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Sweat Lodge Ceremony
Greetings! I've been asked by some of you and now I have this
uncontrollable urge to do it. So
here it is!
I am the Grounds Keeper for a Sweat Lodge. Now there are many
elements that go into a Sweat
Lodge and it takes hard work on many levels to keep it balanced.
Since it does reside on the
property we are buying , we have to live with this energy every
day. It started as a private thing,
but Spirit and community wanted it open. So people come and
people go, leaving behind
different energies. I make sure those energies are kept to the
Sacred area until they are ready to
be released. Keeping balance for my familys sake. I put
up a fence to help contain boundaries
and for a wolf fence, (Yes she runs on sacred ground, and comes
in the lodge are we prepare, she
also come in, in Spirit when we sweat. She is a true teacher
and very loyal ) Anyway the fence
was a bomb, it insulted someone. Well the fence is still here
and the person is gone.
Just because the Lodge is here does not mean I run the show.
Spirit does! Each pole in a Sweat
Lodge has a meaning, each cross of the willow a Spirit keeper.
The Star of David/Morning Star
is formed by the willows as they strengthen the whole dome.
The Void in its center a true gate
way to Great Mystery. I've been doing Sweat Lodge Ceremony (SLC)
for 7 years. I studied "The
Lakota Sweat Lodge Cards" by Chief Archie Fire Lame Deer
and Helene Sarkis. For some great
Stories and Teachings I read "The Gift of Power" by
Archie Fire Lame Deer Jr. There is a great
diagram of the Sweat Lodge and he explained the 400 and some
odd ant crystals that go into a
rattle. Since I could not met these men in person I am so grateful
that they were published.
Now here comes man and attitude. "By what right do you
have a Sweat Lodge?", "You are
stealing 'our' religion." Here is my answer, Spirit guided
me. Did I receive "the Bundle," not by
man. The willows were shown to me and very happy to become a
Sweat Lodge, a ceremony for
the marriage of the Sweat Lodge was show to me by another Group
with Native connections.
The laying of the fire pit came naturally, as has the development
of this Lodge. The "Doors"
change in intent depending on who comes. Buckets for water,
blankets come rolling in, tarps
were cheap and the Deer antlers were another story. The rocks
are always asking to come. And
the people come and go.
Oh! by the way I had a vision 5 years ago, written down and
everything of where to place the
Sweat Lodge and a Medicine Wheel. Two years ago at Breath work
I was again shown this
vision with me Shapeshifting into Bear as it's guardian. Now,
I call that a calling! So ends the tail
of how I became guardian of a Sweat Lodge. But there is more.
Guardian has its own set of responsibilities! Sweat Leader,
Fire Tender and participant all have
their own responsibilities. I was called to tend and serve.
I've learned Fire Tending as the men
work and can't always help. I've lead Sweats when our leader
need time to work on herself.
Believe me that all these positions/paths are full time mind/life
altering paths. Should one person
do it all? Man, I'm just human after all.
Particpant responsibilities part 1
Participants of a Sweat Lodge Ceremony responsibilities
Congratulation! You have been invited to a Sweat Lodge Ceremony
(SLC). Start Drinking Water
Now! We don't use mind-altering herbs. The heat is enough to
get those who are ready into an
altered state. Those who are not ready for that level usually
just enjoying the heat No Alcohol.
No drugs, your regular prescriptions are okay. Might want to
ask you doc how extreme heat will
affect you and your prescription. I've not had any problems
even with migraine medicines.
Allergies like sage and cedar let the Leader know. Although
I have not seen any allergies
manifest from the Sweat Lodge, it's one of the mysteries of
the SLC If you have ANY concerns,
please ask someone. Anyone! Questions asked and listen to in
respect are always Welcome.
Women on their moons should not sweat with everyone else, and
there are precautions to take
for this (Another Article! what did I get myself into again
What to bring? Sweat Clothes should be cotton or a cotton blend;
they soak up the sweat best.
