Sweat Lodge as Community Ceremony


to whatever pantheon. We welcome you to invite and invoke your De - ities, call upon your Spirit Guides, Allies, Avatars, however you meet the Divine. The Making of Ceremony Ceremony does not begin when we light the sacred fire, when we bring in the hot stones, or even close the Sweat Lodge door. Ceremony begins the moment we manifest our intention to provide ceremony for the people. It begins when we make our first logistical preparations for Lodge. Even now, over the winter months, we have begun our ceremo- nies with the planning for the coming season. We are often asked what it takes to learn the traditions of Sweat Lodge Ceremonies. Traditional teaching amounts to a lot of “chop wood, carry water, haul stones.” It’s coming early, staying late, paying attention, and being careful. It’s taking care of the site and the people that come to ceremony. It is compassion, respect and service for the Traditions, the Ceremony, the Land, and the People. It’s a lot of hard work when done properly. Running sweat is organizing, caring for and preparing the site,

Sweat Lodge ceremony is older than recorded history and is prac- ticed in some form by almost every culture in the world. We heat an- cient rocks dull red in a fire and bring these glowing hot stones into the center of The Lodge, a tightly enclosed, usually dark space. When the lodge door is closed, removing all outside light and sound, we pour water on the rocks to envelop and bathe our bodies with this hot, va- porized water. Our minds are quieted into the eternal now. In most traditions we are encouraged, in this steam-filled private darkness, to give up our hesitations; and through prayer and sacred songs, we ask for support, health, and help. We offer thanks for all the good things we have received. Such is the core of Sweat Lodge Ceremony as prac- ticed around the world. We have provided the Sacred Stone People’s Lodge at Four Quar - ters Interfaith as an act of service for the Community and our guests since our founding in 1995; the church subsidizes the significant mon - etary costs of space, materials and firewood for the ceremonies. Our Ceremony Leaders represent a number of sacred traditions, and we follow the same interfaith view as Four Quarters Interfaith. All are

gathering good stones, our herbs and medicines, building the fires, making the Lodge ready. Ceremony Leaders prepare their ceremonial items and spirit medicines. Typically this takes place before the first guest arrives and goes toward one purpose — creating a good place for the People to pray, to be healed and purified, and to talk to Spirit. After it’s all done, it’s physical - ly and spiritually cleaning the site in a good way. All of this is an integral part of the ceremony. It is also very import- ant to understand this is a community effort — these ceremonies are not pos - sible without community support, and in turn the ceremonies serve the com- munity. In addition to our Ceremony Lead- ers, we have a community of Sweat Lodge staff and helpers, who serve

welcome to come pray. We do not con- cern ourselves with whom or what you pray to; the ceremony creates a sanc- tuary for prayer. Our Ceremony Lead- ers have studied and trained for a long time in their respective traditions be- fore pouring water for others, especially for a community. We try very hard to do these things in a sacred manner, to show the utmost respect for the tradi- tions of our teachers and all our guests. Our Water Pourers represent a number of ceremonial traditions, and we perform ceremony in the manner in which we were trained. A Water Pour- er might pour in Lakota Style, Wiccan, Dineh, Siberian, or any one of the many other traditions that embrace Sweat as a sacred practice. All of our facilitators make concessions and contributions to this unique community. This reflects

as Site Keepers, Fire People, Doorkeepers, Greeters, and all-around helpers. In practice, everybody does a bit of everything. For those who want to assist at Sweat Lodge, and perhaps learn a thing or two, we encourage people to come early and stay late, roll up your sleeves and pitch in, pay attention, learn how we do these things. Volunteers are always welcome; it’s how we make new staff. We learn by doing. There is always work to do, and a lot of good times, too. This is a demanding pathway of service; if it calls to you, you will work hard and be held to very high standards. Sweat Ceremony: Expectations and Considerations For those who seek a deeper experience of Sweat Lodge, we offer two weekend gatherings in the Spring and Fall of the year. Spring Sweat Lodge Teachings over Memorial Day weekend will explore the various ways of Sweat for those interested in a deeper un- derstanding of our ceremonies and how we go about them. Our prima- ry purpose is to help raise up our current and future staff, but all in - terested are welcome. We share so these traditions can benefit future generations. We in the Sweat Team are acutely aware we stand on the shoulders of Giants. It has been an almost universal sentiment of our teachers, across a number of traditions, that these traditions be made available to those in need, and they should not vanish from this world. We hold a Com- munity Sweat Weekend on our Fall September Moon Service week -

the interfaith and multicultural nature of the extended Tribe that is Four Quarters, bringing their own songs, history, and relationships to the Land and each other. In a Four Quarters Sweat, you may hear some ceremonial songs in Lakota or Dineh, but also Wiccan chants, hymns, and spirituals, maybe even a Broadway show tune, as long as it contributes to the ceremony. Every person who comes to pray will bring something special to the circle. The Ceremony Leaders don’t perform any special magic; they just mind the door, pour water, and make sure there is a safe place for prayer and healing. The Spirits that come do all the work. What mostly changes in ritual and ceremony is you — your relationship to the uni- verse, the divine, and each other. If you’re lucky, you might even shed some of your personal or spiritual baggage. Your experience of Sweat Lodge will be influenced largely by what you bring to the ceremony. Our sweat ceremonies facilitate personal and inner cleansing and healing. The lodge brings us into connection and harmony with the Mother Earth and all of Creation. This ceremony is open to all people of all beliefs. It remains a gift and an offering to those who are open and willing to further their own personal journey, and who want to participate and experience the beauty and wonder of this most pow- erful and healing ceremony. It is a place of refuge and of healing, to repair your spirit and to obtain personal answers and guidance. You do not have to follow a Medicine Tradition or a Native Pathway to pray or receive the health and spiritual benefits from Sweat Lodge Ceremo - ny. Just pray; the Spirits will listen. Pray to whomever you speak to,

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PATHWAYS—Spring 23—13

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