Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sweat Lodge


On Saturday, April 21, I attended a traditional Sioux sweat lodge in Peebles, Ohio, hosted by Parnell Necklace, whose Native singing and drumming group “Iron Necklace” will help score AMERIKA: a notebook in three parts, Art+Practice’s first feature film.

The “sweat,” as it is called, is a ritual of purification that strengthens participants for what lies ahead; it also heals the past and promotes visions. Outside the lodge was a stone altar, pictured above, which is traditionally a buffalo skull placed about three paces from the entrance and three paces from the fire. The lodge itself was constructed of branches, bent over and lashed to form a low-domed framework, approximately four- to five-feet high at the center and covered entirely in blankets.

At around 4:30 PM we stripped outside and entered the lodge, saying “Mitakuye oyasin" at the entrance, which roughly means, "To all my relations." Within, around 20 of us formed a complete circle, sitting comfortably upright against the wall of the lodge. Dry sage was scattered on the floor and passed around to everyone. Large glowing rocks, which had been baking since noon in a nearby fire, were then brought in. As the door was shut, and we adjusted to total darkness, large amounts of water were poured on the rocks to create steam. After much drumming, singing and sweating, the door was opened at intervals to refresh the lodge for a several minutes. At one of these intervals, we passed around and smoked two sacred pipes, both filled with tobacco; during another, everyone in the circle got a chance to pray out loud for guidance and thanks. Everything that was impure was left in the sweat lodge.

After completing the sweat, we gathered inside and enjoyed a feast.

Posted by Mika Johnson

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