I would like to share with you one of my experiences at a sweat lodge.
This particular one occurred the same weekend that I received my first Eagle feather, which I have shared before. It was a three day ceremony celebrating Summer Solstice in the north Okanagan Valley at a place called Rainbow Medicine Wheel Camp.
A beautiful spot nestled in the corner of a meadow, surrounded by trees and beside a small river. The sweat lodge, on the edge of the river was separated from the main lodge, medicine wheel and tipi village by a small tree line about thirty yards wide. The tree line followed a low bog type area, probably a backwash from the river during spring runoff. On the path through this bog they had placed boards to enable access without having to arrive with knee-high mud leggings.
There were two lodges facing each other with a fire pit between them. One for the men and one for the ladies or so it was this day. The opening to the men's sweat was facing east, its back to the river. The sweat occurred on the evening of the first day. My brother Greg and I had arrived just in time to set up our tents and proceed to the sweat, so although we had met the three people who ran the event, Neil, Jeff and Kathy, the rest were new friends and soon to be companions on a wonderful journey.
We were settling down upon cedar boughs, inside the sweat, as eleven stone brothers were being passed in, each to a chorus of "Hau Kola", when Neil, the pipe bearer, announced that this was to be a Warrior's sweat. Raised more than a few eyebrows, I am sure.
Very dark, very hot, thank goodness for the glow of our stone friends. The enchantment and magic had begun.
At the end of the first round it was announced that any who wished to leave for short break in the river could do so. Only one remained inside. While we refreshed ourselves, soaked bandanas or towels to accompany us for round two, one of the chaps noticed a deer coming out of the river on our side a short distance away. I, as I am sure many, thought what a lovely sign. NOT! As the deer climbed up the low bank everyone noticed it was dragging it's rear legs. Gawd, what kind of omen was this. It was surmised that the deer had been hit on a highway about a mile away, and was trying to return to its bed. Neil called two young native grounds keepers to follow the deer and if possible put it down. We returned to the sweat more than somewhat disturbed.
Again settling in, as a few more stone friends were greeted, a voice was heard outside the doorway "Excuse me, my name is Tony. Sorry I am late, may I still participate?" Tony was welcomed and as all peered out the door he set down his crutches and crawled in. Tony was a paraplegic.
During round three the pipe was again passed and opportunity was offered to give thanks and request healing. Tony explained that he had driven around, outside the gates to the camp, before having the courage to enter. And because of his legs had to crawl across the boards on the bog, which took considerable time. He again apologized for being late. He also explained that he was a recovering alcohol and drug abuser and lost the use of his legs in a related accident about two years back. He was interested in helping children and was hoping to heal some of his personal wounds at this event.
What else I remember about the sweat seems insignificant, other than I survived. I do remember clawing at the bottom of the lodge wall in desperation during round three and coming to deal with the darkness in round four.
Gathering together at the end of the sweat, the two young lads returned from tracking the deer. Neil asked them if they had any success. The told us that they got to within about twenty yards of the deer while it watched them. It then turned and slowly went back into the river to be carried away down stream.
The beginning of a magical journey. Tony received his healing. We all received a healing and shared a tremendous love, as we participated in the blessing of and from our Beloved Earth Mother. Neil shared a great deal of wisdom, as did Jeff. Jeff gave me the Eagle down. Kathy was truly an Indian Princess, a Goddess who's dancing and singing around the fire or at the medicine wheel enchanted all. Everyone left that weekend feeling a beautiful bond of love. And overwhelmed with the joy and magic of sharing. I, for one, was never the same again.
I hope that you have enjoyed my little tale and felt some of the magic.
Your little brother,