This festive season, I had the pleasure of escaping to Warmwaterberg Spa in the Overberg. Here, the spa offers varied temperature pools, utilising the naturally heated mountain spring water. The water can go up to 43 Degrees! Other than the heated pools (and much appreciated cold pools), the main attraction for me was the private Roman baths.
Each private bathhouse has a 2 metre deep, walk-in bath which you can fill fresh each time you want to soak, directly from the mountain’s geothermal springs. The bath took about an hour to fill and the steam from the water created a private sauna too! I added some of the local bathing salts and had hands-down, one of the most memorable baths to date. The mineral water from the mountain is high in Iron which makes it slightly sweet to the taste.
After spending as long as one could in the massive jacuzzi-sized Roman bath, my body felt both drained and rejuvenated at the same time and needless to say, I slept like a log that night.
This extraordinary bath experience inspired me to read up on ancient bath rituals, especially those of the bath-crazy Romans.
Since the beginning of time, water and bathing has been an essential part of figurative cleansing as well as literal, personal hygiene. The ancient Greeks and Romans were the pioneers of erecting ostentatious bathing spa’s for both health and entertainment. Many bathhouses were the workspaces of the cities healers, each with their own unique skillset- treating ailments with oils, herbs, crystals or massage. These healers were often more sought after than the ‘local GP’.
In ancient Rome, bathing was a social event, much like going to watch a movie or having dinner with friends would be today. Today, taking a bath is a very personal activity and many of us would blush at the idea of getting oiled up with our favorite natural body oil and having multiple baths with our friends in the public eye.
I personally LOVE taking a long, hot soak and sometimes this is my “me time”, while other times, I like the idea of sipping on something cold, building up a sweat and kicking back in a pool-sized, steamy hot bath with my girlfriends- can you imagine the gossip going down- you wouldn’t need Facebook or Instagram, just a visit to the local bathhouse!
In Ancient Rome, bathing was just this- an elaborate, social ritual that often went on for hours and usually took place at the same time every day. The difference at these social gatherings is that the men and women were almost never allowed to use the public bath houses at the same time of the day. The women usually had access to the bathhouses in the morning while the men got what was considered the better part of the day, the afternoon. The fee for women was also almost double that of the men! How’s that for feminine injustice? The Greeks however, believed that only a woman should immerse her whole body in water.
The typical bathing ritual for a Roman went something like this:
- Inside the vast, opulent rooms of the bathhouse, the Romans would first go to a dressing room and change out of their everyday clothing. It is believed that they usually wore a light, loose cloth called a subligaculum along with thick-soled sandals.
- The Romans would then cover their bodies with oil and proceed to exercise or play ball sports in the courtyard of the bathhouse.
- The oil would be scraped off after exercise with a metal instrument called a strigil. Then the bathing would begin!
- The Romans would then spend time in each of the bathhouses many separate chambers, which included a heated steam room (perhaps what would now be a modern-day sauna), a room filled with a pool of steaming hot bath water and finally a cold room- most likely to tighten the pores, the savvy Romans clearly had basic knowledge on natural skincare.
- After visiting each of the rooms, the Romans spent time watching juggling or acting, listening to music or reading in the bath house library.
Sounds like an entertaining afternoon out with your mates doesn’t it? Nothing like a visit to your local farmer’s market or sipping on a cold craft beer with your chums.
The Ancient Greeks, Romans and Egyptians took their bath time seriously and bath spa’s were seen as “temples of beauty” much like in Atlantean times. Who can forget, the most famous ‘bathee’ of all, Queen Cleopatra? Queen Cleo was renowned for her gorgeous skin and radiant beauty. Her secret? Bathing in Donkey’s Milk! The Japanese are also known for their fascination with cleanliness and bathing is still an important act of spiritual purification in the Japanese culture. The Turks invented the extremely hot bath, now known as the Turkish Bath and the ancient Islamic people built bathhouses called ‘hammams’ specifically designed for conducting meditation and prayer.
The modern world seems to have little time for these slow, luxurious and meditative bathing rituals and the idea of bathing for any other purpose other than for hygiene is a concept that has slowly been devoured by the bustle of Western life.
For Ecologic Skin Care, these ideas are not lost. The slowly crafted products we make and the attention to how these products make us feel is how we hope to inspire the ancient bath ritual for the modern woman (or man).
If you feel inspired to create your own bath ritual, read Ecologic Skin Care’s 10 step tips for an ancient bathing ritual in your bathroom.