Irish Seaweed Baths
“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me)it’s always ourselves we find in the sea” – E.E. Cummings
This fall, I took a trip to the West of Ireland with my mom. I wanted to see again the enchanted place where she grew up and learn more about the ways of her grandmother and feel the connection to the earth and elements that is so undeniable in the West.
Anyone who knows me will tell you of my mermaid love of water. I become light and lighthearted the moment I am immersed in it. The saltier the better. When I heard of a seaweed bath on the shore of an ancient glacial fjord in Connemara, I put it on the top of our list.
The Irish people along the coast have used seaweed for centuries for various cures. My mother told of her grandmother, Sara, collecting dulse and bladderwrack along the shoreline in County Mayo, filling a large basket for her home remedies. Irish Moss for bronchitis, dulse for setting hair in ringlets and seaweed baths to cure rheumatic pains, among other ailments. Connemara Seaweed Baths uses these same traditional methods, which have largely been forgotten by the modern folk.
We descended into a hidden valley, the town of Leenane. At first you are struck by the utter silence and peace of the place. The air has a purity I have never experienced before, at once oceanic and mountainous.
Just past the “Sheep and Wool Center” and a bar called “The Field,” named after the Richard Harris film shot there, we came to the spa. No appointment was required. We paid the shockingly reasonable 25 euros and got robed up.
We began our treatment with a short steam bath, to open the pores, during which time the bath was prepared. They filled a giant tub with hot seawater and pounds of bladerwrack seaweed, collected from the fjord our window looked out upon. I was instructed to soak for an hour (or until I was too hot) and at the end, to pull a string from the ceiling, which would release a cascade of chilled mountain spring water upon my head.
The bath was otherworldly. I felt heavy and buoyant at the same time and afterwards I felt incredibly relaxed, much more than I would have been from a simple hot bath. Tense muscles released, my skin was smooth and silky and some primordial Irish water sprite awoke in me.
If you ever find yourself near Leenane, you must languish in the hot sea water, hidden under swirling seaweed and treat your self to the full mermaid experience.