Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Keeping the Sweatlodge healthy

In this photo there are non-native naked men and women together around a Lodge?

If you Google Sweat Lodge on the internet you will be able to come across a multitude of images and descriptions of what a Sweat Lodge is or should be. I am posting a few on this blog just in case someone out there has not seen or heard about a Sweat Lodge.

It seems that anyone can build a Lodge or conduct a Sweat Lodge Ceremony. I guess that's okay. Everyone has a right to do what they wish. Even that fellow in Arizona that charged people big money for going into a Lodge had the desire and wish to do so. He built a Lodge that held something like 65 people. Wow, now that is some Lodge. It's too bad that people died during that Sweat Lodge gathering. I won't call it a Ceremony as I think it was something else but not a Ceremony. People paid over nine thousand dollars to take part in that camp, but that was their choice. I am not against making money, Heck no. Money is okay to have. Spend it if you have it; stimulate the economy. I think the Sweat Lodge in this case and in a lot of cases loses its health, its meaning, its purpose and its Spirit.

Even Sweat Lodges back home might be losing their purpose.

I remember my first Sweat Lodge in 1981 in Roseau Rapids Manitoba.  It was a Teaching Lodge; a Madoodiswan for first timers. It was run by an Elder, Deceased Herman Atkinson. well respected in the Midewiwin Teachings. We heard the story and Teachings; the Little Boy who was given that Lodge to bring to the People in their time of need; for healing.

The Lodge was simple.  A round structure made of willows covered by canvas tarp. The ground turned to mud with all of our Sweat. There was cedar on the ground in the Lodge. We heard the old songs; we heard the language being spoken. We were told of the roles that each Door way had. We held that Little Boy (Drum Gwiiwizens) and spoke/prayed. It was overwhelmingly Spiritual. You could not help but feel the good energy.

Now we don't sit on the ground, we put down our blankets; our rugs so we don't get muddy. We furnish our Lodges with rug so the people can sit or lay down in comfort.
That is a good thing. If your comfortable, you will come out more to the Lodges. If you come out more, you will pray more. You will Learn more and hear more of the Teachings and the songs.
I think that is good, BUT that comfort may not be all (notice I use an Americanism here, by adding "all that") that good for us. We don't think about that rug beneath our bums. It has picked up, soaked up all or our energy; our sickness; and our Sweat. Where does it go?
No where it stays there. And when we go back again, it is there for us to sit on, to breath in. We take back all that energy, that pain, that was suppose to be taken out of our bodies, our Spirits, our Hearts.
Maybe there is even Mold in that rug.
We call those new Sweat Lodges, Cadillac Sweats because of the comfort. We even build our Sweat Lodges in side of buildings so we don't get cold in the winter.
I know innovation is a good thing. Having Lodges in the Winter inside of a shelter is a good way not to get sick and die. So I like that.

I think we can still have comfort in our Lodges, but we must also remember to think of the cleansing part of the Lodge.

Maybe we could use in-door out-door carpet, the type that breaths and doesn't mold?
Or those rubber mats that have holes in them, like those fatigue mats used in businesses for people that need to stand for long periods of time? So the Sweat from our bodies can flow back into the Earth.

There is also the competition that now comes with going to a SweatLodge. People are wanting it to be hot. So hot that you burn from the steam. So hot that your skin peals. So hot that you faint. So hot that you can brag that you made it. What the heck?  Common talk about a Sweat Lodge these days is hot it is/was. I guess people are going into the Lodge to sweat. Forget about the Prayer or the Meaning or the Creator. Let's just sweat and get hot. Man that is kind of crazy. If we want that forget the prayer of the pretense of Life in the Sweat. Why not use iron instead of rocks? That would be easier. The iron, like that of a railroad track, could be used over and over again. After all what is the point of using rocks, its not like they are Spirits or anything, are they? I don't even hear people addressing the Rocks as they come into the Lodge anymore. "Just put them there".  If we want to keep the Lodge healthy we should at least know what the Lodge is for. In order to know that, someone must Teach about the Lodge. And not just the generalization of what it represents. 

:D If wasn't for innovation, dreams and interpretation we would not have the Jingle Dress. We are adaptive and that is a good thing. As long as we keep the essence of who we are. Keeping the Lodge is one way of doing that. We can be comfortable but let's keep the Health of the Lodge or in other words the good life...Mino Bimaadiziwin.


  1. DO you really go into the sweat lodge naked?

  2. Buck Naked!!! I haven't been to a naked lodge, but I don't know how it is done elsewhere.

  3. and we don't really say buck naked, it might be an american thing, we say "bar arse". :0

  4. Thank you for your commentary... it was quite helpful as I'm working to connect with my Native American heritage (Mi'kmaq). Can't let the ceremony be watered down!

  5. I am an Ojibwe woman. I have attended, assisted and poured at many Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. I have never been to a Sweat Lodge Ceremony, where either the men or the women were not properly and respectfully clothed. The men wear, at least shorts and some times, long pants and the women wear a top that at a minimum covers their shoulders and a skirt that is at least ankle length. The focus of the Ceremony are the prayers and the healing. Obviously, sweating is an important and cleansing element, but it is not about how much heat one can endure. If the Lodge is so hot and the participants so uncomfortable that they can not focus on the prayers, then who ever is pouring, has missed the point entirely. In that situation, I suspect that the pourer does not realize that the safety and wellbeing of each and every attendee is their soul responsibility. Endenowe Maggin, Kiiwedinaashik

    1. I also run a lodge and have attended many. NEVER have the men or women beed naked. This is total disrespect.

  6. I have never been to a Sweat or Ceremony where you get naked? I have been to a few ceremonies and it is always about prayer, kindness and for the health of others/communities. I have also been to a few Sweats where it was too hot. I burnt.