No buttons. No metal: including snaps, zippers, rings, earrings,
necklaces or piercings. These
thing will get too hot to tolerate. Women, a cotton dress that
covers from Knees to shoulders is
traditional. Shorts and a Tee are acceptable in our sweats.
Men, shorts and a Tee are okay; most
men take off their Tees. I have only done SLC in the buff once
or twice with people I knew and
Bring an old towel or two. One to use in the Lodge to sit on,
wipe sweat or to just breath through.
And a second one for a shower afterwards. (I go through a lot
of towels. Something will be
provided if you wish to clean up after, even if its a
cold hose in Winter, or a close river, lake or
my favorite spot to Sweat has a hot springs close. I take biodegradable
soaps and bath in Mother
Earth's' bathtub! A blanket or coat and shoes to wrap up in
after you get out. You are hot and the
air is cold. Some people like to cover up after they get out
of the heat of the Sweat. Some like to
go straight for the cold water!! Brrrrrr!
Bring any tools you wish to be blessed by the Sweat Leader (ask
if they will, tobacco or a gift
with your request is always treated with honor.) Things can
also be laid on the alter to be blessed
by the spirits as they enter the Lodge, they like to look and
see what we are using also Ask about
this though. A couple friends went to SLC, put their things
on the altar to be blessed and the
Sweat Leader as a gift took them. We use a give-away blanket
after we eat. Everyone will
respect an item wrapped in red cotton cloth as a scared article.
Gifts are given as an exchange of energy. Sweat Lodge Ceremony
if free. IMHO! We do ask that
you contribute to help out. Gifts I find useful: Your personal
labor/work at the time of SLC is
considered a gift to us. Toilet Paper, soaps for showers, food
for the gathering (lots of people to
feed, everyone should try and help out as much as possible.)
Wood, rocks or blankets for the
lodge. My opinion on tobacco. I realize that it is traditional
to give Tobacco. I wont buy
someone chemical cigarettes or alcohol, this in my personal
moral. But there are alternatives,
tobacco twist, Native American tobacco blends or smudge bundles
are my solution. I have given
a pack of Cigarettes once, to an Elder, as this was her personal
request. It taught Me to honor Her
path. Personal gifts are great! One winter I gave the men in
our group wool socks. I bought a
package and passed them out. Those who were allergic, just said
Thank you, I am allergic or
took them and passed them on. Nothing was taken personally.
Money and hug rate the same in
our group! If you have nothing, don't worry. We welcome everyone!
Now! You have your Sweat bag, containing your clothes, tools
and towels. You have arrived.
Every SLC is different. When everyone arrives we gather in a
circle, introducing ourselves. This
is a good place to get instruction. This is also a group session,
all common courtesies are
appreciated and confidence is a must from here on out. Things
that happen here, stay here or
between us. During this time is a good time to have any questions
answered. Don't feel you have
to give something every time you ask something. We are here
to help and guide you. This is not
about collecting material things. It is about Spirituality.
Either the Fire Tender is watching the Fire or will start the
Fire soon after Circle. When the Fire
is ready you will be notified. I try and give a half-hour warning
so everyone can change into his
or her sweat clothes. Bring your towel, anything you want bless
on the mound and yourself to the
The lodge it's self is surrounded by Sacred ground. This is
the area the Fire Tender works. I have
a gate, some have just a tree or rock as a marker, ask to be
shown the boundaries of this ground.
From here on you are in Church, no smoking (some people do pray
with cigarettes, different in
opinions here. I would not take a Smudge stick to a church,
light it and pray with it) Be
respectful, nerves, energies and companionship can make for
some laughter, but please don't tell
jokes and bring up work gripes. We are here to work on our Spatiality.
After wards we can
laugh, joke and get loud. Especially after the fire is lit ask
permission to come on sacred ground.
The Fire Tender is already altered and working the energy. Respect
their space. And don't forget
everyone should be drinking lots of water.
Most Sacred Ground have a smudge stick and/or a person to help
you smudge at the gate or
marker. After you smudge, walk Sun-wise around the grounds.
