Sweat Lodge Purification Ceremony: Seven Safety Steps
The Sweat Lodge, a sacred ceremony
The Sweat Lodge, a sacred ceremony
The shock of the lives lost in October 2009, in which three innocents died in a ceremony meant to challenge the scope of personal limits, incorporated an ages-old Native American ceremony for healing and renewal. That the two are blended, and that the traditional Sweat Lodge was the setting for what the authorities allege as “unlawful deaths,” is a tragedy beyond words. This ceremony’s inclusion into a decidedly extreme application of its sacred power, requires a distinct separation between the motivational speaker’s incorporation into something “new” and the ancient tradition, which is never the scene of any death.

Teacher and elder Grandfather Wallace Black Elk called the Sweat Lodge ceremony the "Stone People's Lodge." The sweat lodge begins with the heating of volcanic stones.  The dark womb-like sanctuary is steamed, like a sauna bath, by the pouring of water upon heated rocks. The Sweat Lodge is dimly lit only by the glowing stones, and is a setting for renewal through prayer. Participants’  prayers are not spoken only for one’s own needs, but directed into the community, for their people, for the Earth and all of Life.  

Such prayers are beautifully communicated in the Lakota word Mitakuye Oyas'in meaning "all my relations," and is a symbol of return to the womb of Mother Earth.   

The highly publicized trauma of last October seems to make the Sweat Lodge’s process appear dangerous. This is an impression, but instead, the traditional Sweat Lodge has safety guidelines to ensure a powerful–and safe--cleansing and healing of heart, mind and body. These guidelines avoid the alleged and specific imbalances of power and its misdirection which may have pushed some to their deaths last October.

The essential distinction is intention.  

With a clear intent and a consistent concern for others that this ceremony is protected. The logistics are only a first concern, but the necessary sincerity and care for others during a prayer session requires a responsibility on the part of the one called to pour the water on the stones, manage the heat and circulation of air, and most of all create a spiritual alignment with the invisible support of the ancestors. This is not an “eyes closed” role. The selected and responsible person follows seven steps for safety when choosing to participate in a  purification ceremony:

1)  Is the person leading the ceremony someone I trust and who has experience?

2)  Am I clear about the intention of the leader?

3)  Is the process explained in advance so that I can prepare appropriately?

4)  Am I clear about my intention in being a part of this type of ceremony?

5) Am I free ask others for their need of either air or water during the ceremony?

6)  Am I allowed to leave the lodge if needed?

7)  Am I in sufficiently strong physical and emotional health to undergo a challenging experience in heat and close quarters?

It is essential to be clear about why you are choosing such a ceremony
and to gather the necessary information to assure that you ALWAYS have choice.

Subjugating anyone’s individual power is dangerous. No one is allowed to suffer needlessly during any traditional Sweat Lodge.
< Prev   Next >