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View Full Version : Моржи (Walruses)



Larry Paradine
25-02-2011, 19:25
No, not the four legged variety; bipedal walruses. Winter bathers. From November through to April you can see them on any beach or riverbank in Russia, often cutting holes in the ice and immersing themselves. When I lived in Samara, I saw them every winter day while walking along the beach, and I divided them into two groups: real and phony. The phony walruses emerge from the steaming heat of the beach winter sauna, duck themselves in an icehole that's provided with a ladder and an attendant, and hare back to the sauna. The real walruses use a ramshackle , roofless hut, made partly from plywood, as a changing room, then plod down to the icehole, immerse themselves three times, then stand facing the sun (if visible), raise their arms and adopt a stance that reminds me of pictures of ancient heathens worshipping the sun god. They have no heating in the hut, and usually bathe naked, whereas the phonies strut their stuff in fashionable beachwear. I remember one bitter January morning, with the temperature hovering around -22; a young woman, aged no more than 25, perhaps younger, went into the hut wrapped from eyebrows to toes in sheepskin, and emerged as bare as the day she was born, but at least a hundred times more beautiful. The frost was so hard that her nipples took on a blue-white complexion, but she paused at the dipping spot for half a minute and appeared to be intent on something completely unconnected with the cold, then she went in three times, came out, stood still in the "worshipping" posture for over a minute, and then leisurely walked back to the hut, making no attempt to conceal her charms and looking sublimely indifferent to frost and voyeurs alike. I reproached myself for not being able to regard her with the same sang froide, especially as I'm a married man and old enough to have been that girl's granddad.

In all the years that I've observed these hardy bathers, I've never spoken to them, they give me the impression of being a social group hermetically sealed from the joggers, walkers, skiers, snow kiters, fishermen and souped up snowmobile cowboys who make up the other elements of the beach population in winter. I can't believe they're just health fanatics, or exhibitionists. Anyone who can make that daily pilgrimage to what I would consider the last and worst circle of Hell (in Dante's Inferno, the Devil is imprisoned in a lake of ice) must derive some sort of spiritual solace from the ordeal. Yes, I know that all good Orthodox Christians should bathe on 19th January but, for the "walruses", every winter day is a full baptismal day and, unlike the Orthodox faithful, their numbers don't diminish when the mercury plummets. Does anyone know anything about the religious beliefs or philosophy of моржи?

xSnoofovich
25-02-2011, 22:27
I went last year. It was great fun. It was very refreshing !

I am trying to upload some pics, but can't seem to do it on google chrome.

Anyways, it seems as if people that do this frequently seem to believe that it can help build their immune system, and bring them good health in general.

rusmeister
26-02-2011, 08:15
No, not the four legged variety; bipedal walruses. Winter bathers. From November through to April you can see them on any beach or riverbank in Russia, often cutting holes in the ice and immersing themselves. When I lived in Samara, I saw them every winter day while walking along the beach, and I divided them into two groups: real and phony. The phony walruses emerge from the steaming heat of the beach winter sauna, duck themselves in an icehole that's provided with a ladder and an attendant, and hare back to the sauna. The real walruses use a ramshackle , roofless hut, made partly from plywood, as a changing room, then plod down to the icehole, immerse themselves three times, then stand facing the sun (if visible), raise their arms and adopt a stance that reminds me of pictures of ancient heathens worshipping the sun god. They have no heating in the hut, and usually bathe naked, whereas the phonies strut their stuff in fashionable beachwear. I remember one bitter January morning, with the temperature hovering around -22; a young woman, aged no more than 25, perhaps younger, went into the hut wrapped from eyebrows to toes in sheepskin, and emerged as bare as the day she was born, but at least a hundred times more beautiful. The frost was so hard that her nipples took on a blue-white complexion, but she paused at the dipping spot for half a minute and appeared to be intent on something completely unconnected with the cold, then she went in three times, came out, stood still in the "worshipping" posture for over a minute, and then leisurely walked back to the hut, making no attempt to conceal her charms and looking sublimely indifferent to frost and voyeurs alike. I reproached myself for not being able to regard her with the same sang froide, especially as I'm a married man and old enough to have been that girl's granddad.

In all the years that I've observed these hardy bathers, I've never spoken to them, they give me the impression of being a social group hermetically sealed from the joggers, walkers, skiers, snow kiters, fishermen and souped up snowmobile cowboys who make up the other elements of the beach population in winter. I can't believe they're just health fanatics, or exhibitionists. Anyone who can make that daily pilgrimage to what I would consider the last and worst circle of Hell (in Dante's Inferno, the Devil is imprisoned in a lake of ice) must derive some sort of spiritual solace from the ordeal. Yes, I know that all good Orthodox Christians should bathe on 19th January but, for the "walruses", every winter day is a full baptismal day and, unlike the Orthodox faithful, their numbers don't diminish when the mercury plummets. Does anyone know anything about the religious beliefs or philosophy of моржи?

Hi Larry!
(They ought to have more civil smilies, like friendly waves, expressing honest concern, etc)
Just a quick comment on the "Orthodox faithful". If they're really faithful, their numbers don't diminish based on climate or other factors - it is precisely those that are not faithful that drop out when it's not fashionable, comfortable or popular.

As to whether all good OC's should bathe on Jan 19th, that isn't true. It's good if people feel they can do it. I no longer can. The first time I did it, it was OK, the second time was a bad trip that I have not repeated since.

(I don't think you intended any offense; just wanted to point out that the real problem in involvement in Church activities is nominalism - the curse of any society where the Faith is legal (and even encouraged). It's why Christians could develop such a solid rep for integrity in the first 3 centuries, only - post-Constantine - to watch that rep disintegrate when masses of people did it because it was popular, to do the fashionable or "in" thing.

When you have to pay for your faith, then only the die-hards - the people who you REALLY respect - remain.

Larry Paradine
26-02-2011, 20:02
just wanted to point out that the real problem in involvement in Church activities is nominalism - the curse of any society where the Faith is legal (and even encouraged). When you have to pay for your faith, then only the die-hards - the people who you REALLY respect - remain.


I quite agree Rus. You have only to join the crush of people jamming our local Cathedral at the all night Pascha service and compare the crowd with the handful of devotees who, I'm told, at worst risked arrest for "anti-Soviet activities", or at best official harassment and discrimination in the work place, when they turned up for the same service a quarter of a century ago.

However, I'm not going to allow you to alter the direction of this thread. My question is about the possible religious/philosophical reasons for winter bathing. I don't suppose this forum is read by any "walruses" but perhaps someone out there knows more about the mind set of these hardy bathers than I (or, with respect, you) do.