Welcome to the Sweat Lodge
The sweat lodge, also named purification ceremony or sweat, is a hut, typically dome-shaped and made with natural supplies, used by Indigenous peoples of the Americas for ceremonial steam baths.
There are various styles of structures used by different Native American tribes; these include a domed or oblong hut like a wickiup, a permanent structure made of wood and earth, or even a hole dug into the soil and covered with tree trunks or planks. Stones are heated and then water poured over them to create steam.
With the introduction of alcohol and the inadequate treatment of native people by the settlers, they felt increasingly invaded by European culture. The need to re-purify and find traditional ways of living became evident, and the Sweat Lodge Ceremony was the answer.
The Sweat Lodge is a site of spiritual retreat and physical and mental healing, a place to get answers and leadership by asking spiritual entities, totem helpers, the Creator and Mother Earth for the needed wisdom and power.
To be allowed to lead a lodge, the leader should go through intensive training for many years. They must be able to pray and communicate fluently in the indigenous language, and that they understand how to guide the ceremony safely. This leadership role is given by the Elders of the community, and it is never self-designated.
The lodge entrance may face East and a sacred fire. Orientation and placement of the lodge within its environment are often contemplated to facilitate the ceremony’s connection with the spirits, as well as practical concerns.
The lodge is built with great care. In Native American lodges attendees usually wear a simple garment. One or more people will remain outside the sweat lodge to protect the ceremony, assist the participants, and lodge aid etiquette.
It is recommended by Lakota (“the Allies,” known as Sioux and featured in the above picture) spiritual guides that people only visit lodges with authorized spiritual leaders. If you want to attend sweat, the previous 24 hours should be spent in fasting, prayer, cleansing, and meditation on the objective of the sweat.