Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Healing Benefits of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies
The sweat lodge is a Native American tradition where individuals enter a dome-shaped dwelling to experience a sauna-like environment. The lodge itself is typically a wooden-framed structure made from tree branches. Hot rocks are placed inside an earthen-dug pit located in the center of this man-made enclosure. Water is periodically poured over the heated rocks to create a hot and steamy room. The sweat ceremony is intended as a spiritual reunion with the creator and a respectful connection to the earth itself as much as it is meant for purging toxins out of the physical body.
Mental Healing - The sweat lodge ceremony gives its participants the opportunity to free their minds of distractions, offering clarity.
Spiritual Healing - The sweat lodge ceremony offers a place for introspection and connection to the planet and the spirit world.
Physical Healing - The sweat lodge ceremony gives anti-bacterial and wound-healing benefits.
NATIVE AMERICAN SWEAT LODGE
History of Sweat Lodges
In one form or another, the sweat bath pervaded cultures from the Alaskan Eskimo south into the land of the Mayans. The purpose, in most cases, went beyond getting the body clean. The sweat bath provided a cure for illness, revitalization for aching muscles, and a sense of racial identity. A Navajo who fought in World War II told me he came back for a sweat bath "to rid himself of evil accumulated during war."
Use of the sweat lodge was chronicled by the earliest settlers in America. In 1665, David DeVries of New York observed Indians "entirely clean and more attractive than before" while sweat bathing. Roger Williams of Rhode Island wrote in 1643: "They use sweating for two ends: first to cleanse their skin; secondly to purge their bodies, which doubtless is a great means of preserving them, especially from the French disease (probably influenza) which by sweating and some potions, they perfectly and speedily cure."
Three basic forms of the sweat bath are indigenous to North America: the hot rock method, used by the Navajos and Sioux; the direct fire chamber, heated by blazing logs; and a more sophisticated type relying on a heating duct system believed to be of Mayan origin.
The Sioux, for example, see the interior of the sweat lodge as representing the womb of Mother Earth, its darkness as human ignorance, the hot stones as the coming of life, and the hissing steam as the creative force of the universe being activated. The entrance faces east, source of life and power, dawn of wisdom, while the fire heating the rocks is the undying light of the world, eternity.
Alaskan Eskimos, some Pacific Coast tribes and the Pueblo Indians in the Southwest built lodges heated directly by fire.