benches and creekTime to Sweat

by Walter Bachteler

I have often been asked how long is a sweat lodge. This like anything else depends on your commitment. Let’s look at the general times.

One round in and out is about a half an hour. Real good for some quick prayers and mild cleansing. Possibly sing a sacred prayer song, and to support other peoples prayers. [This can  vary a lot, based on the ceremony leader’s tradition, their style, medicine, or altar, number of participants, or any other specific circumstances. Be prepared to be flexible. – Kurt]

To do all four rounds is about two hours. This showssome commitment and you have time to make prayers to all four directions . Each direction may have a different focus. There are more prayer songs. There is the ability to support the heartfelt prayers of others. From my experience they come out in the later part of the lodge. You also can focus better on how spirit has been guiding you.

If you have shown up just as the lodge door is open for the people to go in you have missed some of the ceremony. The ceremonial lighting of the fire is a call out to the spirits saying “We are here, please come to our ceremony and hear us pray.” It is a time to focus your attention on what you’re doing and not what has and has not been done. Now we are up to six hours.

The fire circle also gives time to meet your soon-to-be brothers and sisters. We go into the lodge as individuals. The lodge is the womb of the mother. The stones help bring in the essence of the Grandfathers of the the four directions and Father Sky. The essence in the womb of the mother creates the divine spark in each of us. So when we leave we are being born together from our mother earth. We leave as brothers and sisters.

Some lodge leaders smoke the sacred pipe after lodge. Often people will hang out and process what they have witnessed during ceremony. We’re up to six and a half hours.

But wait, there’s more. Wood needs to be gathered for the fire along with stones. There is also the covering of the lodge. I did all this, conducted ceremony and took off the blankets and put everything away in twelve hours, but that was when I was twenty years younger.

Fortunately the lodge gets built only once a year or two. This is a big ceremony. Prayers are made to the “Tall Standing Ones” (the trees) so we can find the right ones who are willing to give their lives for us. Then we listen, and seek those trees out. We pray with them and give them tobacco. We gather them at the lodge site and take off the branches and sometimes strip the bark. Before we put them in the earth, more tobacco and prayers are offered. The frame is made. the pit for the hot stones inside is made or cleaned out. The dirt from the pit is made into the altar. The fire pit is made or cleaned out. This is six to eight hours minimum depending on the weather and how many people you have helping.

The lodge area also needs to be maintained. The whole area is an altar. Everything should be neat and organized, and the greenbrier vines removed.

To do all this, the more people who help and take this as a form of service, the better. Spirit looks at those who help and dedicate themselves to such a pathway and blesses them, for they have helped the people and the spirits. I ask you to consider helping at the lodge. Be at Love.