Public Baths & Bathhouse Cultures Around The World
"Our brand is inspired by Slavic Bathhouse Rituals and Traditions. Every product we make has a story, every scent we create has been originated from a particular memory. By using our products I want to take you for a very special journey at the comfort of your own home." - HERBOWSKI founder.
Historians place Banya in a central societal role by the 900s. In Slavic mythology, there was even a Banya spirit, named Bannik, who was believed to hide under the benches only to reveal himself if a visitor was disrespectful or misbehaved - in which case, Bannik would throw boiling water or hot rocks at the disruptive bather. Throughout history, the Banya has been enjoyed by all classes. Villagers who did manual labour used to visit a public bathhouse, often the only place to wash off, while wealthy would sometimes indulge in private Banyas.
Modern-day Banyas are still very popular and have maintained the old practice of using a bundle of birch branches (venik) to open pores and increase circulation. Most Banyas are gender separated and nudity is optional. They typically include a cold plunge pool and a hot steam room with wooden benches at varying heights - the higher you go, the hotter the steam gets. You can also expect various face and body treatments such as honey & salt or coffee scrub, Siberian traditional body wash, massage, mud masks, aroma steams and herbal teas. It is an experience that takes a few hours and leaves you restored and completely relaxed.
Bathing played a significant role in ancient Roman culture. Contrary to the privacy expected from bathing today, ancient Roman bathing was almost exclusively a communal activity. It was seen as a part of a standard daily routine and practiced across all social classes.
Greek baths can be found throughout the Mediterranean. In The Book of the Bath, Françoise de Bonneville writes that in 6th century BC Greece, "Bathing was ritualised, becoming an art – of cleansing sands, hot water, hot air in dark vaulted "vapour baths", a cooling plunge, a rubdown with aromatic oils.”
Hammams are historically found across the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and in Southeastern Europe under Ottoman rule.
The hammam typically consists of 3 main areas: a hot steam room with a large marble stone at the centre, where bathers lay as attendants scrub them and administer massages; a warm room for bathing; and a cool room for resting. Areas are typically gender-separated and nudity is optional. They were used for religious rituals but also for members of the community to come together, socialise and tend to their hygiene.
Unlike more traditional bathhouses, Japanese onsens refer to the hot springs located in volcanic areas. Traditionally, onsens were situated outdoors, but modern inns have built indoor bathing facilities to complement the springs. Onsens are used for washing and socialising. Historically, men and women bathed together, but gender separation has been enforced since Japan became open to the West. However, mixed bathing is still practiced in some rural areas of Japan.
The origins of this tradition could be linked to the country’s natural hot springs, some of which have been in use for more than a thousand years. Open 24 hours, Korean jjimijilbangs are large public bathhouses with multiple areas or floors. In addition to hot tubs and showers, jjimijilbangs typically feature traditional kiln saunas, massage tables, snack bars and even sleeping areas with TVs.
“Sauna” is a Finnish word, meaning a hot steam bath - the steam for which is created by pouring water over heated stones. Saunas are so integral to the spa culture of Finland that the ratio of saunas to people is about 1:2. After soaking in the heat, many locals will head outside to roll around in the snow or jump into the freezing lake since going from hot to cold is thought to stimulate blood circulation. Finns also use birch branches while in sauna to aid circulation and perspiration.
Native American Sweat Lodge
Participants in the sweat ritual gather inside a dome-shaped hut or tent, where a pile of heated rocks lies in the middle. A sweat leader tends to the rocks and may pour water on top to fill the lodge with steam. He also leads the group in prayer and song. Sweat lodge rituals can last up to several hours. There are often multiple 30-minute rounds, with breaks in-between to let the outside air in and drink water. The Native American sweat experience, a ceremony expressly and wholly focused on the spiritual, pushes both the body and the mind to its limits.
American Public Baths
A relatively new creation, American public baths were created in 1890 to improve the health and sanitary condition of the working classes. Before personal baths were commonplace, Americans would visit their local bathhouse to clean themselves in a concrete pool.