On Monday I participated in a sweat lodge ceremony organized by Red River College Aboriginal Student Support & Community Relations. This took place near Libau Manitoba at the site of a yearly Sun Dance. The ceremony was a teaching lodge led by Bundle carrier, Sun dancer, and Spiritual Advisor for Corrections Services Canada, Brian McLeod.
A sweat lodge is an Aboriginal ceremony of purification, thankfulness, healing, and discovery. The lodge itself is built of saplings lashed together and hung with heavy cloth tarp. A dome maybe 10 feet (3 metres) in diameter, the shape of a great turtle shell.
We offered tobacco to the fire blazing outside the entrance of the lodge. The offering made in the name of all our relations. We knelt and entered the lodge sitting side by side on a circle of blankets. Brian spoke to us of vulnerability, of strength, and of living in a good way.
The tarp is pulled shut from outside. It is dark inside but for the red light of the Grandmothers and Grandfathers, the granite rocks pulled from the fire outside and placed into the earthen pit in the centre of the lodge.
The smell of cedar. The sound of rain. Drumming and rattles and voice. Water on stone; the hot breath of life. Hottest right before the flaps open, only to be closed again. Four cycles of heat. Four doorways. Giving thanks to all our relations. Awash in the fervour of sensation and gratitude.