“Native American Sweat”
I arrived at the location just as it was getting dark. I wore shorts and was bare-chested like most of the men that were there. The women that attended wore long skirts and t-shirts. The sweat lodge was built directly on the earth with no floor but the dirt the earth has given us. Constructed of thin wood that had been bent in an arch, the lodge was an oval shape approximately 15 feet by 7 feet in diameter. These sticks were then covered with blankets and tarps leaving just one small flap at the opening facing the fire. From the inside of the lodge can be seen a large circle on the center of the ceiling symbolizing the medicine wheel, and four directions North - Waboose (Buffalo), South - Shawnodese (Coyote), East - Wabun (Golden Eagle) and West - Mudjekeewis (Grizzly Bear). It was made out of the same wood as the rest of the shelter. There was a large fire burning in the earth just outside the lodge which unaware to me held the fiery hot boulders which would be placed in the hut.
The medicine man asked the nineteen participants to remove their shoes and any jewelry they might be wearing. Then with the women first, we formed a hoop around the fire. One at a time each person walked around the fire to the North, and was smudged with sage and an eagle feather letting the smoke flow over the entire body. The burning of herbs for emotional, psychic, and spiritual purification is also common practice among many healing, and spiritual groups. The ritual of smudging can be defined as "spiritual house cleaning". The Medicine man also said a prayer which I didn’t quite catch. After this, each person walked around the outside perimeter of the lodge, and then enterd with a warm welcome from the Medicine man. The Holy man told each person exactly where to sit as he or she arrived through the flap, it was very crowded.
As I stared to get settled in to my seat I could feel an excited but nervous feeling coming over me. When everyone was inside the...