Native American Sweat Lodges Connect With Mother Earth

native indian sweat lodge by walt hubis flickr 800

Holistic activities promoting good health and peace of mind are becoming more popular as people seek to relieve stress and reconnect with the natural world. As with yoga and meditation, the ages-old Native American practice of using a sweat lodge can be a useful therapy for mind, body, and soul, too.

Conducted properly and safely, the sacred ceremony of the sweat lodge is considered to help empower the spirit within the participant. Sweating helps rid the body of toxins, cleansing the soul, and guiding the mind to look at the world a little differently. Surviving modern imperialism, this ancient ritual offers practitioners a mysterious reconnection with Mother Earth, and is a treasured holistic tradition.

Experiencing the Mystery of Spiritual Rebirth

Sweat lodges exist in native cultures all over the world. The lodge is a place for detoxifying and healing the mind, body, and soul. Rituals within the lodge are carried out to cleanse participants, and guide them in experiencing the mystery of spiritual rebirth.

Typically constructed from natural materials, sweat lodges are often shaped like a dome. Indigenous people, including the Native Americans, construct and use them for ancient ceremonies and rituals. Participants can range from a few people to a dozen or more, depending on the size of the lodge. Traditional etiquette is followed with regards to the dress and behavior of the participants, and special food is eaten after leaving the lodge.

“The Rocks are the Grandfathers”

For the ceremony, special rocks are carried into the lodge, which will be used to generate steam. Yonv FrenchHawk of North Carolina explains, “When we bring rocks in, the rocks are the grandfathers, the oldest beings on Earth, the messengers from the beginning of time, and we set them gently into the umbilical cord of Mother Earth. This is the most powerful part of the sweat lodge, when we call in our ancestors.”

The leader carefully pours water over the pre-heated rocks in a fire pit in the center of the lodge. Steam rises and fills the lodge like a purifying spirit. The steam and heat create a sauna effect, enwraping each individual closely. Prayers, meditation, sharing thoughts, or singing accompanies this cleansing ritual.

Honoring the Sacred Feminine Spirit

In many tribal cultures, such as the Native American Cherokee, only men use the sweat lodge. The purpose for their practice of this ritual is to honor the sacred Feminine Spirit. It is believed that women already have this spirit inherent within them, therefore they have no need of the sweat lodge. However, in other native cultures, many women participate in the sweat lodge rituals, along with the men.

stewart mineral springs sweat lodge(Image source:

Experience a Traditional Native Indian Sweat Lodge

Most traditional sweat lodges in the U.S. are used only by Native Americans, but there are also lodges open to the public. One such lodge is Stewart Mineral Springs Retreat in California. Allied with the Karuk Indian tribe, sweat lodge ceremonies are held there every Saturday.

Another popular sweat lodge open to the public is Sacred Groves, an eco-retreat in Washington. During spring, autumn, and winter, sweat lodge rituals are included in their sacred ceremonies.

An Ancient Practice Is Helping the Modern World

Among the more holistic methods of healing that are gaining in popularity, sweat therapy is finding its place within mainstream medicine. Renewing from the skin into the spirit, and dispelling toxins out of the body, the mind becomes refreshed by the process of sweating.

Using sweat therapy to connect with the spirit world, practitioners believe that physical ailments are relieved during this connection. Conjuring her from nature, through the natural elements of earth, fire, and water, connecting with the sacred Feminine Spirit is a mysterious and healing experience. The entire ecology of the participants’ spirit is cleansed and renewed through this ancient ceremony, restoring peaceful harmony to mind, body, and soul.

sweat lodge and altar by cy-v flickr(Image note and source: Sweat lodge and altar in NL by CY-V, flickr)
(Top image: Sweat lodge in NV by Walt Hubis, flickr)

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About the Author

Gina Merlino is a freelance writer who cares about environmental issues. She has a Bachelor's in Philosophy, a Master's in Engaged Humanities, and is an avid reader of the news. You can find me on Twitter.