Inside a Võro smoke sauna, everything has a practical and a spiritual purpose

The smoke sauna tradition in Võromaa is listed by UNESCO as representative of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

All human life is here

“Everything in the sauna has both a practical and a spiritual purpose,” clarifies Eda.

Welcome to Võrumaa / Võromaa

Võrumaa is Estonia’s most south-easterly region, sharing a border with both Russia and Latvia. It’s people and culture once spread further towards the centre of Estonia, an area now simply known as Vana-Võromaa or old Võrumaa.

A sauna state of mind

But first, we are sent to the forest.

Into the smoke sauna

We begin in what Estonians would call the eesruum, which literally means pre-room. In Võro, it is known quite differently as vüürüs.

The first steams are for cleansing.

The rituals focus on clearing our minds and mentally rooting ourselves into the earth below us and connecting with our ancestors before us. Historically, a normal temperature in a smoke sauna is around 65 degrees Celcisus, which is quite mild by the standards of modern saunas. Today though, the temperature is around 85 degrees Celcius because the sauna was already hot from the previous four days of saunering here.

The second part of the sauna experience focuses on our reason for being there and is tailored for the occasion.

Today is Saturday, the traditional sauna day, and so would ordinarily focus on washing. However, we could also use this time to reflect on creativity, healing, remembrance, protection, relationships, or a wide variety of other purposes. No two sauna experiences are the same, Eda explains.

This closing part of the sauna experience is focused on gratitude.

The rituals continue as we breathe the steam through mint leaves then rub our bodies clean one last time with them.

Thanks for reading

This Estonian Saunas blog is run by Anni and Adam. We export Estonian sauna design, technology, & culture at EstonianSaunas.com.

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We export Estonian sauna design, technology, & traditions.

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Adam Rang

Saunapreneur at EstonianSaunas.com. Previously Chief Evangelist at Estonia’s e-Residency programme.