Where does this ceremony come from?
Sweatlodges are ceremonies of purification and a way to connect humble ourselves from our everyday mind and more deeply to source. In doing so we are able to gain clarity about what really is important and to set our intentions from that place.
Forms of these ceremonies have been used by many different native cultures, in many countries and the symbolism, structures and proceedures vary but always with an intention of seeking guidance and clarity. The ceremonies I facilitate borrow and connect different symbolism from various traditions but belong to no single tradition, rather they are used as tools to access states of consciousness that are available to all, and deeper than the cultural mind.
What happens during a Sweat Lodge?
During a sweatlodge you are invited to sit around a dug out pit in a structure covered with blankets. Stones heated in a large fire are brought into this structure and then the door is closed bringing the place into darkness. The guide in the lodge will give instructions on intentions and what to do, and will pour water onto the stones to create steam and allow us to sweat, as we do so we will sing, feel, drum and say prayers. In this way the guide can control the temperature and also the duration of a round, taking the needs of the participants and also the ceremony into account.
This will happen 4 times in what is know as a round – with the door being opened and fresh air to come in. Each round will last around 20-40min each. At the end of the ceremony, participants crawl back out through the door and lie on the earth in silence to allow the experience to settle in them.
Practicals and safety are very important and so the number of participants is limited, metal jewellery which could burn the skin is removed and participants can leave at any point if really needed – the door will be opened first to let in light before they move (although a guide will help them move through fear which is normally the panic), water is available between rounds if asked for, and I advise to drink plenty of water afterwards.
I will be fully present and in communication with everyone as we go thorugh the process together.
Symbolism of the Sweat Lodge
The sweatlodge ceremony I guide represents a humbling of our-selves back to the earth and back to the womb. The stones in the fire represent the bones of the mother earth (which supports all life) and the fire used to heat them represents light and illumination. The pouring of water representing, and our sweat represents and our emotional body the giving of ourselves to prayer (deep connection to truth), while the air in the lodge represents our thoughts and mind.
This is an alchemical process that involves transformation through all of the elements – fire meets the earth (in the form of stones) and heats it, the earth meets with water that is poured and transfers the heat, the water meets the air as steam and the steam meets with us and transforms our being (the ether).
We enter the lodge humbly on hands and knees and if moved one might remember the Lakota phrase “Mitakuye O’yasin” – which can translate as “all is related” and recognizes our part in the cosmos and also that our actions ripple out beyond just our individual self to have effect on the environment around us, other people and generations to follow.
Respect and awareness are important in this.
THE FOUR DIRECTIONS
Each round of the sweatlodge focuses on a particular aspect of life – these various aspects are represented by the 4 directions which are “called” into the lodge – really we are asking ourselves to become aware of these parts.
Representing the child, our physical body, the element of earth and season of summer.
Representing the adolescent, our emotional body, water and the season of Autumn.
Representing the adult, our mental body, the element of air and the season of winter.
Representing the reborn baby, our spiritual body, the element of fire and the season of spring.