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Sunday, 29 April 2012

Bathing

The ancient Egyptians customarily bathed regularly. The Ebers Papyrus describes combining animal and vegetable oils with alkaline salts to form a soap-like material used for treating skin diseases, as well as for washing.

It is said that Cleopatra, Queen of Ancient Egypt, took baths in asses’ milk to preserve the beauty and youth of her skin. Legend has it that no less than 700 asses were needed to provide the quantity of milk necessary for her daily bath.

In the Old Testament, washing or bathing was enjoined by the law for purification from uncleanness of any kind such as leprosy (Levicticus 22v v 6). The high priest bathed himself on the day of atonement before each act of expiation (Levicticus 16 v 4, 7 & 24) & also his consecration (Levicticus 8 v 6).

The ancient Greeks bathed for aesthetic reasons and believed it unmanly to have a hot bath. They did not use soap, instead, they cleaned their bodies with blocks of ashes, clay, pumice and sand, then anointed themselves with oil. They then rubbed off the oil and dirt with a skin scraping instrument known as a strigil.

The ancient Romans made soap from animal fat and wood ashes, but these early soaps were apparently used only for medical purposes. Not until the 2nd century AD were soaps recognized as cleaning agents.

Fear of impurity prevented nuns removing their clothes to wash, until a hygienic vision revealed to St Brigitte that the Lord would have no serious objection to a proper bath once a fortnight.

There were areas of the medieval world where personal cleanliness remained important. Daily bathing was a common custom in Japan during the Middle Ages. And in Iceland, pools warmed with water from hot springs were popular gathering places on Saturday evenings.

The Vikings were considered overly concerned with cleanliness for bathing once a week.

Most people in the 18th century only had a proper wash twice a year.

In mid 19th century America bathing was thought to be unhealthy, partly because of the poor quality of water. In Boston for instance, bathing was outlawed unless it was done under a doctor's orders.

An estimated 30 million people gathered to bathe on Mauni amavasya on February 10, 2013 during Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, India. Kumbh Mela is a mass Hindu pilgrimage of faith in which Hindus gather to bathe in a sacred river and it was probably the largest ever human gathering on a single day.

Ablutophobia is the fear of bathing or cleaning yourself

Sources Inventors.com, From Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia © 1998 The Learning Company, Inc

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