May 11, 2023

cultural edit: women's bathing rituals from around the globe

Written by Grace

at peninsula hot springs, our bathing experiences are inspired by cultural practices and traditions from all over the world.

While bathhouses have traditionally been known as places for men to socialise, there is a strong global history of women bathing and using saunas as a means to cleanse, relax and connect with each other.

In honour of Mother’s Day, here are some of the bathing rituals that are practised by women around the globe — and how you can experience them at Peninsula Hot Springs.

traditional saunas

The word ‘sauna’ originates in Finland, where there are almost as many saunas as people. Finland is famous for its culture of sweating it out in the sauna before rolling around in the snow in the depths of winter, but Finnish saunas have also been places throughout history where women gather together for rites of passage — including before they get married (and even, up until the last century, giving birth).

Finnish bridal saunas (or morsiussauna) involve decorating the sauna with flower petals and white sheets. You might not see morsiussauna decorations in the traditional saunas at Peninsula Hot Springs, but many women visit us to enjoy wellness-inspired hens parties and other celebrations that mark feminine rites of passage.

turkish hamam

Hamams — also known as Turkish baths or steam rooms — have been in use in Turkey since around 600 AD, where they are used as a social and cleansing ritual. Turkish hamams began as male-only spaces and then evolved into a place for women to spend time together around the 10th Century. The tradition became for women to dance, share food and celebrate milestones together in hamams.

Scrubbing the body is an essential component of the hamam, and it is practised using a kese (a special kind of exfoliating mitt). In Turkish hamams, bathers sit and scrub themselves or are scrubbed by an attendant before receiving a massage.

Peninsula Hot Springs guests will find our very own Turkish hamam located in the Bath House, complete with traditional Turkish copper bowls for pouring water over the body post-scrub. Kese mitts, soap and copper bowls can all be purchased from reception.

korean jjimjilbang

Bathhouses in Korea provide much more than a place to bathe. They typically involve hot tubs, saunas, massages and body scrubs, as well as areas for sleeping, eating, exercising and entertainment. Women and men bathe separately at jjimjilbang, and women have traditionally visited these establishments to socialise.

Saunas at jjimjilbang sometimes involve the application of clay. While clay isn’t involved in our sauna experiences at Peninsula Hot Springs, we offer a Body Clay Ritual where natural Australian clay is painted onto the skin, allowed to dry and then vigorously removed to encourage exfoliation and smooth skin. Women celebrating together often book in for our Body Clay Ritual as a way to connect with each other and practise self-care while engaging in a playful, grounding activity.

moroccan hammam

Like Finnish saunas, Moroccan hammams have long been used as a place for friends and relatives to celebrate soon-to-be-brides (often involving singing). Moroccan women bring a self-care kit to the hammam that includes soap, a shampoo made from mineral clay, a hand mitt (known as a kees) and a pumice rock for scrubbing, and it’s not uncommon to see women scrubbing each other in the hammam. Our Spa Dreaming Centre features a Moroccan hammam, which is decorated with small tiles in the traditional Moroccan style.

indian ayurvedic bathing and massage

In the Ayurvedic (Indian life medicine) tradition, men take oil baths (abhyanga snana) on Wednesdays and Saturdays, while women would bathe on Tuesdays and Fridays, when feminine energy was thought to be at its highest. These oil baths, which are still used as a form of self care, begin with whole body self-massage (abhyanga) using special herb-infused Ayurvedic oils, followed by a bath (snana) to cleanse the body.

At Peninsula Hot Springs, we offer deeply relaxing private indoor baths where essential oils can be added to the water. Guests are also welcome to bring body oil with them or purchase Subtle Energies Ayurvedic oils from reception to perform their own body oil massage prior to bathing in the indoor bath. Meanwhile, our relaxation massages come with the option of being massaged by Subtle Energies Ayurvedic oils, too.

constantly inspired

We are always inspired and empowered by the women who are part of Peninsula Hot Springs and to our extended community through our guests, community partners and friends.

On Sunday 14 May, we are holding a number of activations in celebration of Mother's Day. Take part in a sensory experience like no other, and join us for a Synthesis Scent Journey where you will create your siganture blend before bottling and taking it home with you. We will also be gifting mother's who join us a small token, representative of our gratitude to the resilient, wonderful women we call 'Mum'. If you're visiting us on Mother's Day, make sure to collect your gift from the Wellness Activities Centre on check out.

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