I recommend that you seek out a Native American Elder to learn more about this very sacred ceremony.

I strongly Recommend that you seek out a Native American Elder to learn about this very sacred ceremony. The Sweat Lodge is a Native American ceremonial sauna or steam bath used to purify and re-connect with the spiritual source of all life. If you ever have the opportunity to experience this sacred ceremony with a Native Elder this would be best. In the mean time you can learn a lot about Native American spirituality by reading about the sweat lodge ceremony and practices online.

I built my first sweat lodge in Virgina with a Blackfoot Elder, but my first sweat lodge ceremony took place along the Gatineau River in Quebec. To build a lodge a flat clearing at the edge of a stream or river is best. The Elder usually has all the supplies needed in a small sack, including ceremonial pipe and tobacco.

Set out into the woods to find long straight poles of very pliable saplings (20' long). Willow or poplar saplings are best. The longer and straighter the better. Once you have gathered about 20 or so come back to the clearing and trace out a 10' diameter circle on the ground. Place the thick end of the poles into the earth and bend them to form a dome structure and wrap the joints with twine to secure them in place. The door is facing the east. The rising sun.

Dig out a 3' deep hole in the center of the lodge and remove the earth. Locate 12 stones (about 6" dia.) and prepare a large bon fire about 10' away from the lodge. Create a crib structure out of hardwood to hold the stones above the fire. Light the bonfire and start to heat the rocks.

Cover the lodge structure with overlapping sleeping blankets and heavy canvas. The original sweat lodges used skins and other heavy materials to make sure that none of the heat or steam escaped. Once the lodge is completely sealed and air tight collect the red-hot stones (using a pitchfork) and carry them into the lodge.

The (extremely hot) stones are placed carefully into the hole in the center of the circle. As soon as everyone enters the lodge (clockwise), the door flaps are closed. The ceremony is performed in 4 cycles. The Elder sprinkles tobacco over the hot stones and the aroma fills the lodge.

At the beginning of each cycle water is poured over the rocks. Cycle 1: The Elder offers prayers to the four directions, Grandfather/ God and Mother Earth. Cycle 2: Prayers for the universe, the four-legged, the winged, the plants, the water spirits and all of mankind. Cycle 3: Prayers for all taking part in the ceremony and their love circles. Cylce 4: Prayers for the strength everyone needs to live each day, for peace in the world for all. The elder then adds a piece of sage into the Pipe bowl and first offers the Pipe to the four directions, Grandfather/God and Mother Earth.

Items you will need

  • a clearing

  • a bonfire

  • 12 rocks

  • a bucket of water

  • a shovel, pitch fork

  • a few economy sleeping bags.

  • a small hatchet

Tip

  • Introduce yourself to a Native American Elder and ask if he/she would be willing to include you in a sweat ceremony. Be extremely careful with the hot stones. I recommend only doing a sweat ceremony with an Elder (Step1) The best rocks are called "peridotite" (peridotite is a dense, coarse-grained igneous rock) or - buy your rocks from a place that makes or sells sauna kits.