Monday, 15 August 2016

Building a Sweat Lodge


["A Blessing from the Thunderbird Sweatlodge"

When I wrote recently about attending a pow wow, dbs of think.stew commented that he regretted missing a chance to experience a sweat lodge. That made me think of the one occasion when I was lucky enough to have had that opportunity, so perhaps this is a good time to write about it.

First, a bit of background info for anyone who might be unfamiliar with this First Nations spiritual practice. A sweat lodge is a round, low, dome-shaped tent built on a strong framework of bent willow branches. Traditionally, it is covered in many thick blankets or animal skins, although heavy tarps are commonly used today.


At the centre of the sweat lodge is a round, sunken firepit in which large red-hot rocks (called "grandfathers") are placed. The rocks are heated outside in an intense blaze tended by a firekeeper, who uses a pitchfork to carry the rocks inside the sweat lodge once they are hot enough.

You enter the sweat lodge through a small opening which is then closed with a flap. People sit in a circle around the firepit on cedar or pine boughs or blankets. Traditionally, people were naked inside the sweat lodge but today, they usually wear loose fitting cotton t-shirts, shorts or nighties. No jewelry, glasses or metal clothing accessories (like zippers) are allowed because of the intense heat.


A sweat lodge should be built and operated only under the supervision and control of a trained, experienced leader. First Nations observe this rule carefully but sometimes insufficiently-trained "new age" practitioners do not. People have sometimes died in those sweat lodges due to dehydration, heart attacks or smoke inhalation. Be sure to check the credentials of anyone putting on such an event. Sweat lodges (like saunas, steam rooms and hot tubs) are not recommended for anyone with high blood pressure or heart problems.

Wednesday's post will explain how I happened, quite unexpectedly, to experience a sweat lodge. The post's subject-matter will seem to take a sharply unrelated turn but trust me, one thing leads to another. Then Friday's post will explain the spiritual nature of the sweat lodge and its ritual. I knew nothing going in and was profoundly floored by its completely unanticipated impact.

Next post: Hymns Old and New -- Spirit of Life

37 comments:

DEZMOND said...

'tis beyond me why would one ever want to sweat that much, unless it is under a hunk... or two...

Mark said...

I can barely survive a sauna. I think I'd have no chance in a sweat lodge. But it would be a nice experiene to have.

Marie Smith said...

I look forward to the next instalment.

mshatch said...

Interesting. I knew about sweat lodges, but me thinks I'm about to learn more...looking forward to it!

LL Cool Joe said...

A hot sweaty tent with naked people would be my idea of hell. Ha ha. I look forward to reading more!

Jim said...

I look forward to this series, Debra. I will however not be able to 'participate' due to high blood pressure but I will experience from afar.

Dawn@Lighten Up! said...

Thanks for the info, Debra! I have a friend who goes to sweat lodges and sweats by them.

mxtodis123 said...

Brooklyn is a sweat lodge of its own right now. Seriously, looking forward to your experiences.
Mary

Cheryl said...

I look forward to reading about your experience...although there isn't enough money in the world to entice me to want to try out a sweat lodge. Living through a Kansas summer (post menopausal) is as hot as I am prepared to be.

jaz@octoberfarm said...

i can't wait to read about this!

lotta joy said...

I'm here because it seems we both love the same blogs. Whether thou goest, it seems I land too. I try to avoid sweating at all cost and I'm too old for anyone to see me naked. How about a warm shower. That should do it.

A Beer For The Shower said...

I absolutely hate the heat, so I'll be back to see exactly how this works, because I fail to see the spiritual connection... Like, you leave saying thank GOD I won't ever have to do that again?

Leeanna Henderson said...

I can't wait until Wednesday. You should work for the Learning channel. Maybe they would start putting shows of better caliber if they would do the things you write about. They just have trash called Reality TV.

Snap said...

I have never "done" a sweat lodge ... have enough trouble getting through summer! I do love PowWows. I lived in New Mexico for 23 years and had good friends at several of the pueblos. They would invite me to dinner and "dance" ... mutton stew tastes pretty good if it has enough green chili in it! It was always a special treat to be invited.

