Native American Sweat Lodge Ceremony

The Native American sweat lodge ceremony is an ancient ritual for cleansing the body and the soul .

 sweat lodge ceremony


The traditional sweat lodge is hemisphere-shaped hut build of saplings and covered with blankets or animal skins . The small entrance to the sweat lodge is large enough to enter crawling . The entrance usually faces east .


The women are first to enter the sweat lodge . They crawl clockwise until reaching the other end of the door . A fireplace is positioned in the center of the hut . The shaman enters last . All the participants are handed sage springs . The sage is a sacred plant for the native Americans . The participants the chew the sage until the turns to homogeneous smear , with which the participant must rub to his face hands and ears . This is done to protect the skin from the high temperature .


The sweat lodge ceremony is divided in several different stages .


During the first stage few pre-heated stones are brought in and placed in the fireplace . The stones are then drizzled with sage and other sacred herbs and sprinkled with water . Then the shaman starts singing chants . These chants are a form of warm greetings for the ancestral spirits . The sweat lodge is hot and completely dark . The only light is thrown by the smoldering fire .


Sweat Lodge ceremony sacred sage


Due to the high temperature and the divine essences the participants are falling in a state of trance . During that state they don’t feel the burning heat .


The chants are an indivisible part of the sweat lodge ceremony .


The shaman and the participant sing these chants , accompanied by the hide drum . Between the different stages of the sweat lodge ceremony a fresh water is brought .


During the next stage the shaman prays  to the spirits . He also makes offerings to them , usually  tobacco and some other sacred plants and herbs rolled in fabric .


The third stage is the healing stage . They shaman prays to the spirits to heal and aid the participants in their life journey . There is a special breading technique . These breading techniques are different for each participant . The shaman gives the breading instructions on each participant at the beginning of the sweat lodge ceremony . The instructions depend on the person’s problems and needs .


In the last stage of the sweat lodge ceremony the sacred pipe is brought in .


Sweat Lodge ceremony sacred pipe


Then all must smoke from the pipe , as a symbol of a gratitude to the spirits and their help and guidance . Then the shaman passes the words of the spirits. These words are in a form of instructions and guidance and are different for each of the participants . The exit of the sweat lodge is done in the same manner as the entering . One after another , clockwise and crawling . After the sweat lodge ceremony is over and everyone get out they are given food and water .


This unique and profound experience cleans your body of the toxins , alleviates the stress and the negative energy . It improves the metal condition and the overall emotional and physical health . But most importantly , the sweat lodge ceremony is a way to connect with the spirits , to acquire their wisdom , their guidance and their blessings .


Related Literature

The Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge: History and Contemporary Practice

by Raymond A. Bucko


The Native American Sweat Lodge: History and Legends

by Joseph Bruchac


Comanche Medicine Man: Kenneth Coosewoon's Great Vision, Blue Medicine, and Sweat Lodge Healings

by Clifford E. TrafzerBeverly Sourjohn Patchell and Ronald Ray Cooper


Shamanic Healing: Traditional Medicine for the Modern World

by Itzhak Beery