Inipi, The Sweat Lodge
The Inipi or Sweat Lodge is an ancient ceremony of the Lakota people, and has been passed down through generations as sacred knowledge.
The Inipi ceremony is a purification ritual that prepares for divine intervention and God's blessings. It's a spiritual experience that reconnects participants with their oneness with the universe and nature.
Native American Indians believe that the Inipi lodge stands for the universe. They build it with a frame of willow poles, which they cover with blankets. The lodge houses a fireplace in the centre, which stands for the centre of the Universe. Rocks, heated in a fire outside are brought in with sticks and placed in it. Sage is scattered all over the floor A path leads out of the door to an altar where the Sacred Pipe is kept.
The lodge is heated with fiery volcanic stones, smouldering in the pit. Participants, dressed in loose clothing or swimming trunks, gather around the fire in concentric circles, legs crossed. When water is poured over the stones, it bursts into steam engulfing the Inipi and plunging it in total steaming darkness. The fragrance of cedar and sage permeates the blazing air.
Songs and drums accompany all Inipi rituals. While the people are singing, the leader of the lodge holds a pinch of tobacco and calls forth the universal force (the Four Directions, the Universe above and the Earth below) to enter and manifest itself in the lodge.
The sweat lodge ceremony lasts up to four or five hours with four rounds in the actual lodge, lasting a total of two hours. In the first round you pray for yourself, the second is for prayers for others, the third one is the healing round, and last is the round of gratitude.
Inipi is an intense challenge; the lodge is crammed and sweltering. Participants are confined in the space. It's above all a communal and spiritual ritual where all limitations are dropped and one surrenders to the womb of the earth. We definitely wouldn't recommend it to those who suffer from claustrophobia.
On your first Inipi experience it's advisable sit towards the back and let others sit in the inner ring. Even at a distance, the extreme heat emanating from the stones can be overwhelming!
Ensure you bring in towels, a change of clothes, gifts of tobacco or sage for the lodge leader and fire tender, a potluck dish and a donation for the service.
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"A great life is born in the soul, grown in the mind and lived from the heart."