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Created On 23 February 2001
Last Updated On 23 February 2001
Copyright © 2001 Simon E. Phipp
Steam Baths of the Sun Folk
Even though most Dara Happans will deny it there is a shared heritage amongst
the Sun Folk of Dara Happa, the Redlands and Pent. One area where this
shared heritage is apparent is the love of steam baths across the region.
This article will quickly describe some of the steam baths in the lands
of the Sun Folk.
The Dara Happans tell of the invasion of the Empire by Oslira and
the struggles between Lodril and Oslira. This resulted in the creation
of huge clouds of steam that refreshed those nearby.
Another tale tells of a son of Lodril who plucked stones from the ground
and hurled them red-hot into the water, causing more steam. The river threw
itself upon him and the two wrestled in vain amongst the steam clouds.
The Lodrili tell of Lodril wrestling with Oslira and other river deities,
being held in the rivers' embraces and producing daughters that bubbled
to the surface at hot springs.
People in the Redlands also have myths where rivers and Sky Gods fought
and produced hot springs as offspring. They also tell how the people can
survive the cold by heating stones in lodges, as Kalikos prepared before
his battles with Valind.
The Pentian Nomads have myths of Angels falling to the earth to battle
against the forces of ice and water. Some sought allies in the streams
and springs of Pent and gave them new powers, producing hot springs. Others
taught the nomads how to build yurts made of felt and how to heat stones
in the yurts to drive the cold away.
The Votanki have myths of how Votank came back from a Bad Hunt dirty
and filthy with the stench of his failures and how Hearth Mother prepared
a Lodge with sacred water and heated stones to make him sweat the filth
People in the Redlands and Pent have a HeroQuest to destroy disease
that entails searching for some magic stones that will heat up by themselves
and some sacred water from certain springs and streams, then preparing
a sweat lodge that uses the water and stones to sweat the disease away.
These are short descriptions of some of the steam baths of the Sun Folk.
They will contain descriptions of the baths, the bathers, the type of baths,
the method of heating the waters and the benefits of bathing. Where magic
is involved it will contain a short description of the magic.
The Baths of Yelm
The first of these was built by the Sons of Lodril around the captured
body of Oslira. Yelm used it to purify himself of the dirt that had clung
to him when he sullied himself with mundane matters. These baths are for
initiates or higher of the Yelm cult and are found in the towns and cities
of Dara Happa. They are generally made of marble and are quite grand in
scale and appearance. The waters are often drawn from sacred springs and
are heated by the sacred fires of Yelm that perpetually burn beneath the
baths. The bathers are served by initiates of Yelm who are descendants
of the first attendants and who guard their positions jealously. These
baths take the form of a mixture of hot, warm and cold rooms with hot,
warm and cold pools for bathing. Fragrant oils and spices are burnt filling
the steam with relaxing and invigorating odours and the bathers can be
massaged and cleaned by the attendants. The baths are used as social gathering
places as well as treatment areas for aches and pains, for relaxation and
for certain ritual acts of bathing.
The Baths of Dendara
The first of these was built for Dendara when Yelm purified himself in
his first baths. They are very similar to the Baths of Yelm and are generally
found next door to those baths. They are staffed by the female descendants
of Dendara's bath maidens and men are not allowed to enter these baths.
These baths are for high born women and slaves and peasants are not allowed
to bathe. Officially only the wives, concubines and daughters of Yelm cultists
may use these baths but this rule is often relaxed for important women.
The waters for these baths come from sacred springs but are heated by hot
stones taken from Yelm's Baths and brought to the waters by blind eunuchs
who never leave the cellars of the bath houses. As with their husbands,
bathing is both a social and cleansing function. It often involves massage,
scraping and the removal of body hair as well as bathing and cleansing.
The Crimson Vapours
These are named after the colour of the vapours produced by these baths.
They are relatively new having been created by the Lunars after their merging
with Dara Happa. The waters are from still pools beneath the ground and
are heated by magic cast by the Priestesses who guard the baths. The steam
produced from these pools is funnelled through vents and emerge as crimson
steam that induces visions among those who partake. Often these are vivid
dreams but some are prophetic in nature, giving visions of the past, the
present or even of mythology. Any initiate of a Lunar cult may partake
of the baths and they will be attended by initiates of the Red Moon who
prepare them for the mystical experience of the baths. Cleansing and bathing
services also exist here but the vapours are the most important reason
Lodrili Public Baths
These are found in the Pelorian Basin but outside the Dara Happan Cities.
They are normally built from brick or stone and can be quite large. Built
around natural springs they heat the waters by heating stones and throwing
them in the water. Attendants belong to a subcult of Lodril and have special
magic to heat stones. The baths are open to both men and women and occasionally
allow mixed bathing, something which scandalizes the Dara Happans. These
baths normally have a hot and a cold pool and wet and dry rooms, the dry
rooms being heated by hot stones. The attendants will scrape the dirt from
the skin, remove hair and perform massages but attendants will only serve
people of the same sex, unless at certain religious festivals where the
opposite sex will perform these services.
Lodrili Steam Houses
These are private houses, normally only one storey high and make of brick
or sun dried mud. Water is brought to these houses in clay pots and is
heated by the application of hot stones. Bathers are the family or guests
of the person who owns the Steam House and are attended by family members
or slaves. Normally bathers relax in the steam and clean themselves in
the hot water, sometimes they use scrapers and sometimes they have massages.
