Skip to content

“Perfect Sweat”

Frank and Dalva at Pielinen outdoor museum in Lieksa, Finland, July 5, 2023

Dalva Lamminmäki and Frank Eld will talk about Finnish sauna culture, within and outside of Finland by asking: Do we still have space for these myths and rituals as part of the experience of taking a sauna, and can we recognize the intangible cultural heritage in our sauna activities?

As background on this program, Dalva writes that Elias Lönnrot, author of the Kalevala and an expert in folk medicine, gave a very diverse picture of the use of the sauna not only as a place of washing, birth and death, but also as a place of the traditions of folk magic. He mentioned the versatile uses of sauna when describing three types: healing, magic and witch saunas.  

Both Finnish sauna culture and folk healing have strong, historical, communal and mythological connotations, and they also belong together. The mythology behind the sauna culture has its roots in shamanic worldview, and later in folk beliefs.

This presentation explores the world of Finnish folk magicians who are called by various names: witches, seers, healers and cunning folk. Sauna was a ritual cleansing place for bear hunters. It was also a place for folk healers and a sacred place to wash corpses. Sauna is not just a building; all the elements of a sauna have a deeper meaning.

Dalva Lamminmäki Folklorist MA, Doctoral researcher, University of Eastern Finland

Dalva specializes in the study of sauna culture folk healers in Finland. Her interest is in international collaboration and co-creation with artists in all fields, but also with people who are looking for information about Finnish traditions and mythology.

Frank W. Eld was raised in Idaho, where his father and grandparents homesteaded after migrating from Finland. Frank is an expert on log construction, especially the uniquely Finnish method that leaves no gaps and requires no chinking between the notched corners of expertly squared and fitted logs. A retired educator, he is on a mission to document and preserve the buildings made by Finnish immigrants to the United States and Canada. In summer 2022, Frank did research in Finland and Sweden with a special interest in savu (smoke) saunas.


Original Finnish Sauna Soap in Birch scent is made in Finland. This bar of soap will not melt in the heat of the sauna room. Comes with loofa sponge.

In a random draw at the conclusion of the program, one lucky audience member will win today’s prize. Entrants must register to attend by February 19, and must be present to win. NOTE: Prize shipped to U.S. address only.