Many North American and Central American Indian tribes have traditionally used the sweat lodge for purification, cleansing and healing of mind, body, emotions and spirit.
Native American Sweat Lodge
Lakota elder Black Elk tells us: "The sweat lodge utilizes all powers of the universe: earth, and things that grow from the earth; water; fire; and air."
The sweat lodge symbolizes the womb of Grandmother Earth and the heated stones represent her body, which supports all life. The fire that is used to heat the rocks represents the perpetual light of the world, and is the source of all life and power. The water slowly releases the heat in the stones, which rises as steam and permeates the air to create a hot, humid atmosphere conducive to manifestation of the particular intent of the ceremony.
Every tribal group has its own traditions. Overall, there is no right or wrong way to engage in a sweat lodge ceremony, other than to enter the lodge with an open mind and be prepared for cleansing of negative emotions, healing of physical ailments, clearing of mental concerns and/or releasing of spiritual blockages. Intent within integrity is the key to the positive outcome of the ceremony.
“Ceremony done without integrity serves fear and the ego. If done with integrity, it serves love, the earth, the people and Spirit.” ~ Elena Narkiya
Tribal customs vary in regard to admitting women on their moon into the sweat lodge. Many Native American tribes will not allow a woman to enter the lodge when she is on her moon.
A major side effect of a sweat is the cleansing of undesirable toxins from the body. Bacteria and viruses cannot survive at temperatures much higher than 98.6 degrees. The rise in temperature also stimulates the endocrine glands and facilitates the release of negative ions into the air, inducing relaxation and alertness.
Donations are requested to cover costs of expenses for upkeep of the lodge. Traditionally, participants bring medicine gifts and tobacco for the sweat lodge leader and fire people, as well as food to share following the ceremony.