Some version of the “ritual of sweat” exists in almost every traditional culture. I was familiar with Sauna, Russian and Turkish baths, and savored the experience of purification. Some years back I was introduced to the “Temascal,” or sweat lodge, from The Red Road, the Native American spiritual path, their version of this universal ritual.
On May 11, I was honored to participate with Paolo Paris, and Andres who assisted him, witnessing the process of preparation and its various stages. Each step of the process that spanned a couple days, required being patiently connected to the elements. First a spot on the land was located to construct the lodge. We made prayers and a tobacco offering, asking permission of the spirits and guardians of the land to build the Temascal. Paris and Andres gathered wood for the fire, then harvested bamboo and built the structure. Paris described their experience.
“Since I was a child I had a strong connection with spirits. A compass indicated that the door we had created for the lodge was precisely at the east. I was looking for a vine for the top and one appeared exactly the right size. It fit perfectly! A large feather appeared just at the entrance of the Temascal.”
“When we got to the river to look for stones, there was a white horse, a good omen. I waited till I could hear the stones. One called, “please, choose me!” I could feel the other stones that were meant to come. (thirty two in all) This was all unfolding perfectly, it all felt magical. We were guided and supported by spirit all the way.”
As the flames from the fire rose into the air, the other participants arrived. We asked the Guardians of the six directions permission to perform the ceremony. Paris blew the conch. Everyone threw tobacco into the fire making their own prayers, all were smudged with kopal, a sacred resin from Mexico used for purification.
Paris announced that the theme of the Temascal was “transformation.” Finally we all sat in a circle within the round lodge, in the womb of mother earth. “Tonanzin,” or Pachamama. The fire-men passed in the red hot stones.
The appointed fire woman applied Kopal to each stone as she shared a word, an intention, “love, clarity, community, transformation, etc.” The healing aroma purified the air filling our senses. Prayers, songs, and steam followed as water infused with herbs was brushed onto the hot rocks with a broom made from leaves. The heat was intense. We communed, dropping masks, exposed in the raw presence of the elements, the ancestors. Paris wished a happy birthday to Bob Marley and we all sang “One Love,” joining in the chorus,“ Let’s come together and be all right!”.
When east, the direction of water was called, a strong rain pounded down on us.
“For many years the Temascal and other rituals of the Red Road were hidden. Now they are coming out because it is a time when many need healing and we are called to come together to heal our mother earth! No more destruction, no more pollution, no more chemicals! It is time for all traditions, all races to come together!“ Paris exclaimed.
“Fuerza,” (power, energy!) we yelled together. As we sat and shared fruit at the end of ceremony, there was a sense of gratitude for the experience of healing and community. We hope to offer the Temascal as a monthly event. Please join us next time!
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