Most are set up so you pass the
lodge, pass the mound, go around the fire pit, there will be
tobacco to offer a prayer to the fire. I
always pray for gentleness and endurance in the Womb of the
Mother. Lay your tools on the altar
and your blanket for afterwards near the exit. If you must retrace
your steps or go backwards, try
re-circling the grounds again. We are trying to keep the energies
going in a sun-wise direction.
But hey if you forget, don't worry. It comes with practice You're
in line waiting to enter, your
heart is pounding and you are about to meet your Spirituality.
Whatever you believe/religion will
be working with you. This is part of coming to a Sweat, this
is not a Sauna. What you pray for
will be manifested to your highest good, so be sure what you
You are at the door
Del Participant responsibilities part 2
...you have to crawl in. The door and lodge is made that way.
Humbly you enter going sun-wise
and still crawling find a place to sit There is not much room.
If you are claustrophobic let
someone know, it can be overcome or not, depending on how You
want to work it. Ours is not an
endurance test. If you can't stand it ask to be let out. Be
respectful, some groups see this as
breaking the circle. I've haven't found letting someone out
has thrown the Ceremony into chaos.
It can change the energy, usually for the best, in my observation.
There are other way to enjoy a SLC. Just being around this energy
will affect you. *big p.s. if I
haven't mentioned this, Children are welcome just remember they
will be affected by the energy
also * If you don't feel comfortable inside the lodge ask to
sit outside. This should be made
arrangement for in Circle. If this is okay, find a place and
plant it You are part of the energy.
Stay out of the way of the Fire tender and Please speak only
when spoken to. This person is
already altered and is working with Fire on many levels. Drumming,
praying, meditating, your
own journey these are examples of things you can do on my Sacred
ground. My medicine Wheel
is close to the Lodge and can be worked at the same time. And
for those with major Sage
allergies or those with fears of close quarters, big time. I
would help you find a spot along the
outside of the lodge that you could lean against. I would have
to consider the person on the other
side and probably pair you with an experienced Sweater. Putting
your feet under all the blankets
and tarps would be difficult but doable if you wanted. This
all would be okay in My SLC.
There are many ways to proceed. This is how I was taught and
what you could expect to happen.
First I would reassure you it's going to get dark, so black
as to not see your hand in front of your
face. You could see points of lights, anywhere from tiny pinholes
to full faced Ancestors. The
sage you were given as you entered will help you. Grandfather
Sage (GS) has a story, but for
now I will tell you how it helps in the Lodge. When it's hard
to breathe you can put GS in front
of your mouth and breathe through it. The moisture in the air
and the healing properties of the
sage sooth you're breathing. Part of your towel or dress will
help if you can't use GS. I use GS to
brush off the sweat and shake it into the pit. The rocks are
there to take and transmute energies of
all kinds. This includes farts, burps and even the v-word. As
people release these things happen.
Give them to the rocks and use GS to ease the reaction. It's
his gift to us. Some put a small piece
of Grandfather Sage in their mouths to help with dry mouth.
After the Fire Tender brings in the rocks and the door is closed
(by the way the door is a
flap/sleeping bag, it is not sewn closed, had one person have
to see this for them selves) I would
add water to the rocks, with a sagebrush or gourd, blessing
them and thanking them. We have begun.
The first round is for yourself. This is a hard round because
most people find it hard to pray for
ourselves. We pray for ourselves to be as balance as possible
in this moment so we may be in
balance when we pray for others. I would open with prayer. Others
have songs they sing in each
round, I have pass along songs. I would ask for the rest to
say prayers also. I pass to the left,
keeping it going sun-wise. If you don't wish to pray out loud
you could just sit in silence. To
pass, just say "Pass" or "To all my relations/Mitakyue
Oyasin" "Amen" "Finished" "Thank
anything to let the next person know you are done. No one is
forced to speak out loud. With each
persons prayer or song I put water on the rock to send
the prayers up to Great Mysteries. When
the prayers, songs, drumming are back around to me I would ask
if anyone needed to say
anything else. If not I would say closing prayers and then ask
to have the door open. I say
"Mitakyue Oyasin! Open the door!" And the Fire Tender
will throw back the flap.