Guillaume said...

I think such lodge was featured in IT by Stephen King. Gorgeous pictures by the way.

Susan said...

I've done a sauna and, lately, working in the outdoors seems very like a sweat lodge, but without any enlightenment. I am looking forward to your next posts.

JACKIESUE said...

it's Texas...it's August..trust me..no one here needs a sweat lodge..every time we get in a car we have our own sweat lodge.

Miss Val's Creations said...

I have been curious to try a sweat lodge. Of course the concern is passing out or death. I guess it scares me a little but I have jumped out of a plane so maybe one day I will try this.

Magic Love Crow said...

Thank you for making this post! I can't wait to read more! I have always wanted to experience a sweat lodge! This weekend, I might have a chance to go to a powwow! So excited!

Plowing Through Life (Martha) said...

Oh, sounds so interesting! I'm looking forward to hearing more about this experience. I've never even heard of it!

Magaly Guerrero said...

I experienced a very intense few hours in a sweat lodge in Arizona, while I was in the Marine Corps. It was like dreaming into a dreamland knowing that I was awake... but everything was still possible. After a while, I could barely feel the heat.

By the way, when I first saw the title of this post, I read "Sweat Lake". Yeah, very different, lol!

Jeanne said...

Another great post about Indigenous People and a part of their culture. Looking forward to the rest!

baili said...

i feel very relaxed and refreshed after being sweated ,i loved the idea though don't know much about it will looking forward to next update about your personal experience dear

Missy George said...

We have a sweat lodge of our own right now...the whole month of August has been a sauna..dreadful..I, for one, am not happy when I am dripping..So tired of taking showers..BUT...very interesting post

Lynn said...

My friend Tim does the sweat lodge. When one of our friends was dying, he did the sweat lodge to pray for her healing.

And when I was thinking of buying a condo in which a neighbor had recently passed away - he volunteered to come in and cleanse it of the neighbor's spirit.

bj said...

how fun...and very interesting...I MIGHT do this, if I had the chance, but I'd want my seat by the door, just in case I needed out RIGHT NOW...:)
Looking forward to your next post...

Lisa B said...

Hello my dear friend from many miles away.
I am back in blog land where it appears you have never left.
So much happening but I am back.
My second grandchild now wears the thirst you sent my first grandchild and I am always busy, always tired, so situation normal there.
Hoping we can reconnect
Lisa xx

Hijriatul Laila said...

Hi, it's My first time visiting, and I'm curious to know what the friday post Will tell. :-)

Judy said...

Seems a bit dangerous to me...

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Hi Lisa! Glad to hear you're back in the blogosphere and I would love to reconnect! But your Google+ profile leads to your blog that is open to invited readers only, so I cannot access it, alas, unless you invite me: shewhoseeks@gmail.com

lgsquirrel said...

I would be interested to try a sweat lodge but I think the darkness together with the heat might feel claustrophobic.

strangelynaked.com said...

And where do I find the ayahuasca? Also, this is different than the sweet lodge I'm building in my backyard which is where I just go and shovel chocolates into my drooling maw.

Ol'Buzzard said...

Sweat lodges were common among some of the northern Alaskan Natives where we taught school. My wife and I never tried one, though we would have been welcome. I have enjoyed a steam bat on occasion.
the Ol'Buzzard

Debra She Who Seeks said...

@ strangelynaked -- Love your sweet lodge idea, Pickleope, I'm in! And you know, I actually have a friend who traveled to South America especially to do an ayahuasca ritual. She survived it okay but alas, it did not give her the spiritual breakthrough, epiphany or answer she was seeking.

Barbara said...

Interesting. Looking forward to the other posts.

Fundy Blue said...

This is fascinating, Debra! Thanks for sharing it.

The Happy Whisk said...

I read these out of order, but still enjoyed the subject matter. I also like how one thing goes into another. So true.