Sweat Lodge
by Sheilah Smith

Sweat lodges are found everywhere in North America and are made of various materials: In the northeast the sweat lodge is made from willow poles with birch bark or skins; in the southeast, earth mounds; in the plains, buffalo skins; in the northwest, cedar planks.

Among Native Americans the sweat lodge is more sacrament than recreational and is associated with prayer and preparation, but in California the sweat lodge is both a dwelling place and ceremonial center. The most widespread use of the sweat lodge is by the Lakota Sioux.

There are three major types of sweat structures: The lodge in which stones are brought in and water poured on them; a lodge with a central fire in which no water is used; and a stone or clay house using a duct to bring heat from an outside fire.

The best stones to use in a sweat lodge are igneous. Lava rocks hold heat the longest and do not crumble when water is poured on them. Round stones about the size of a man's head are preferred. Stones that have quartz in them, are from river beds, or have white granite in them are never to be used, for they sometimes explode when they are heated and water is poured on them.

The purpose of the sweat bath is to remove toxins from the body. Virus and bacteria will not survive at temperatures much higher than the common body temperature of 98.6 degrees.

Negative ions are released into the air and to counter fatigue and tenseness, and the endocrine glands are stimulated by the rise in temperature.

A clear mind is necessary before entering a sweat lodge. Do not enter if you are not ready to be cleansed of such things as anger and jealousy. Also, heart disease and lung problems are made worse by a steam bath.

The pipe and tobacco are used to help send prayers up to the Creator, though not all peoples smoke during the ceremonies.

An example of a sweat lodge may be seen at Salmon Ruin Heritage Park.

LINKS: Lodges are marked with ***.

***Marythunder - West Point, TX

***TeePee Dreams - Maryland

Building - Using - Origin - Stories

Lakota Ritual of the Sweat Lodge

Origin of the Sweat Lodge

Building a Sweat Lodge

Back to Four Corners Postcard.