In order to achieve this total mingling with the spirits of the earth, many
Native Americans traditionally cleansed and healed their minds and bodies
through a purification ceremony known as the sacred sweat. "The sweat lodge
is a very powerful tool in meditation," Tom told us. "It is a good
place for community, and a great prayer place."
All during the appointed day of our sweat ceremony we carefully tended a
bonfire, until the piles of rocks within it were rendered a pulsating red. It
was growing dark by the time we carried the rocks, using shovels and buckets,
into the center of the low, dome-shaped huts. Reverently, in groups of eight or
nine, we filed in on hands and knees to surround the glowing pits.
The smell of hay and earth and burning herbs mingled with the sizzle of water
on rock. Shadows danced around the rocks, bearing the secret of the sacred fire
as the heat rose, pervading the darkness. There, in the bosom of the earth, our
bodies and senses were fully awakened.
"It's almost time," a voice came from outside the hut. The oneness
completed itself, and we entered the night.
"Out there is everything you'll, ever need." Tom's voice filled our
heads. "From your most intricate medication to clothing, to fire -- all
your needs are fulfilled, and most of your wants. Earth Mother is a grand
In the distance the rumbling began, as thunder filled the night air. Coyote
thunder. The wisdom of the medicine tracker. It approached us from the far
fields, resounding in our minds and bodies, and bringing with it a lightning,
which opened our hearts.
[Reprinted by permission from New Age magazine, September 1982.
Copyright in 1982 by New Age Communications, Inc., Box,. 1200, Allston, @ MA
02134. All rights reserved.]