Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Splish, Splash, I'm Takin' a Bath

When I come home from gym in the  mornings, I take a shower. Simple. Once in a while though, if something is happening later in the day, I may wait awhile, staying in my gym clothes for most of the day. Yesterday that was my plan ~ until I had a really good work out and came home desperately needing that shower, both for my sake as well as those around me. So of course I took it. And it got me thinking about bathing. 

The Romans made a big thing of baths ~ lovely public baths, suitable for bathing, discussion, political intrigue, health and even sex. The Greeks saw their public baths more as ritual preparation for war or celebration. Bathing was a part of daily ~ or at least weekly ~ life. 

The idea of bathing moved into Europe along with the Romans and humans were bathing regularly. And then came the plague. Epidemics of all sort swept across the face of Europe and people in the know declared part of the problem to be public baths, the lead in the pipes carrying the water, and the bodily germs that spread so easily that way. Public baths closed and the idea of bathing became anathema.

The Church decided that attendance at public baths, for whatever reason, put one’s thoughts on a less than higher plain. People should be concentrating on God, not on the things of the flesh. Cleanliness did not become next to Godliness for a long time. 

Give some thought to the Tudor, Elizabethan and Jacobean eras in England. Clothes were of heavy materials, layered against other warm materials, decorated (for the aristocracy at least) with heavy jewels. Now all this might have been fine in the winter but even northern European summers get warm and carrying around all that weight caused people to sweat. You’ve seen pictures of men with dainty lace hankies pressed to their noses. Those hankies were doused in perfume and allowed the carrier to breathe something besides themselves and the people around them. 

June became the month for weddings because the air was finally warm enough for a bride to have her yearly (if not her first) bath in comfort so she smelled sweet for her wedding night. 

And then in the early 1800s the plagues came again to Britain and water was seen as part of the solution to the problem. Energy was put into finding ways to bring water easily and cheaply into homes so that people could wash. Cleanliness had finally made it up there next to Godliness. 

Some of this I knew. Some I enjoyed reading about at http://www.pureinsideout.com/history-of-the-bath.html. If you are interested in more, this is a very good article. Enjoy your next bath or shower! with blessings

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