sweet sweat

Different countries have different public bathing rituals. In Finland it’s the sauna, in Turkey the hamam, the Japanese have their onsens and the Russians their banyas. The Russian banya is used for more than just sweating and bathing though. Women give birth there and funerals and weddings are also celebrated.

The bride-to-be’s bania was heated with birch, pine or cedar, but never aspen for it was regarded as a sorrowful tree. During the bath she was expected to use the engagement present from the groom-a fresh birch whisk and a piece of soap. Her sweat was collected by pouring milk over her body and then dough was plastered over her. Later the dough was kneaded and made into bread and cakes to be served at the wedding feast. The bride-to-be’s sweat mixed with vodka, wine, and grains were poured on the bania rocks to enhance the scent. Honey and hops were added to give the bride-to-be a rich sweet life.

image by Horst

Occasionally a poor peasant family would not have a regular bania, but so important was the wedding bania that the household baking oven would be used instead. Before all the cakes and breads had been prepared, the oven was cleaned and the bride-to-be was shoved in on a wooden platter. The door was sealed from the outside while she sweated and washed alone.

Bun in the Oven Candle found here

The Church often accused the banya of being a hotbed of sin and loose morals. But cries from the Church were usually muffled by the clergy’s own promiscuous bathing habits.

image found here

Catherine of St. Petersburg issued the following edict: ” …  in those rooms which are meant for women, no men may be allowed in except employees of the bania, artists and doctors who wish to study and improve themselves in their art.” As you can well imagine, dilettantes of the arts and medicine flourished, and coed bathing continued.

When Robert Porter visited Moscow in 1809, he found coed bathing very popular. In a letter to a friend in England he wrote:

As we approached these cleansing elevations we beheld the waters that rolled from under their foundations filled with naked persons of both sexes who waded or swam out from the bath in great numbers, without any consideration of delicacy or decency. From motives of gallantry we posted ourselves opposite the ladies, the better to observe the grace and nymph-like beauty of their groups.

lots more banya images over at englishrussia

Published in: on January 17, 2010 at 6:56 am  Comments (31)  
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stinging, biting and swelling for sex

Recently I read The Strangest Human Sex Ceremonies and Customs by Talalaj and Talalaj and I know you’re all keen to learn what I’ve discovered…..

On the Micronesian island of Ponape, a man will place a particular type of tiny stinging ant on the clitoris of his partner, as it is said to produce a short but acute tingling erotic sensation. Lovers also bite each other’s eyebrows during sex play.

A few centuries ago the Topinamba men of Brazil encouraged poisonous snakes to bite their penises. Even though the practice was dangerous and painful, they felt it was worth it for the monstrous swelling it produced.

A Trobriand girl demonstrates her interest in a boy by hurting him. She attacks her chosen mate with a sharp shell or bamboo knife and the boy accepts this as it is regarded as an invitation to sex.

A girl who attacks most vigorously is said to show she has the best temperament as a future lover. The beating and scratching by a girl is considered to be an expression of appreciation of a boy’s beauty. The boy’s ambition is to receive as many wounds as possible as they signify how sexy he is.

The young men of the West African Fulani tribes take part in a seven day beauty contest in the hope that a woman will choose him as a husband. He paints his lips dark red and decorates his head with a ram’s beard, chains, beads, rings and ostrich feathers. They stand in a line and sway gently while rolling their eyes and flashing their teeth.

As part of the contest the men choose a challenger to whip them. While he is being beaten, he expresses his virility and sexuality by submitting without flinching, holding his arms above his head or languidly fingering a necklace and gazing at his reflection in a mirror.

Published in: on January 4, 2010 at 6:58 am  Comments (39)  
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a girl’s privilege and a boy’s duty

The Bechuana tribe of Southern Africa believe that someone who has recently had sex should not visit the sick, their polluting effect may be so strong that a sick person might not recover.

The most dangerous polluting effect is said to occur when the sick person hears the voice of a man or woman who has recently engaged in sexual activity.

If a married Bechuanan woman has committed adultery, a merciful husband may agree to a purification rite. The guilty woman sits on the ground opposite her husband, close enough that her knees are between his. A burning herb is placed between them for fumigation purposes, then they each make a small cut beneath each other’s navels. Their blood is mixed together with more herbs and then rubbed into the incisions. This is all that is needed to wipe out the stain of adultery and their life returns to normal.

In Central India some young people are educated the Ghotul way.

Anthropologists say that the Ghotul is an ancient institution. It is a living university. There are no books or tests, yet one is taught life’s education. Students are teachers here, and teachers, students.

image found here

Equality, simplicity, and freedom form the fundamental fabric of the Ghotul life. Members eat, play, dress, and sleep without any separation of males and females. They can even swim in the river together without clothes on.

In Ghotuls, no distinction is made between love and sex. Everybody is free and behaves responsibly. Since sex is considered a very natural phenomena at the Ghotuls, there arise no perversions. Sex is seen as natural as hunger or sleep. In some civilized societies, sex is considered to be a man’s right and woman’s duty, whereas at the Ghotul, it’s a girl’s privilege and the boy’s duty. Since partners are continuously rotated, every pair gets a chance sooner or later.

