This past week I attended a Sweat Lodge put on by UOIT’s Indigenous Services. My Honours Thesis is on Aboriginal women, and therefore I thought I would go and give it a try, to put an experience to the topic I was studying.
I attended with a friend of mine, and I can honestly say it was one of the most amazing experiences I have ever partaken in. Without digging up all the little details surrounding the Sweat, I will explain how it works.
You put rocks, called Grandfathers, into a specially designed fire and allow them to heat for 2 hours while you build the lodge. It consists of a frame made from tree branches cloaked in canvas. While the stones are heating, Rick, the Sweat leader, taught us about the significance of each thing we were doing: from spreading the tobacco on trees that we used branches from to offer thanks, to the way we had to use our left hand to do things because it was closest to your heart. Once the Grandfathers are hot enough, we crawl into the lodge and place them in a pit, 7 at a time. Cedar water is then poured over them, creating incredible amounts of steam and heat, and you sweat absolute buckets. After everyone has a chance to pray either out loud or in their heads, 7 new Grandfathers are brought in and the process is repeated a total of 4 times.
Walking out of the lodge after it was finished was so freeing. I left everything inside of me in that lodge and asked for forgiveness or healing for myself and those around me. I was able to let the steam wash over me and cleanse me, so to speak. I’m not usually spiritual or religious, but this was a beautiful experience. It’s not traditional mental health counselling or westernized approaches to mental health, but it was so eye opening and freeing. I cannot wait to attend the next one on March 18th!