Setting off early on Saturday morning, we made good progress and before long, we were driving through the beautifully snow-white Sussex countryside, the sun was shining and the skies were blue – this was going to be a great day.
We were heading to Stanmer Park, which is located on the outskirts of Brighton to participate in a sweatlodge. A sweatlodge to purify our bodies and minds, to acknowledge the end of winter and to celebrate the shoots of spring. The days preceding the lodge saw lots of snowfall which made for a stunningly beautiful location, everyone and everyone was in high spirits, building the fire and helping to make the sweatlodge.
The format for the day was as follows:
- Fireside Ceremony
- Playful warm-up qigong connecting with Mother Earth and Elements
- Cleansing and Purification with Heat, Breath, Steam and Sound
- Medications for visioning and Decision Making
- Prayers and Dedications
With the Ancestors placed around the fire, a ceremony was performed which culminated in the Ancestors being tossed into the fire to heat through, ready for the later Sweatlodge. Whilst the Ancestors were being baked we took part in various stretching exercise and prayers were offered.
Once ready we all stripped off – our toes quickly becoming numb due to the icy snow and we entered the Lodge, with 30 or so in attendance, it was a tight squeeze and quite intimate.
The first of several red-hot rocks were bought into the lodge and placed into a hole, cut into the ground at the centre of the Lodge. The door of the lodge was then closed and we were enveloped in darkness, the only light being the red glow from the Ancestors. Bunches of Pine were then dipped into water and brushed against the stones causing the heat to rise by an incredible amount, within seconds the sweat was pouring out of you.
Over the course of the afternoon we entered the Lodge five times and each being a different experience to the last – we were chanting, singing, massaging our bodies and listening to drumming. During one session we heard an Owl hooting and it felt very magical. Whenever a session finished we would leave the Lodge – steam emanating from our bodies, our eyes squinting into the bright light to roll around in the cold snow – really awakening our senses.
The day ended with shared food and sitting around the fire, some in their own thoughts others chatting with newly found friends about their experiences during the day.