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2019.11.12 - Beliefs in connection with bathing

Beliefs in connection with bathing

What are the beliefs of people concerning bathing? In the bygone surprising ideas circled this topic, and we can only hope that our future generations won’t laugh at us as we laugh at our ancestors' habits. 

We shouldn’t think that we do everything concerning bathing rationally. Just think of the habit of hopping into a local fountain in a suit after graduation, or doping in the ice-cold rivers just for fun. If someone from the Middle Ages saw the spanning Europeans towards the beach and asked where they were going we couldn’t say it is because they want to be clean. This habit is (also) closer to spiritual rituals than well-planned needs. Although the beliefs of the past were truly a bit more colorful compared to nowadays.


In the Middle Ages in Europe, a calendar (called “csízió” in Hungarian) gathered some things which were worthy, and which were supposed to be avoided in specific months. We smile at these nowadays especially on that there were months when bathing was told to be avoided. For example, Saint George’s winter was approved to be a suitable period to bath, but during the fringe, it was “forbidden”. This habit was followed in Asia too, but there instead of months, there were days with the same system. In Sri Lanka, Sunday-baths were bad for your looks, but Monday-baths were good, Tuesday-baths made you sick, Wednesday-baths made you rich, Thursday-baths would lead to arguing and Friday-baths were said to make you lose your children. The most ideal day was Saturday for bathing since it was claimed to make you joyful. Indonesians say that if you have a bath or a shower in the afternoon your face gets wrinklier sooner. At Hortobágy bathing on Good Friday was a widespread habit. Men had more proper baths not to be ragyás, women washed flecks off their faces. In contrast, in Trinidad and Tobago think that if you have a bath on Good Friday you turn into a fish.


Having a bath with sinking into the water completely has meant the complete physical and spiritual purgation since the Middle Ages, this is why having a bath first belonged to almost every religious ceremony. This way of purification made sure that neither the body nor the soul of the votary contaminated the sacred place or the ceremony. Hindus perform their cleansing rituals at the Ganges and bathing is only effective if the person is completely submerged in the river so that all parts of their body are reached by water, so they even have to take their rings off. However, if you accidentally sneeze during your morning bath, you must start from the beginning immediately. In the past, zealous Jewish women had their hair cut down to the base and wore wigs so that the water could reach their entire body during the monthly cleansing bath. Originally, total submerging was typical of Christianity too. In the New Testament, the baptismal ceremony of St. John the Baptist not only meant touching the water with the baby’s head but complete immersion to which Jesus also submitted. The Bible already mentions many established habits in connection with purification: bathing a newborn baby, washing your feet when you arrive home, and washing your hands before meals. Bathing was part of the cleansing rituals. The priesthood also had to have a bath before performing the ceremonies. 


The most exciting beliefs about bathing are the ones related to fertility. The high number of connections shows that this topic was extremely important to our ancestors. In Morocco, a traditional wedding lasts from four to seven days and the bride has a bath in a bathtub full of milk before putting on her wedding dress. Cleopatra also liked to bathe in donkey milk, and it can be assumed that this had something to do with fertility and beauty. According to Indonesians, the sexual attraction of a person who swims in a pond during a full moon increases, but it is not appropriate to wear a red or a green swimsuit because if you do you will marry a naughty incubus. In Tunisia, a hot pomegranate potion is advised for women who want to please men. In traditional folk medicine, rosemary is considered to be a herb that stimulates blood circulation, and the bath made from it is a great potency enhancer that enhances the pleasure of love. The bath of the sweet flag was also thought to intensify sexual pleasure.