The sweat lodge is an Indigenous Native American tradition that has different meanings depending upon the tribe who builds it and the number of saplings used to construct it. Built of bent saplings, generally in the form of the Plains wickiup, sweats are dome-shaped structures used primarily for purposes of purification. The larger purpose of sweat lodge can range from simple cleansing to spiritual rebirth, and nearly all tribes of the Plains and Northern Medicines practice sweat ceremony in some way.
Since most do not realize that the Indiginous peoples were as diverse In their practices as we are, it is difficult to tell people that all sweats are the same – they are not. A Lakota lodge, for instance, is called “Inipi” and is built from a certain number of saplings, whereas a Cree/Ojibwe Lodge is called “Nokomis” (Grandmother) and is built from a different number of saplings. Kanonhsa is the Mohawk word for their sweatlodge. There are many, many variations on this same theme. Lakota use Willow to build their lodges. Cree use whatever sapling is required for their particular medicine. (Lodges must be created from the same tribe of sapling, or the medicine of the lodge will be conflicted (the Lakota refer to this as hyoka).
Our lodge at Sivananda is a Cree Medicine Lodge, built the same way that the Cree built lodges 100,000 years ago, with the same adherence to tradition as it has been passed down from Elder Segak (Skunk) to Elder Kiwitinook Epiwait (Standing North Wind) (both of Woodland Cree origin) to Mkwpgn (HeatherPrincipe) who runs the lodges for over twenty years at Sivananda Yoga Ranch. Grandmother is built now of locust for her particular medicine.
We welcome all to the lodge. It is commonly believed that women on their moon are unwelcome at lodge. This is not true of Cree lodge, and women on their moon in our lodge are considered sanctified medicine givers to all participants. Since Cree Lodge is built in the form of woman, with the same structure, it is believed that women on their moon bring special power of creation to our people.
We look forward to sweating with you all. Saweetamoen – (Blessings to all)