During our excursion to the monastery, we were extremely privileged to experience many new things; beautiful paintings, architecture, and icons, very nice nuns who were patient with my mediocre Russian skills and a slightly irritated one who I just couldn’t seem to overcome the language gap with. With my partner in crime, my roommate Virginia Melton, I was able to partake in one very special experience.
After taking a drink from the spring’s communal cup of holy water, we wanted to find a place to put our feet in. We were planning on walking down the stream when a small group of five women went into this small building on the stream. They motioned for us to come, so we charged forward into the unknown.
The door was shut behind us and locked. Stairs down to the water were laid out in front of us. The women around us started to take off their clothes. My first thought was, “Darn, I don’t have my bathing-suit,” but I quickly realized that they didn’t have theirs either. Virginia and I looked at each other, shrugged, declared when in Rome, and began to strip.
We watched as one woman, who obviously knew what she was doing, went into the freezing water. She crossed herself, bowed, and «Раз, два, три» she dunked herself into the frigid water. It was so interesting. We knew that it was holy water and many people come for baptizing. But, we didn’t realize that we were getting ourselves into that type of cleansing ceremony. Only it was more informal then the average baptizing. It was a fantastic experience to laugh with these women and dunk ourselves, emerging refreshed and cleansed.
If you are ever in Estonia, take the opportunity to visit The Kuremäe Convent. It is a beautiful place, rich with culture and spirituality. Even if you are not of the Christian faith, I believe that it was an interesting ceremony to view and partake in, and I recommend trying it out, even if it does not have the spiritual aspect that it did for these women and myself.