The sweat lodge ceremony can be found among various indigenous tribes. The use of hot steam as a form of body cleansing is also used in other cultures around the world. The sweat lodge is also a cleansing ceremony for mind and soul.
The way we host the sweat lodge ceremony comes from the Lakota Sioux. In their language they call the sweat lodge “Ini Kaga” or “Inipi” which means “creating life” or “living within”.
The framework of a sweat lodge is made from willow branches that are bent and tied together. This creates a dome-shaped construction that is covered with fabric and blankets. The sweat lodge is built low so that you enter it on all fours.
This reminds us to enter this room with humility and leave our ego at the door as it is a place of prayer. The first part of a sweat lodge ceremony is setting up the logs for the fire. Stones are placed on the logs. During prayer, the stones are used to invite the forces from the four cardinal points into the sweat lodge ceremony. Then the fire is lit. The fire keeper will be present at the hearth during the time the fire is burning and will ensure that the stones are covered with wood at all times.
The fire burns until the stones glow. Now the people enter the sweat lodge. When everyone is in the sweat lodge, the Fire Warden brings the glowing stones to the door, where an assistant takes them and places them in a hollow in the center of the sweat lodge. When all stones from the fireplace are in the hollow, the door is closed. Now only the light of the glowing stones can be seen and the first round begins.
The person leading the ceremony prays to the four cardinal points, heaven and earth. For each direction, the person pours water on the glowing stones. The water immediately turns into steam, which spreads throughout the sweat lodge. After a while, everyone present is surrounded by the steam. Now the first song is sung. All are Lakota songs and are sung in their language. They are ancient and traditional songs that have different meanings and effects on the ceremony. Many people say they lose track of time and space in this ceremony. Depending on the tradition, a sweat lodge ceremony consists of three to four rounds, between which the door is opened. Fresh, cool air now flows into the sweat lodge. Between rounds, those present have the opportunity to drink water, which will be distributed by the person presiding over the ceremony. After the third round is over, all those present leave the sweat lodge in a clockwise direction. After everyone has rested and cooled down, we end the meeting with a meal together.
(It is the process of creation reenacted in a sweat lodge. At first, the earth was so hot that life was not possible. Then rain fell, lightning and thunder rippled across the sky, and the earth cooled. An atmosphere formed conditions were created and life arose on earth. At this time the stones are no longer glowing and people leave the sweat lodge. It is a cleansing and transformative experience.)