Congratulations! You have survived door one, 3 more to go.
Round two. More rocks. Door closed. Round two is for our families,
anyone you consider family
or close friends. Or if someone asked for prayers this is the
round to say those. This is a long
round because we all want to help each other. Prayers. Water.
Prayers. Water. Songs, prayers.
Water. This will be the setting for all 4 rounds. "Mitakyue
Oyasin! Open the door!"
Some of the things you could be seeing in the lodge. Ancestors;
yours, mine, Native, African.
God/Goddess, Jesus, Buddha, John Smith (Mormon) Flashes of lights,
angles, fairies and other
worlds. I've seen a ring of Native American Ancestors, German
Ancestors, and White Buffalo
Calf Woman. I had the top dissolve and was watching a meteor
shower once. I've astral traveled
to other SLC's and had them visit us.
What I haven't seen are Devils, demons or the like. (a snake
or spider, yea! Had a Large Bumble
Bee want to Sweat with us once. I was out of there) The construction
of the Sweat Lodge creates
another world. Time is non-existent. What we think of as minutes
can be hours. Each round has
its own time allowances, Spirit Time, depending on what needs
to be worked on privately or with
the leader. If you are feeling something that scares you, Please
tell me. Once I was praying for
help with my spleen and it swelled up. The leader consoled me
and told me some things to do,
pray harder and put sage on the spot. That is why it is so important
for the Sweat Leader to be
balanced. By the end of round 3 the swelling had gone down.
In-between these rounds while the door is open we offer water.
Usually it is from the same
bucket the Sweat Leader is using for the rocks. This has the
healing properties of the sagebrush I
am using to wet the rocks. It has been seeping and making a
tea. Sometimes people bring bottles
of water or the Fire Tender sends in a jug. A dipper is passed
around all the way to the person
who is sitting beside the Sweat Leader. They receive the dipper,
make an offering to the rocks
(small amount of the water) and drink or splash some on yourself
or place the water on a spot
that needs healing. If you don't use all the water pour what
is left on the rocks. This dipper was
for you alone.
More rocks. Round 3 is the manifestation round. Things you pray
for in round 1 will either
manifest or begin to manifest into the real world. Lots of songs
this round, Grandmothers are
invited in, in song. They are 4 Beautiful Native American Grandmothers
and they dance in with
the volume of the song and dance out with the softening of the
song. It's pretty cool. They have
come each time I've sweated and called them. LOL! They are usually
waiting at the beginning of
round 3. "Mitakyue Oyasin! Open the door!"
And Round 4. More rocks. This is the round to celebrate Mother
Earth and all her Creatures. 495
of them. It is a long round, if I can remember them all. What
I can't remember you are welcome
to pray for. And any world events that are concerning us, this
is a good place for that. "Mitakyue
Oyasin! Open the door!"
Congratulation! You have completed a Sweat Lodge Ceremony. You
crawled in and you will
crawl out, head first, you are reborn. You will be altered and
unsteady, the Fire Tender or other
helper will be there to guide you if you look like you need
it. We don't want anyone falling into
the fire pit, so please let them help. Again walk sun-wise around
the Fire pit and make a tobacco
offering for surviving /enduring. Pick up your things from the
mound and any clothes left. If you
are too altered to do this, all the stuff will be brought up
to the house for you by someone.
Anything wrapped in red cloth will be brought up by the Fire
Tender or Sweat Leader.
It is time to Eat!! Orange juice, chocolate and food will ground
you. We ask that you are
grounded before you leave, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive
Altered" (man I should paten that
one) so make sure you say good bye to someone before you leave.
Eat! Enjoy! Ground! If you
need to smudge, Do it! If you have something else that you use
to ground, Do it! A circle is
called again and a blanket laid out. This is a good place to
ask questions. The Sweat Leader will
lead you in closing the energies.
Fire Tending a Sweat Lodge Ceremony
The Fire Tender (FT) is responsible for laying the fire and
tending it on a physical and spiritual
level. We have a ceremonial fire permit to burn in our area.
