it formed a space for steam bathing for a person, healers performed their curing rites there trying to heal various diseases.

Brides visited the bath the day before wedding in many local traditions, and it formed an obligatory element of the matrimony ceremony. There in the bath maidens conducted divination, contacting supra-normal forces of the Other World. The bath served as the primary healing place in order to cure any disease among Karelians. This article focuses on the Karelian healing ceremo- nies, which were held in the bath in the late 19h and early 20h centuries. It examines the traditions associated with the preparation of firewood, twigs and water for healing bathing. The Karelian beliefs, dealing with bathing and origin of some diseases, are concerned, as well as Karelian naming units of illnesses and their healing practices. Firewood was harvested from trees, which had been toppled by the wind or by thunder-storm, twigs were procured at certain time. Water's productive power has been believed to increase at certain dates. Karelians considered following groups of diseases as curable by means of bathing: catarrhal (coughing, algor), achiness, children diseases (varicella, paroniria), dermatitis. The most common healing practices were steaming, heat soak, massage, rubdown with uncture or honey.

Some diseases, such as ricket or evil eye, according to the Karelian beliefs, could be cured by professional healers only, by means of performing healing rituals in the bath. Sauna bathing remained the main curative practice among Karelians.


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