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Sweat Lodge Etiquette


And the 16 Great Mysteries

Sweat Lodge Etiquette

By: Carmeen 

Notes in italics and square brackets by: 

Supplied By: Gill 
(The essence of a true Apache Warrior)

We welcome you to the opportunity to participate and pray in the traditional way of the Lakota people. The “Inipi” ceremony is a very sacred ceremony, and we ask that you observe some basic etiquette when participating [If you follow guidance from Spirit you can’t go wrong]. The Inipi is the way we pray to Grandfather (Tunkashilla) [and or Great Spirit (Wakan – Tanka), God, Creator etc.] The Lodge represents Mother Earth, [so we crawl in on hands and knees to humble ourselves as pitiful human beings praying for the benefit of All Our Relations (Mitakuye Oyasin)] and when we crawl out at the end of the ceremony it is like a rebirth [Cleansed in Body, Mind, Heart (body and spirit), and Soul]. We leave all our problems in there with the Grandfather Stone [For Great Spirit, Grandfather, and the wise beings to deal with, for the good of all].

No woman should come to the lodge when they are on their “Sacred Monthly Time”. That is a ceremony in itself, and according to the Elders, we cannot be in two ceremonies at the same time.

If you have not attended a traditional Lakota lodge, please be open to learn and ask questions. Do not assume you know. We want to always be respectful.

When women come to the lodge they should not wear slacks or jeans [don’t ask me why]. They should come in a skirt or dress that is at least below the knees. When in the lodge, women should wear a dress or skirt and shirt that covers some of the arm and is long [I recommend a wrap like a sari]. Bring different clothes to wear in the lodge than the ones you arrive in. No sleeveless, tank tops or bathing suites. We must respect ourselves. Bring a towel in the lodge [however, it will simply get saturated]. Wear no makeup or metal jewellery of any kind.

In the lodge, men should wear swim trunks or shorts with no metal on them. [These are the rules in my lodge, unless ALL participants are 100% comfortable and willing to be reborn in the same state as in their first birth, naked. Under these conditions, which I keep a strict eye on, I believe it is not disrespectful, but how it should be. The reaso for no metal is because it has a tendency to get very hot and might burn the skin]

When you arrive, be sure to shake hands with people and introduce yourself [We are all brothers and sisters and I feel a hug that brings two hearts together in respect and compassion for one another is better].

Be aware that there will be many sacred items sitting on the altar in front of the lodge.

Do not throw anything in the sacred fire. It is not a bonfire. [Tobacco and corn meal offerings with prayers are recommended. These I can supply].

Bring tobacco to put on the alter before going into the lodge. [See above].

Women usually go into the lodge first. Be sure to listen to the one pouring [running] the lodge for any special instructions.

The firemen [fire-keeper] will Smudge [Smoke] you with sacred sage or cedar [just before you enter the lodge].

First the Medicine Man [Pipe carrier] will load his [or her] “Channunpa” (Sacred Pipe) with tobacco [Special pipe mix] while a song is sung.

Allow the Lakota women and elder women to go in first unless you have been instructed otherwise.
Turn in a clockwise circle at the door [not necessary (sun-wise if at all)], then crawl in and say “Mitakuya Oyasin” or “All my relations” as you enter the opening. We crawl in to humble ourselves and then remind ourselves that we are all related.

Crawl in a clockwise manner [I go anti-clockwise in the Southern Hemisphere] sitting next to the person ahead of you. Be silent. When the first seven stones come in there should be no talking. We must pray to the directions at this time.

Sometimes there are separate men’s and women’s lodges.

After the seven (7) stones come in the men will begin coming in [I like everyone in before the stone people].

When all the stones are in, the ceremony begins.

The door will open and close four (4) times.

Sacred songs will be sung when the door is closed.

Pray when the door is closed while looking at the Grandfather Stone People.

Do not attempt to leave the lodge while the door is closed. [If you really NEED fresh air or to leave say “Mitakuya Oyasin”, but remember that this will interfere with the 4 door openings and closings].

Do not pull up the sides while the door is closed.

Do not pull up the sides unless the one pouring the water gives you permission.

It is good to drink plenty of water the day of a lodge (especially in Colorado where the elevation is high and it is very dry).

Be sure not to over eat before a lodge. You may become nauseous. [I recommend fasting for at least 4 hours before a lodge].

Be sure to ask questions if you are not sure what to do.

After the 4th round (door) we will go out and get dry clothes on and come back and form a circle and smoke the “Channunpa” and eat the spirit food. [This would also signify the end of the ceremony. Sometimes the pipe may be smoked at the beginning of the first round, during the third round, or at the beginning of each round. After this it is important to eat and ground yourself, which why I then have a feast and debriefing session at the end.].

By: Carmeen 


The Sweat Lodge – 

Inipi Ceremony

And the 16 Great Mysteries

Supplied By: Gill 
(The essence of a true Apache Warrior)

The Building of the Sweat Lodge with 16 Saplings

It is sometimes built with 12 saplings. Each sapling, which is bent in an upward curve, but is a straight line on the diagram, has the following representations.

The door is usually in the east (where all things begin and where illumination comes from) however sometimes it may be in the west. There should always be a square in the centre above the stone pit.

Also see my article: 
Circles Cycles, Spirals and Spheres
(Volume 1 Number 4 of ‘Earth People’)

Seven Ceremonies, Seven Council Fires
Seven Medicine Men


Mercury  Anu’ngite’ (Double faced Woman)
Saturn Ikto’me (Spider)
Venus Ka’nka (Old woman)
Neptune Ksa (Goddess of Water)
Mars Wazi’ (Old man)
Pluto Tob Tob (Four Directions Wind)
Uranus Kate’ (wind)
Jupiter Yumeni (whirlwind)


4 Birds: Eagle, Swan, Hawk, and Woodpecker.
4 Skins: Buffalo, Deer, Mole, and Badger.
4 Plants: Smart weed, Liquorice, Snakeroot, Prairie Dog plant.
4 Rocks: Red, Black, Yellow, and White.


Young: Obedience, Respect, Honour, and Listening.
Women: Bravery, Generosity, Truth, and Life.
Men: Bravery, Generosity, Endurance, and Wisdom
Old: Wisdom, Dreams, Foresight, and Love. (Especially Women)

The 16 Great Mysteries


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