Quite often special herbs will be used in the water to produce fragrant
or narcotic scents. These houses are often used for orgiastic ceremonies
and celebrations of the Lodrili and are personal in nature.
Lodrili Dry Houses
These are normally made of brick or dried mud, although some are made from
natural caves or vents. They are created around Lodrili Holy Spots where
the volcanic heat rises to the surface. Sometimes the heat is used to heat
stones in the walls, sometimes the floor and walls are naturally hot, sometimes
volcanic fumes rise from the ground and are used without heating stones.
Some Lodril temples have Dry Houses that are heated by the lave itself
but these are thought to be extreme cases and are not used by many people.
Dry Houses do not use water for bathing but rely on purification through
heat and through scraping of the skin. Quite often bathers will scrape
their entire body and will remove all body hair as part of the experience.
Usually the Lodrili use these in their rituals as they embody the purification
of heat without the use of water and typify Lodril's element.
Lodrili Steam Pools
Built around naturally occurring hot pools, these are built of brick or
dried mud and are owned by certain families. They may be used by guests
of the families and are staffed by the family members or their slaves.
Bathers may partake of the steam and also bathe in the hot waters. Quite
often the waters have magical powers, normally of healing or of reinvigoration.
Some bathers may contact the spirits of the pools and gain special magic
that aid them in life.
Redland Steam Lodges
These are made from wattle and daub, using the branches of willow trees
and sacred red earth, a gift from the Earth Goddesses. They are sealed
so there are no entrances save a small tunnel in one wall and no exits
save a single smoke hole in the top. Water is brought in using baskets
made from branches or clay pots and is heated using special spirit magic
known by the shamans. Water from the clay pots is used for heating, water
from the baskets is cold and used for cleansing. Bathers sit in the lodges
and absorb the steam until they are hot, then they are scraped and the
sweat removed and are washed with the cold water. Afterwards they are beaten
with brushes made of living twigs to drive out bad spirits and disease.
Redland Hot Springs
These occur naturally throughout the Redlands and often have wooden fences
around them or benches placed in the water. Many people come and bathe
in the waters and take the steam. Often these have special powers of healing
and can be worshipped to gain extra benefits. Some of the larger springs
have priests guarding them but this is rare. There is a tradition that
conflicts must stop at the springs, so these are often used as places for
talking peace or as neutral ground.
Pentian Steam Yurts
These are made of horse felt hung on wooden or bone supports. They are
erected on the plains and bathers bring water or snow to be heated by stones
that are themselves heated by magical spells known by the Pentian Shamans.
The steam produced by this water is very powerful and cleanses the body
and mind, especially when creams and lotions are used. Bodies are cleaned
by scrubbing with special stones that came from the Sky. When cleansing
is complete the bathers run naked from the yurt and jump into nearby streams
or roll in the snow to invigorate themselves. Mixed bathing is common amongst
the Pentians and men and women often bathe together.
Pentian Dry Yurts
These are similar to the Steam Yurts but do not involve the use of water.
Instead the bathers use stones heated by magic and also use magic to heat
the very air itself. Cleansing is by sweat and also by scraping with bone
scrapers made by the shamans. These are used when rituals are required
that do not require the use of water. As with the Steam Yurts bathers often
roll naked in the snow or grass afterwards for extra invigoration.
Pentian Hot Springs
There are many springs in Pent that are naturally hot. Some were produced
by Angels and others were the product of matings between Lodril and the
earth or the Pentian deities and the waters within the earth. Very few
of these have structures built around them or benches placed within the
springs but most are used by the nomads when they pass by. Many have healing
properties and some have ritual significance beyond bathing or healing.
When different groups of nomads are at the springs at the same time each
group bathes on its own, but at certain times of the year the groups will
all bathe together and this is one of the times where marriages will be
arranged. Certain springs or pools only allow certain sexes to bathe at
certain times or put other restrictions on the bathing allowed and to break
those restrictions will incur the wrath of the spirit of the pool or spring.
Votanki Sweat Lodge
Made by women from interwoven branches and twigs, these are naturally aromatic.
Only males can enter the Sweat Lodge and they must enter naked carrying
the water and fires they will use. The water is heated over small fires
made from twigs, leaves and mosses prepared by the women. The men chant
and perform rituals here and these could take many hours. Cleansing is
by the rubbing of sacred mud over the body followed by rubbing the mud
off with bare hands. When the cleansing is complete the fires are allowed
to die down and the men must sit in darkness for a while then the fires
are raised and the sweat lodge is allowed to burn down while the men stand
around it in silence.
Although this article serves no practical purpose whatsoever, it might
prove interesting. The idea came to me when I was in a Banya, a Russian
Sauna/Bath House in Bashkortostan, that the Pelorians, Redlanders and Pentians
share a lot in common with the peoples of the Steppes, the Turks and the
Romans and Greeks and one of the things that all those real world people
share is a love of steam baths or saunas of some kind. The idea still needs
fleshing out a bit, I need to check out the sweat lodges of the North Americans,
those of the Lapps and Arctic peoples and those of the Steppes as well
as the classical baths of the Romans, Greeks and Turks so that I can use
those traditions in Glorantha. But this is a start and I will probably
expand on it at a later date.