Sacred Sweat Lodge
"Greet the Wind Ceremony"
Black Elk Speaks Inipi The Rite of Purification
The Lakota term for sweat lodge is Inipi which means 'to live again'. Inipi is a purification rite and is necessary in order to help the vision quest seeker enter into a state of humility and to undergo a kind of spiritual rebirth.
The sweat lodge is central to Inipi. Prayers offered there draw on all the powers of the universe - Earth, Water, Fire and Air. In the old days, Inipi was done before any major undertaking to purify the body and gain strength and power.
The actual lodge itself is a dome constructed of 16 young willow trees placed in a circle, traditionally covered with hides so no light could penetrate inside.
On the outside, the formation of the site comprises an earth mound just outside the door of the sweat lodge, facing east, and a fire pit containing stones. The fire represents the sun. Another mound partially encircling the fire pit represents the crescent moon. This is the outer world or cosmos; the inner world is the sweat lodge. It represents the womb of the universe from which souls are created anew.
Prayers are said at each stage of the construction of a sweat lodge. When it is completed, a burning coal is brought in and sweetgrass below
Sweetgrass (Heirochloe odorata)
The bases of the leaves are broad, white and hairless. The undersides of the leaves are shiny, flat and hairless. The average length of the leaves is 20 inches. When the grass is dried out, the leaves curl. Most other grasses stay flat when dried.
The leaves are dried, twisted into braids and burned as vanilla scented incense in some sacred ceremonies.
In the Native culture, sweetgrass is used to make the world famous baskets and other crafts. The sweet, vanilla-like smell lasts for years. The scent only develops when the leaves have dried.
Sweetgrass is used in virtually every sacred ceremony performed by the Lakota (Sioux) people, making it one of the most honored native plants of the Plains.
When used in traditional ceremonies, the rising smoke from the burning sweetgrass symbolizes purification of the people’s hopes, needs and oneness with all things to the Great Spirit, Wakan Tanka.
It is burned by the leader of the Inipi to purify the lodge. The pipe is smoked and carried outside, where it is placed on the mound of earth.
other participants enter the lodge, sitting in a circle on sacred
Many species of sage or Artemesia are found across North America in the Great Plains region. Blooming July - October, and reaching one to three feet tall, this aggressive plant is covered in a fuzzy mat of gray hairs. It prefers to grow in rocky, sandy and gravelly and along roads and railways.
To the Plains Indians, the prairie sage was one of the important medicinal and ceremonial plants of their culture. When burned, it was used in ceremonies for purification purposes. Some tribes hung it in their homes for protection.
Sage is very aromatic, containing volatile oils. The fragrance is most noticeable during the warm days of summer. The oils are toxic if ingested in large quantities, but it was utilized medicinally in a number of ways. Sage was used as a foot deodorizer, to cure headaches, treat coughs, hemorrhoids, stomach troubles, and as poultice for wounds. Rubbing the leaves of the plant on the skin served as a short term mosquito repellent.
And the Pipe is brought in and smoked. The heated rocks are placed on the center fireplace and the Pipe returned to the earth mound. Then, the door is closed.
During the ritual, the door is thrown open four times to represent the four ages described by the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Woman by Native Americans here. The fourth time, participants leave the lodge, emerging from dark to light which represents the liberation from the physical universe. All that is impure is left in the sweat lodge.
The Native Americans are the "Keeper" of the related understand this Sacred Ritual who continues to offer the "Sacred Pipe" to all their relations to ensure truth is known to all family members. Remember our Brother Wolves, our Dog Soldiers of the Universe, know how to travel great distances in search of Truth and Knowledge. Each of us have our place within the Universe, the Wolf returns to the clan to teach us and share this great Medicine of the Purification of the Sacred Fire. To empower us with the deep, hidden light from within to growth and full potential when we follow our Dreams in the Vision Quest and Rituals of Enipi (Sweat Lodge) or various ceremonies of "Fire Cleansing". We work for only one thing in the world, because we love the Realms of Heaven and Earth. This Road that is Red, following the Laws of love, can be extremely difficult and arduous. Our Shepard, the keeper of the sacred fire, the Dog Warrior, is the utmost of dedication and earnestness, allowing this Warrior to Protect all the Realms, and the blue blood family feels safe within the Reflection of our Hearts. Let our Souls always remember the Sacred Fire in our Dreams along the path of the Yellow way, brightly burning desire of the breathren, the golden brotherhood of kingsmen, our relations from the Four Sacred Directions.
White Buffalo Calf Woman,
your Twin Deer Mother
Running Eagle Shooting Star
your Father Red Hand
Pray With Elders around the World
The Inipi Lodge
The Inipi Lodge itself is made with a frame of twelve to sixteen willow poles. These poles are bent over each other and stuck into the ground and covered with hides or blankets. When the lodge is finished, it stands for the universe. Usually the door faces the West from where the rain and storms come. It is where WAKINYAN, Thunderer lives.
The round fireplace at the center of the Lodge stands for the center of the universe, where Wakantanka lives. In it are put the rocks that were heated in a fire outside and brought in with forked sticks. Sage covers the floor all around. A path leads out of the door to a small dirt mound, which is the altar where the Sacred Pipe is kept.
When it is time to start the ceremony, those who are going to take part in it come in through the door and say a prayer to Wakantanka who has put them on this earth. The Lead Man prays and asks Him to purify them and help them in what they are doing. In this and in all things they need His help, because they are humble creatures.
Once they are inside, the men sit in a circle on the sage. Everyone is silent, and then the Pipe is passed in, and everyone watches as the hot rocks are brought in and put into the pit. When the pit is filled, the Leader offers the Pipe in the four directions, then to heaven and to the earth. He then lights the Pipe, smokes it and passes it around to everyone.
When they have all smoked the Pipe, it is put outside on the altar with the stem facing West. When the Pipe is brought out each time, it will have its stem in one of the other directions until the INIPI is finished.
Then the flap is pulled over the door, and the Lodge becomes completely dark, except for the glow of the rocks. The Leader pours some water on the rocks, and the steam fills the whole inside. It has come from the rock and the fire to purify everyone, both inside and out. Praying to the West, the Leader asks the Great Spirit to look on him and all the people and help them with what they need, so that they may live.
After a while the flap is opened, and water is passed around for everyone to drink. Then the Pipe is brought in again and smoked by everyone in the circle. Then, when the Pipe is put outside again, the flap is closed, and the same kind of praying begins again. It happens in this way till the Leader has prayed in all four directions.
Each of the directions has its own special meaning:
West. This is where thunder and rainstorms come from and all creatures owe their lives to this water. WAKINYAN, Thunderer. lives there. He is the one who judges all creatures.
North. This is where the powerful winds come from. Their cold breath chills the heat of anger and bad thoughts and makes men pure as snow, inside and out.
East. This is where new life shows itself and where hope makes us wise.
South. This is where happiness and harmony live. It is said that good souls go in this direction where they find Peace.
When prayers have been said by the Leader in the last direction, he talks to everyone about how Wakantanka has blessed them and how dependent they are on Him for everything. He is their light in the darkness, so that they can see things correctly with the heart.
Then the flap of the Lodge is opened, and everyone comes out and prays to Wakantanka in a spirit of thankfulness. As they leave the Lodge each one says: “All my Relatives”. It is a blessing.
It is important to know that this rite of INIPI helps those who take part in it as well as all people. It is done, when someone wants to purify himself or herself in order to prepare for God’s help and blessing. The blessing may be a personal blessing or a blessing on all the People.
Black Elk Speaks