On Sunday I participated in an authentic Native American Sweat Lodge ceremony. It was so fascinating. The women have to wear dresses and this point becomes funny later in the journey. You first get sage smoke waved across your body with a feather that is very special and has its own box for storage. Before you crawl into the dirt muddy floor you have to bow down and kiss mother earth. OK dirty lips won't kill me. The ceremony starts by bringing in 7 stones (lava rock) that have been heated to a million degrees in a burning fire for several hours. I was honored with being asked to be the one who crossed each stone with a sage braid and herbs were also sprinkled on by a different person. The stones are placed in with deer antlers on to the middle of the circle. Everyone settled in and you close the flap. Much singing and prayers are offered then each person shares a bit. A bit like an AA meeting combined with church but very reverent to mother earth and about being a kind and gentle person not at all preachy. Then after about 15 or 20 minutes the flap opens but you do not exit. Seven more stones are brought in and another round goes with different herbs. More singing which I did not know but it was one persons 50th birthday so I did know how to sing that part. Break again - flap opens and by this time I am dripping wet with sweat along with everyone else. Round 3 starts and it was my turn to share and I was crying - not sobbing but tears were rolling down my face as I expressed my appreciation to the group for inviting me to join in their ritual. It was very moving and I said a few more things and then it was time to take medicine. Well, not knowing exactly what the medicine was I participated. A little medicine never hurt anyone, right? It was very dark and I thought it had a slight greenish tint so I thought maybe Kiwi, oh yummy. I took the smallest piece I could find but it was not Kiwi - tasted more like mushroomy dirt. Then a huge jug of tea was passed around and many took huge swigs. I only took a sip as it looked a bit funky like it was made with wild herbs and bat butts and such. Round 3 starts and they put a very powerful strong herb on the rocks and by the time it was over I thought I was breathing fire. It was so very hot I thought I might spontaneously combust or my hair might catch on fire but I made it. Some people were laying on the ground at this point and I wondered if they passed out but everyone was fine just weak. Flap opens and man was I happy. Air - fresh air never felt so extremely wonderful! There are traditionally 4 rounds but I excused myself after round 3 along with 2 other ladies. Later I find out what I drank and ate was Peyote. Yikes - I did not have any strange visions or dreams other than thinking I was a fire breathing dragon - just kidding - just felt very relaxed and calm. I only took small amounts but no one else acted any differently either. One lady became a bit sick to her stomach but it passed. Now back to my dress - when I came out and finally rested enough to go change my clothes I noticed that my hands were purple. That alarmed me so I asked one of the women if that was normal and she laughed and said well it is probably faded off from your skirt - which it did. My legs are purple, my hips are purple - it looks like I fell down a flight of steps and my body is totally brusied. It has not washed off all the way - so maybe it will fade out in a few days.
What an experience - it was truly enlightening. Afterwards they had a huge BarBQ and fun was had by all. Try it you might like it. Or at least be able to say you participated.