Since 2002 there has been an active sweat lodge in Hope, Maine. Lodge Keeper and Keeper of the Land is Diva Carla Sanders. Ceremonies for adult men and women are held frequently throughout the year. Special ceremonies for Women only, Men only, Ceremonial Dancers, Parents and Children, and Teens are held from time to time.
What is a Sweat Lodge?
Physically, it is a small domed structure made of bent and tied saplings, and covered with blankets and tarps to make it dark and hold the heat. Sometimes cultures have more permanent lodges in different forms, made of adobe, stone, earth, or wood. The illustration in the article show different stages of some lodges we have built in Hope.
Many indigenous peoples use a sweat lodge before other ceremonies for purification and preparation. The sweat lodge is a place and time of prayer, of purificaton, of vision, of clarity, of release, of healing. A sweat lodge ceremony is a metaphor of our Being and Connection to God.
Ceremony raises our vibration. It changes our state so that we may release what is ready to release and receive what we are ready to receive. It elevates our capacity for knowledge, vision, manifesting, forgiving, and inspiration. It is truly a concentrated transformative experience.
The words of Grandfather Joseph Rael, Beautiful Painted Arrow, from Ceremonies of the Living Spirit:
The land is who we are. The Land is our first significant energy, which we begin to recognize as ourselves. The land is where our power really lies...Native American ceremonies...are based on this intention: to reconnect, over and over and over, to the land. When we keep connected to the land, that’s how we keep our power.
Some of the metaphors of the sweat lodge, as taught by Beautiful Painted Arrow, are:
The lodge and the stone pit at the center—feminine
The fire and the fire pit—masculine
The sacred mound outside the door—the heart
Darkness—The Vastness of All That Is
The stones—the earth
Steam—The power of the Earth Mother and the Sky Father coming together
The Ceremony of the Sweat Lodge begins with the fire. The Fire that heats the stones and generates Masculine Energy is prepared in a sacred way by the Fire Keeper and Helpers. The people usually are invited to spend time with the fire to absorb its teachings and attune to the energy of the land and the ceremony. When the sweat lodge stones, called Grandmothers and Grandfathers, are ready, the Lodge leader prepares the people to enter the lodge and invites them in.
There are four rounds in most lodges here (unless a special lodge is being held, which may be different). These rounds are to each of the four directions, East, South, West, and North. Stones are brought in for each round, and the people are invited to pray with the energies of each direction. The simple instructions for this are taught in the course of the lodge. After each direction, the lodge door is opened and more stones are brought in. The stones will be blessed with sage, sweetgrass or other sacred herbs. After each person prays, water is poured upon the stones to create steam. The sweat lodge will get hot, and people will sweat. The sweat represents the cleansing, forgiveness, purification and integration of our past.
In a solo sweat lodge on 12/12 this metaphor was given to me:
The Sweat Lodge is a ceremony of physical remembrance that we are reborn every day, and we do not take our past into our future.
How do we enter the lodge, the Mother’s Womb? on the cornmeal line, from the FIRE, propelled into the lodge by the masculine fire energy. We stay in the lodge/Womb for a season, a timeless tour of the Medicine Wheel. There we shed the past, and are carried to the center. We are reborn, emerging from the Mother head first. Remembering what we knew when we were born: That we are divine, and we know why we are here and what we have to do. Whole and perfect just as we are!
The form of a Sweat Lodge Ceremony in Hope includes gathering to prepare the lodge site; creating quiet time for prayer ties, teaching, and going within; The Sweat Lodge; and a pot luck feast and social time after. The lodges in Hope are done clothed, women wearing dresses or skirts and modest tops, and men wearing trunks or shorts, or a sarong.
Maintaining a standing sweat lodge takes a lot of work for the leader and the keeper of the land. People who come to sweat are asked to participate in the preparations. This work preparation is a sacred part of the ceremony, as is the feast following the lodge.
It is also requested that participants give a donation of money to support the lodge and the land. This offering is also a sacred part of the ceremony. It opens the receiver to the full ownership of the blessings received. It honors the lodge leader, firekeeper, and spirits of the land with material support to sustain their work. It honors Spirit by offering from your abundance.
No one is ever turned away because they do not in the moment have money available. We do not pay to pray. We affirm the abundance and the ability of all people who come to ceremony to make a valuable contribution to support and honor the work. Aho.
Special gifts of work to help with the many tasks needed to support the land and ceremony are always welcome. Ask Diva Carla what is needed, and how you may offer your special skills and energy.
Sweat Lodges and other ceremonies are announced primarily through an email list managed through an online service. You may sign up at this link: http://eepurl.com/vPEl
What to bring to a Sweat Lodge
--2 bundles of tobacco, one for your prayer ties, one a gift to the lodge leader
or sage bundles, or other sacred herbs that may be used in ceremony
--material for prayer ties: ¼ yard of cotton fabric in
yellow, black, red, and white; a spool of string (butcher's string is good)
--clothing for sweat: women wear a dress with sleeves and calf-length hemline, or skirt with modest top,
men wear swim trunks or sarong, and shirt
--food for the pot luck feast
--a cantaloupe size stone for the fire*
-- old blankets if you have any to contribute to the lodge.*
--Donation for Hope Peace Ceremonies