Although youngsters enjoy free sex at Ghotuls, they practice strict monogamy during married life.  Married people cannot enter the Ghotuls and the youngsters strongly protest any meddling in the Ghotul’s affairs by their elders.

Published in: on December 28, 2009 at 4:30 am  Comments (37)  
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protecting the odor soul

We’ve reported on smell before at the gimcrack here and here and here. But there’s still more to be found at the Social Issues Research Centre

“Among the Amazonian Desana, for example, all members of a tribal group a believed to share a similar odour. Marriage is only allowed between persons of different odours, so spouses must be chosen from other tribal groups. This belief is expressed in rituals involving the exchanges of goods with different odours: one group will present the other with a gift of meat, for example, and receive fish in return. Some rituals involve the exchange of differently scented ants.

image found here

The Batek Negrito of the Malay Peninsula take the same taboo on the odour-mixing of close relatives a stage further: not only is sexual intercourse between those of similar odour prohibited, but even sitting too close to one another for too long is considered dangerous. Any prolonged mixing of similar personal odours is believed to cause disease in the people involved and in any children they may conceive.

The dangers of odour-mixing are even more extreme for another Malay Peninsula people, the Temiar. The Temiar believe that each person has an odour-soul, located in the lower back. If you pass too closely behind a person, the odour-soul is disturbed and mingles with your body, causing disease. This must be prevented by calling out ‘odour, odour’ whenever you approach a person from behind, so that the odour-soul is forewarned of the intrusion.

For the Dogon people of Mali, odour and sound are believed to be intrinsically related because both travel on air – the Dogon speak of ‘hearing’ a smell. In addition, speech itself is believed to be scented: good speech – with appropriate grammar and pronunciation – smells pleasant (in Dogon terms, this means an odour of oil and cooking, which are highly valued), while nasal, indistinct or ungrammatical speech has an unpleasant, stagnant odour. Ten-year-old children who persist in making mistakes of grammar or pronunciation will have their noses pierced as a corrective.

Western notions of aesthetically pleasing fragrances are by no means universal. For the cattle-raising Dassanetch of Ethiopia, no scent is more beautiful than the odour of cows. The association of this scent with social status and fertility is such that the men wash their hands in cattle urine and smear their bodies with manure, while the women rub butter into their heads, shoulders and breasts to make themselves smell more attractive.

The Dogon of Mali would find these customs incomprehensible. For the Dogon, the scent of onion is by far the most attractive fragrance a young man or woman can wear. They rub fried onions all over their bodies as a highly desirable perfume.

I highly recommend visiting this site and reading more about the perfume box rituals of Arab countries

Published in: on December 14, 2009 at 7:03 am  Comments (53)  
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the anti-vagina complex

In the Western Highlands of New Guinea many men believe that female sexuality is potent and dangerous. They think that prolonged contact with women can make their bones dissolve, and lead to debilitation and even death.

“As one might expect, the terror of women’s contamination focuses on the vagina. Vaginal discharges are so poisonous they can be used by witches to kill a man overnight, simply by depositing them near his clothing. Everything from the vagina is polluted, even nonsexual things like babies. Until a baby is purified, its father will not touch it, only poke it playfully with a small stick.

Any object that passes over or near the vagina can no longer be used safely by a man. If a woman’s genitals are physically higher than a man’s head, serious health risks may ensue. For instance if a woman steps over a sleeping man, he will sicken and his body will rot unless he is treated with an exorcism. Women therefore are not allowed to climb above men in trees or on ladders.

The woman’s vulva must never be above a man’s nose, lest her genitalia menaces him with lethal radiation. Some men will place spearmint leaves up their nostrils to avoid inhaling vaginal exhalations.

A woman who entices her husband into excessive sexual relations (more than a few times a year) is said to be purposefully driving him to an early death. “Coitus is contaminating, it can cause the stomach to distend and lose its taut masculine quality.”

Published in: on November 30, 2009 at 7:28 am  Comments (42)  
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more marriage matters

Among some people of the Caucasus in Russia, there was a custom that a very small boy should marry an adult woman. The boy had to wait until he was mature to have any sexual relations with his ‘old’ wife. In order not to leave the newly wed wife without a lover, a clever arrangement was made.

Claudia Cardinal needing constant cooling down after her marriage

The boy’s father acted as husband to the wife. The problem of potential offspring from this relationship was solved too. All the children from the relationship belonged to the son. The father of the married boy was said to be merely the “seed raiser” for his son, only contributing to the building of his son’s family.

In Somalia, people believe that evil spirits may attack a bridal party so a false couple is substituted for the real bride and groom. The false couple are married in the house while the real couple stay in the nuptial chamber to deceive the evil spirits. The false couple may exchange their clothes and dress to impersonate the opposite sex. The girls dress up their partners, using padding to make the disguise as complete as possible.

Then, assuming all the airs of husbands, they flog their partners with horsewhips and order them about in the same way as they themselves have been treated by young men. These activities may last for a week. Those who impersonate the real couple to rescue them from the forces of evil are paid well for their service……

image found here

Published in: on November 26, 2009 at 7:19 am  Comments (31)  
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