Seeking vision in the sweat lodge

I want to find spiritual spaces without having to use plants. I have just done another sweat lodge, so here are some thoughts about it.

You could see it as a sauna with some rituals. It differs from a hammam as it’s mostly dry heat. The physical benefits of both sauna and hammam are very well documented.

Here are a few facts that makes it very different.

It is a real ceremony

It is called Temazcal in Mexico and Inipi in South Dakota, a Lakota tradition. They are very similar and I experimented both many times.

The ceremony consists in bringing stones heat in a fire before the ceremony. The stones represent “elders” that are brought inside to help heal or seek visions. In Mexico it can be a specific number of stones and both traditions include 4 doors for the 4 directions:
East (new beginnings, the light)
South (passion
West (knowledge, access to memory)
North (ancestors)

A very well trained spiritual guide leads it

An Abuela or “grand mother” lead the Temezcal I was invited to. She trained for 9 years in a row in moondance (4 days no food and dancing all night to the Moon). Moondancers who are trained to lead Temezcal can only do it after 4 years of training.

Men who lead the Temezcal are trained for 4 years at least.

The guide chants generally Lakota songs but they can be Aztec or Toltec songs and the participants are often invited to offer songs too.

Medicinal plants are used on the stones

Plants such as copal (or sage in Lakota) but also water and flowers can be used inside the lodge or dropped on the warm stones. A prayer with copal is made when each stone enters the lodge. They are “medicina” as they help purify the participants but have no psychedelic effects and none of them are ingested. The only substance ingested is… water either through steam or more rarely served in a glass.

They can run for many hours and get really warm…

The last Temazcal I went to lasted 4 hours and no-one left the lodge.

The challenge to your body is significant as you will want to leave but can’t, move, drink and won’t be able to until the 4 doors are closed. You will seat on the floor and learn if the guide is a good one that earth isn’t dirty, that’s where we’re coming from and returning to.

It’s mind training, some people scream as they go through the long exposure to heat and discomfort.

For the indigenous, it symbolizes the womb of a mother or Mother Earth. It is a rebirth ceremony where we connect with the darkness we experience in the 9 months of life conception. In this darkness we find a vision for our lives.

There is the visible part of the Temazcal, above the ground, and the invisible.

Temezcal and Inipi are part of a broader spiritual training.

The vision quest is opened and closed with Temazcals. Both the Moondance and the Sundance include two very long Temazcals per day for the entire 4 days ceremony, so 8 Temezcals in total or “16 doors”.

They are wonderful tools to access the spiritual world.