The Forgotten Sanctity of Sauna article was shared with me by my friend Jarmo Lehtola, current or former CEO, Finnish Sauna Society. In the article, Pentti Tuohimaa, Honorary President of the International Smoke Sauna Club, leads the reader down a deep, resonating analysis of the holiness and sanctity of sauna.
Tuochimaa begins by laying out a perception of harsh reality:
“During the past hundred years, we Finns have forgotten about the sanctity of sauna. Modern people don’t bother to address anything as ostentatious as sanctitude.”
“Man is a hedonistic consumer, an exploiter of natural resources. Holiness, sanctity, is not recognized because it cannot be exploited. If one tries to exploit holiness, it hides itself.”
Then, we are presented with clear examples of what sauna sanctity is, for example:
“The third sign of sanctity is throwing water on the sauna stones to make steam. This is buried deep in being Finnish. We get annoyed when making steam is not allowed in other countries or hotels. The sauna stove is our altar.”
“People say art is holy because it lifts us above the ordinary by way of feeling enchantment. In exactly the same way, bathing in the sauna elevates us from what is ordinary.”
Tuohimaa, much as with sauna itself, finishes with a high note of optimism:
“If sauna is seen to be something more than a source of physical wellbeing, it can offer a much more comprehensive experience to the bather. The immaterial sanctity of sauna elevates us above the ordinary. Sauna is a gate and an interface:
- from ordinary to extraordinary
- from material to mental
- from pragmatic to magic
- from profane to holy.”
As more and more of us non-Finns adapt to and embrace Finnish sauna, what comes along with the enjoyment is an appreciation of the traditions, holiness, and the sanctity of sauna.