How a sauna ritual takes place at Ezermaļi
→ Šis raksts pieejams arī Latviski – Pirts rituāls
Sitting at the table in “the New House” at Ezermaļi and sipping herbal tea, I realised that I couldn’t take my eyes off Aina who literally radiated a light and goodwill accented to even greater effect by her white linen outfit. As soon as you greet her, you can’t fail to notice Aina’s entrancing simplicity and good-natured smile.
It would seem that this should be the kind of person to oversee a sauna ritual, because a visit to the sauna is a process involving not only the purification of the flesh, but also cleansing of the spirit and soul. It’s Māra’s sanctum.
Sauna attendant Andris is from Saka and has been conducting sauna rituals for the past seven years, continually refining his skills by tapping into an ever expanding well of new knowledge and tricks of the trade. In contrast, by profession, Aina is a pharmacist and masseur from the Vērgale area, but, as it later turns out, her fine and wholehearted performance in the “brush dance” is on a par with Andris’.
Thus, the first hour of our meeting passes in conversation. We drink herbal tea while both sauna experts share their experience and opinions with us, as well as allowing us to discover one or two sauna secrets.
They have arrived for the sauna ritual at Ezermaļi fully prepared with their “instruments” in the form of an easy chair, head and feet rests, not to mention sauna brushes. “How many leaves fell off? Two or three… that’s nothing”, says Andris proudly demonstrating his hand woven sauna brushes by striking them energetically against the anteroom wall. The leaves on Andris’ brushes have retained their original green colour, because they have been stored in the dark. The rays of the sun make birch leaves brown and prone to fall off at the slightest touch.
The brush weaving time must be judged in accordance with nature’s timing and weavers must not blindly adhere to folklore. “There is a belief that the birch for sauna brushes must be cut around the time of the summer solstice, but what am I supposed to do if spring comes to the Pāvilosta area about two weeks late?” asks the sauna attendant rhetorically. For the trip to Ezermaļi, the sauna attendants have also woven fragrant “delights” into each brush. In our case, they have woven peppermint into our birch sauna brushes and marjoram into our reed brushes. Other aromatic and pleasant herbs such as lemon balm, camomile, meadowsweet or absinthium can also be put to good use in brushes. However, Andris is usually reluctant to use marjoram in the sauna, because it tends to suppress men’s libido…
When used in the sauna ritual, herbal teas and virtually every herb heighten nature’s energy and induce in-depth purification of the skin and body, as well as normalizing the functioning of the digestive tract and, of course, being a wonderful relaxant.
The sauna must be heated in good time to a temperature of 60°C. There’s no need for it be any hotter. The landlord of Ezermaļi, Māris has taken care of this before the arrival of the sauna attendants. We had a light meal before heading to the sweating shelf. Andris explains that visiting the sauna on an empty stomach is not recommended, because next morning you’ll awake with a headache. Of course, overeating should be equally avoided.
Both sauna attendants Andris and Aina work in tandem, in turns. Since we are two sauna goers, we soon discover just comfortable this is. Only one of us gets to sit on the sitting shelf at any one time.
Sipping herbal tea, Agnese already gets ahead of events by trying to unravel the mystery of suspended feet during the sauna ritual, but neither sauna attendant gives away any secret away. Soon though, we are exposed to their full arsenal of skills on the sweating shelf.
We can feel our eyes lighting up in anticipation of the moment when we will be able to enjoy a proper sauna ritual, the like of which we have only read about in magazines or watched on television. It’s hard to believe that all these sauna miracles will occur right here at our beloved Ezermaļi.
The start of the sauna ritual – warming up
The first trip to the sauna involves warming up. The sweating shelf is covered with a clean sheet. We lay our heads on a wooden rest, while cold dipped sauna brushes are placed around our necks and on our heads to keep them cool. A strategically placed sauna brush warms the area under the small of our backs pleasantly and Agnese’s guesswork proves to be correct – our feet are raised up onto a small bench.
Warming up can now begin. I close my eyes. Breathing is easy. A mixture of aromas and warm twirl around my body conducted by the strokes of the brushes. My heart begins to beat faster. From time to time, the cold brush on the head is replaced by a chilled one. I get the most wonderful feeling from the flagellation of the soles of my feet. After warming up, I head to the guest room to relax without cooling down rapidly.
The next stage before the ritual involves scrubbing. After warming up, skin pores open up allowing their purification. The sauna attendants have prepared a salt scrub containing spruce buds with which our bodies are thoroughly scrubbed from head to toe.
Andris praises the Ezermaļi sauna, because it is not enveloped by the layer of aluminium foil, characteristic of specialised sauna insulation materials. Thus, the energy from the Earth and Cosmos is not impeded and so-called energy and remedial flagellation can be performed in the sauna.
The culmination of the sauna ritual – grand flagellation
The sauna ritual culminates with grand flagellation. The sauna sweating shelf is covered with ferns and Agnese is the first to go in search of bliss. Birch sauna brushes for the head are chilled and our nostrils thrill to the scent of peppermint. Taking turns, the sauna attendants toss vapour onto the stones and, for the first time in our experience, launch into a brush “salute” in which the brushes whizz through the air, interspersed with invigorating strokes to the body.
All the negative tension within me is energetically “extracted” from my palms and soles of my feet and “pummelled” against the sweating shelf by the sharp movements of the sauna brushes. And these movements really do cause my whole body to tremble. Held by the sauna attendants at the culmination of the ritual, I head to the pond. Aina holds me in the water on her arms and allows me to fully relax. We have the feeling that the world is spinning around us and by chance I find myself laughing like a child. In order to feel maximum pleasure, I enjoy these processes with my eyes closed. The world has become so light and simple. Only that which is most important remains.
Relaxation and warming up again
We return to the sweating shelf to warm up a little after our swim in the pond. We have the sensation of tiny pins pricking our hands and feet. Touching Agnese’s hand, I can feel it pulsating from the circulation of her blood – these too are “needles”. This is when we put the easy chair brought along for the occasion to use. We are wrapped in blankets from head to toe so that our bodily processes can slowly return to normal after the sauna ritual.
The feelings are indescribable. They should be experienced by everybody. It looks like Agnese will never stop smiling at the joy she feels. Her eyes light up with tears of joy when Aina hugs her and gives her a kiss to boot. In turn, I’m enjoying a feeling that I’ve never experienced before after a visit to the sauna – I feel totally at ease with myself without even the slightest hint of tiredness. My consciousness is pure and clear. That’s the way it stays for several days afterwards. I notice that I feel even more at peace with myself, my thoughts are now in order and my tiredness has passed.
If sauna going is close to your heart, a sauna ritual at Ezermaļi overseen by sauna attendants Andris and Aina will allow you to enjoy a visit to the sauna with an unparalleled degree of excellence. I sincerely recommend this experience to everybody!
Book a sauna ritual by calling the Ezermaļi landlady Aiga on: +371 29122870.
On a single evening at Ezermaļi, a quality sauna ritual can be enjoyed by two people. This is the maximum number of people set by the sauna attendants in order to help them balance their physical workload. In addition, before visiting the sauna it is important that you inform the sauna attendants in the event that you are suffering from any chronic illnesses. If you are suffering from coronary-circulatory problems or an illness of an oncological nature, the sauna attendants will conduct a less intensive sauna ritual in order to avoid any resultant health-related problems. A sauna ritual for two and an overnight stay in “the New House” at Ezermaļi costs Ls 80.