Vihta or Vasta?

You may be wondering, what on earth is a Vihta or a Vasta?  It does sound like a new computer program, but no, it is not a computer program.

The word Vihta/Vasta in Finland means a traditional fresh green leaf whisk that is used in the hot sauna house to whack the back of a person.  By doing so it generates more concentrated heat to the back by fanning the hot air.  The whacking action of the bound bunch of soft birch branches (with green leaves) to the back also works like a light massage effect, with concentrated heat, and the slapping of the green leaves of the birch.

Now is the best time to be making a Vihta, the birch branches are fresh and green, they also have a refreshing fragrance.  The new branches are soft and easy to shape into a band to hold the birch branches together in a tight bunch.

Vihta can be prepared in bulk during the summer season, and stored for winter.

Vihta/Vasta can also be made ready and stored in a dry store or a freezer.  They are usually stored by hanging them indoors undercover from a line.  Before use they are soaked in hot water for 30 minutes to refresh them before use.  The freezing method works well also, they do need to be wrapped securely in plastic to protect the leaves from a frost bite, otherwise the leaves dry and break up.  Also as the drying method, soak it before use in hot water for 30 min.

Awakened and refreshed Vihta does bring the fragrance and the colors of summer back to the hot sauna room during the freeze of winter.

A spring sauna birch Vihta in the middle of winter is a great reminder of the summer  season with fragrance and the next spring season to come.  It really is a great reminder of the wonders of natural summer season, during the snow covered winter months, when there is no green to be seen on the ground for 6 months of the year here in the Nordic region.

Pictures of a birch Vihta.

Birch trees a great source for making craft items.

The Birch branches, the bark and the timber has traditionally being used for many purposes.  The flexible white paper like bark of a birch tree was used for making ribbon baskets, shoes, wall decorations, book marks and many other craft items.  Branches also are useful material for crafting baskets, fencing, or fishing traps, along with the branches used to lure the fish during the spawning season.  Birch as a fire wood has excellent qualities, the bark (provided with the wood) is almost like paper, easy to light with a match.  The timber blocks split easily into straight segments, the birch timber is very user friendly, and it is valued highly by the people that live on the land.