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Will and the wisps

Eleanor Young

Getting back to elemental living

Löyly sauna in Helsinki.
Löyly sauna in Helsinki. Credit:

‘It all went up in smoke’ dismisses the wraith-like remnants of solid matter as waste. But in the dark of the smoke sauna it is the essence of the experience, in your nostrils and eyes, a prehistorically imprinted purge that goes all the way back to the bronze age hut, as smoke whorls are barely pulled through the hole in the roof in an east wind. The warming fire, the incense of ritual or the flames of sacrifice are highly controlled now. Heat fed through pipes, smoke exiting efficiently through chimneys and vents. Only beyond our walls – cushioned in fire bowls, behind the safety barriers down the rec on bonfire night and at the Burning Man festival – can we exercise this fascination with flames and watch smoke darkening the sky.


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