Sweat lodge - the wrong way
Type of Spiritual Experience
The following describes a truly horrendously organised session, this is how not to do it……………….
A description of the experience
Native Sweat Medicine Lodge vs. White Fear – Peyote by Temperance [EROWID] edited for brevity
………Then about as the sun was rising, and the rain was breaking up, we huddled to the outside fire again and waited. The second sweat, they promised would be very meaningful and empowering. I crawled in to the hut, on the cold and wet dirt floor; my sense of smell could no longer detect sweat or the pungent smoke that permeated everything. The girls were on one side and the men on the other. They held peace pipe, and as the stones were brought in by the fire bearers one by one, they touched the tip of the pipestone bowls to the red hot rock grandmothers, 28 stones in all. Then they lit the pipes, and as they were stoked I marveled at the ceremony, as each one silently gave reverence to the 4 quarters, their pipe, the sky and earth, and spun them around to the next person. It was quite beautiful how synchronized it became.
Soon, one by one the large pipes let out their last breath of smoke and the door was closed to the wig wham. This time it was different. I couldn’t see the light and it felt like night had descended again. When the singing and ceremonies began the steam rolled off the hot rocks and I could feel my face burning. I looked up and saw faces again, this time in the faint outlines of light that snuck into the walls. The faces were of ancestors, but also of death.
The grim reapers face formed, as if again saying “I am the great white death that all your people have faced.” Another face emerged and it was in a war paint, streaming down vertically on a painted white face. I believe it was a Crow tribe, and their war paint. Both loomed in eminent death. The smaller face of the native death, held more strange fear and anger than the familiar and stereotypical face of the Reaper. They both seemed to wink at me and I could almost hear them say, “be good kid…” with a laugh. I knew they were goading me and teasing. I responded in my mind, there is no good or bad me, just me! To which they seemed to knowingly nod, approvingly. At least they would not take me with out me having first learned this lesson in life.
When I finally thought I had faced all my demons and fears, the door flew open one last time, and the babe that the parents wanted to bring in was handed in wrapped naked in a fresh towel to the mother. We closed in what was called a “baby sweat”, and I awaited one last final and mild steam to come over me. It turned out to be the straw that broke my will. The child was brave, and I thought to my self, it is us that fear the womb, not the child who probably hated to have recently left it only months ago. Finally the heat and the water, splashing on him gave him to raise his cry in discomfort. All of our parental meters went into overdrive, and the women as much as the men were shifting uncomfortably, as our primal instincts told us we must tend to this pain, and save the baby.
Some even spoke out in ceremony not able to hold their tongues any longer. I myself started counting the minutes, that we might have to endure it, and then there was silence. This silence proved to increase the primal tension. Was the baby ok? Did it pass out, how could it suddenly be so still, how would we know in this darkness that the child was still all right? The seconds ticked by even longer as the priest poured out more song, and more water for steam. Finally we were released from this hell, and the baby cried once again as the door flap was ordered open. It didn’t come right away, and we were again forced to wait against everyone’s will this time. Did they forget about us, did they all go back to the house because of the rain? No, finally some one took mercy on us, and the door flew back. Some of us stayed collapsed as the heat rolled out and the cool fresh air poured in. I crawled out around some of the bodies and around the circle of steaming stones. I literally kissed the earth and staggered to my feet.
I saw S and she was the one to have stayed behind for us. I kidded her saying she was our Valkyrie come to retake our souls from their voyage. We gathered around the fire, and I stood the longest in the rain with only my towel around me, so disoriented, and not being able to gage my own body temperature. I slipped and fell, cutting my hand as I struggled to put on my robe. The grey haired old professor, was now back after having found his missing friend who had been wandering the woods and the highway after the medicine lodge. She spoke only French and the group had been very concerned for her. Now, relieved, it was his turn to smoke his pipe, and he invited us to do so. …... Our native guide held out his wet trunks over the fire to dry on a stick, as if he were waving a victory flag.
Later of course, we retired to the house, where I again gave thanks for indoor plumbing, and even though I couldn’t hold any food down I was thankful to purge myself of those toxins still coursing through me. Most of us tried to eat some thing, and the dinner from the night before, that again greeted us with pies, soups, and deserts, no longer had their allure. All I could stand was liquid and a few bites of salad and bread.
The source of the experienceEROWID
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsEnacting ritual and ceremony