A sweat is a ritual practised among indigenous peoples, a sacred prayer ceremony primarily for cleansing, believed to be essential in healing and restoring balance in one’s life. These ceremonies take place in sweat lodges, which are heated dome-shaped structures generated by steam created from pouring water onto heated rocks. For Indigenous peoples, the sweat lodge has spiritual, cultural and practical purposes. The sweat lodge is a place to connect with Indigenous heritage and culture.
Contrary to popular beliefs, the sweat is not just a sauna; it is a very sacred ceremony. A sweat is a prayer ceremony for cleansing which is essential to healing and restoring balance in one’s life. Some practitioners use the sweat for other purposes such a doctoring, preparing people for other ceremonies or to undertake specific projects, to secure spiritual support for individual or group initiatives, and to give thanks for accomplishments, honors received, or the benefits of life in general.
Given the sacredness of the sweat you need to be humble and pray to purify yourself physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Being respectful in behavior and speech during all stages of the ceremony is essential.
The sweat is a cleansing ceremony therefore it is recommended that you refrain from the use of recreational drugs and/or alcohol at least four days prior. For your personal well being, do not enter the sweat if you used recreational drugs and/or alcohol 48 hours prior to the sweat. Following the sweat you need to refrain from using recreational drugs and/or alcohol for a minimum of 24 hours after, preferably four days.
Women who are menstruating, are about to begin or are just completing their monthly menstruation should not participate in the sweat. Further out of respect they should not come to the site. If it is essential for a woman who is menstruating to be at the sweat, discuss that matter with the practitioner who may propose alternatives.
Don’t eat a heavy meal right before the sweat; it puts a strain on the circulatory and respiratory systems. Eat lightly, and wait a few hours.
Minimize perfume scents and make up. During the sweat makeup will run down your face, into your eyes causing them to become irritated.
Jewelry should be minimized and what is worn needs to be removed before going into the sweat. Also note metal jewelry can become hot enough to burn the wearer.
Eyeglasses and contacts need to be removed before going into the sweat. They can be left at the altar.
For more information on what to bring to the sweat, check out these documents.