Sweat Lodge


The sweat lodge is a ceremonial sauna used by the American Indians for the purpose of cleansing and purifying body and mind, and to heighten spiritual and religious awareness. The lodge can accommodate 4 people at a time. The “fire keeper” heats the stones in an exterior fire and places them in a hole in the middle of the floor. Five stones are brought in, each symbolising a different aspect of life, followed by a further seven stones. The door is closed, and the water and healing herbs are sprinkled over the stones. Drumming and chanting rituals are then performed. This is repeated a further three times, with short breaks in between the sessions, and each session has a particular purpose.

The sweat can serve as a “stand alone” ritual, meaning that it occurs whenever it is needed. Or it can form part of a broader vision quest, which is a ceremony practiced by American Indians to develop a deeper understanding of nature and spirit. To prepare for this “insight”, one must first cleanse the body and mind by going through a sweat.

According to some American Indians, the interior of the sweat lodge represents the “womb of the mother earth”, its darkness as human ignorance, the hot stones as the coming of life, and the hissing steam as the creative force of the universe being activated. The entrance faces East, source of life and power, dawn and wisdom, while the fire heating the rocks is the undying light of the world, eternity.

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