The requirements are that someone is
always with the fire, a hose and or sprinklers are at the ready,
and the pit is deep enough to
contain the fire.
When laying the logs each log is thanked for giving it's spirit
to help us. Four logs are laid as the
foundation and to call in the four main directions. Most put
four layers of four logs. This has
never been explained to my understanding. So I place three more
logs across the first four to
bring in all of the directions. I then place in kindling and
pile on the rocks. Then ti-pi more logs
and kindling. The more wood the hotter the rocks. Prayers are
said and tobacco offered. I usually
ask for gentleness and offer lavender. I also ask to keep us
all safe as we sweat.
This is a Scared Fire and no trash should be used as kindling.
Stick matches are used to light it.
(This is great in theory, but in wet weather I have used newspaper
and a lighter, asking for
forgiveness) When the Sweat is over you may take some of the
ashes. Some people put them in
their baking to remember the Sacredness of all things. Some
use them on their bodies for
balance, meditation or to help heal sickness. There for I am
strongly against using the Fire pit as
an ashtray. Although tobacco is the chief herb the filters are
not, and I don't want to put that in
my bread. Tobacco in its natural form is okay. I do understand
that people smoke to ground and
pray. And I hope that they understand that I use the ashes for
other purposes. There is a can of
tobacco to use or just take your butts with you. This is my
way of honoring each other's path.
It takes from 2 to 3 hours for the logs to fall. The logs actually
fall in on their selves. The Fire
Tender keeps a careful watch. Basic rules of safety are observed,
gloves and a pitchfork are
handy tools. This is Fire Energy and a healthy respect should
be formed. I achieve an altered
state and become one with the Fire, working both worlds as the
Everyone comes around the fire pit in a sun-wise direction.
Here is when the order of entry may
be shuffled for a mixed sweat or to allow a new sweater next
to an experienced sweater. A twig
of sage is given each person. These are explained in earlier
article. In line is where you double
check for metal object like a wedding ring or tongue ring and
take off your shoes. When
everyone is in the lodge a path is drawn in the dirt from the
pit to the door. This is the path the
energies will travel in and out of the Sweat Lodge. The FT works
the rocks on the right/south
side of this path and never turns their back on the fire. This
is a show of respect for the Energy of
Fire. The Sweat Leader asks for so many rocks for the first
round. With a pitchfork the I selects
the rocks. If one is too hard to pick up it is probably not
ready to enter the Lodge and another is
selected. Once out of the pit, I will brush off any extra ash.
This is done with a sagebrush (or
glove.) This is a blessing to the rock and ash is not what we
want to breathe in the lodge. The
rock is then carried to the Leader who takes it from the pitchfork
with a pair of antlers. Ours are
deer but elk, moose or any other antler can be used. If the
rock is drooped on the ground at any
time it is considered a bad omen. Cedar is the herb that purifies
and is used to ask for
forgiveness. Depending on what I am told by the rock I would
put this one back and wait till later
to bring it or just offer Cedar.
The rocks in and the flap are closed. The FT banks the rocks
to keep them hot. Watches for
flying sparks and keeps the lodge safe. During the round I can
pray, sing or drum. Always
listening for the Leader who can ask for the door to be opened
at any time. To open the door the
leader says " Mitakue Oyasin, open the door" It is
a clue that I tune into that brings me back to
the moment. There for it is said the same for each round and
only by the leader.
When the last round is done the FT opens the flap door; I then
go around to the left/north side of
the door to help anyone who needs help standing. Helping them
around the fire pit. Giving
blankets to those who need them or extra towels. Generally,
helping everyone to start grounding.
Help from experienced sweaters or those who didn't sweat are
greatly appreciated here.
Whatever might get left on the mound the FT will bring into
the house. If there are any tools
wrapped in red cloth I am considered clean enough to bring them
in also. I don't claim to follow
any traditional method. Most of what I learned came out of necessity,
led by Spirit. Hope you all
enjoyed these insights into the world of the Sweat Lodge.
Thank you all for coming. Love and Light Tarra
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