Māras pirtiņa / Mara’s sauna

Paula Megija Kārkliņa

VAV – moving image

In Latvian traditional practices, a sauna is referred to as a place of purification. It was believed that when the pagan gods Mara and Laima saw the sauna’s chimney smoke, they would come to join the people there. A sacred place where water and heat merged together the beginnings and the ends. The ritual consists of the warm up, emptying, cleansing and filling up. The slotiņa (a bundle of young twigs used as a massage tool)  is the only physical tool used in the ritual. A child gets their first sauna whisk on the eighth day of their life, and when a person’s life thread is cut, the whisk goes with them into the grave. It is a tool that, together with the heat, helps the ritual leader trace all energy lines from the head to the toes. The experience of the event depends on what you are ready to receive; this is an inherent part of the ritual. Māras pirtiņa transports you to the sauna, and the only request to you is to be honest and let go.

 Thanks to Inese Dreimane for the practical and theoretical knowledge of the sauna ritual.