A Journey Inside a Temazcal Ceremony
The traditional Temazcal Ceremony has it’s origins in the pre-Hispanic cultures that used steam baths as a tool for healing. The temazcal ceremony symbolizes the return to the womb of our mother, the place where we are isolated from the outside world, where we can reflect and reconnect with ourselves. With the arrival of the Spaniards the practice of the temazcal ceremony was prohibited, but today this ancient tradition has revived once again and is practiced in several communities.
In Nahuatl, the word temazcalli means “house of steam”. The steam of water mixed with aromatic herbs is used in a clay, dirt, and wood building that resembles a short round cabin because according to the pre-Hispanic cultures the power of the universe acts in circles. The ceremony begins with the lighting of the fire which unifies the new fire with the fire of the Sun to provide an offering to the universe. It continues with dancing and playing of music in order to connect with the Earth to find health and well-being. The purpose of the temazcal ceremony is to allow a person to confront his counterpart and reconnect with him/herself.
When I first got this invite from my friends Randy and Dave I was really exited. I love culture and history so this was a perfect way to experience the old Mexican tradition before my trip back to Norway. I was just smiling the whole day like a little child waiting for Christmas, but then I suddenly felt a little bit scared. I was thinking about my claustrophobic issues, what I wanted with this, and what would this mean to me? I used a couple of hours before the ceremony to rest and collect my thoughts. Even if I didn’t know what my purpose was at that time, I felt ready to go.
Around 8pm we were all in the car driving there. We were 5 persons on our way to this beautiful eco property with its own cenotes. The atmosphere in the car was great with a mix of curiosity and excitement. We arrived at the destination after a 30 minute drive last of which was down a rough dirt rode through the jungle. We hopped out of the car into the dark jungle and followed the faint glimmer of a fire that led us down a rocky trail to an open water cenote where the temazcal lodge was and a quite large fire. First we got introduced to two people that were already there, and then to the shaman, or medicine man, and his woman assistant (temazcalera). The beautiful lady gave me some holy tobacco, told me to make a prayer, and to say thank you to the fire for being here tonight. Then spread the tobacco over the fire as an offering. The tension in the air was good as a bowl was passed around the circle of people standing around the bonfire. It was a specially prepared mix of organic cacao chocolate with a small amount of peyote. We also had the kombucha drink that helped us start a good cleansing from the inside of our body.
Before beginning, our temazcalera prepared us for the experience by praying and blowing copal smoke over our bodies. She explained that we would be giving thanks to the four cardinal directions and to the four elements. We would be reflecting on our lives, and meditating on our families and the world. Then the shaman started the ceremony officially by singing his song to the gods while we all were standing around the fire. I felt good, open, and ready. The women were the first ones to go inside the temazcal lodge, and one by one we filling up the cave like building. The shaman was the last one to get inside.
RELEASE YOUR INNER CHILD
So we’re sitting cross-legged inside this pitch-black hut, the only light provided was by the red-hot stones glowing in the pit in the center of the room. “Now it really starts” was my thought at the moment. There are four stages called puertas or “doors”, each dedicated to a different element and a different direction. Before each puerta new stones were brought in. These were the abuelitas, or grandmothers of the earth, and we were asked to welcome each with a song. The shaman told us to be happy, and grateful while we were speaking to the spirits. Do not try to fight the heat he said or it will take you over; so take control over your mind and remember we are all just children wanting to connect with our mother.
puerta we concentrated on the animals and plants of the world. There were seven stones placed in the center of us and our temazcalera was performing prayers to each one of the different stones and also put herbs on them. Then when the water was spread over the heated stones it sent a strong smell of peppermint that rose up and hit our faces. It felt refreshing and I found myself very pleased and happy with the outcome so far. There was a short silence before we started to introduce ourselves one at a time. Your name, why you were there, and what we wanted to attain from this ceremony. As people were talking about their purpose and wishes I tried to figure out what to say. I had thought about this but now suddenly all my thoughts were gone and I couldn’t find the words. Suddenly when it was my turn I started to speak and as the words came out after a few I realized I was unintentionally speaking Norwegian. Without having any control over what I was saying the words seemed to own themselves. I was talking about the beautiful moon, how much I respect mother nature, and how I wanted to learn more about the connection between everything on this planet. I had a really honest moment with myself and from that moment this ceremony had my mind and soul in his hands.
we contemplated humanity. I started to smell the magic of the copal and it was getting hot, but I was still missing the feeling of being a little bit challenged by the steam. I was still in control over my body but my thoughts were running like crazy. I didn’t know what to think or what I should focus on. They then started to sing again, a new prayer and I felt more calm at the same moment. It’s something about their sound, the way they use their voices. It’s like a wolf but at the same time your mother, and I started to feel at home, safe, and protected.
was dedicated to ourselves, and we reflected on our own lives, our own happiness. It was the most important for me personally. I was in a middle of a mind war inside myself. I was asking too many questions and didn’t pay enough attention to my surroundings. At this point it was getting extremely hot, and the beads of sweat started flowing down my face like a tsunami. The same introduction and prayers was made again and at one point I lost it. I had surrendered. After this I could feel my own presence in every second, and even if the steam made it hard to breathe, I felt like I could sit there forever.
puerta we were asked to think about our families and friends. The atmosphere was collected, deep and pure. I felt that everybody was enjoying, and even if the steam was getting hotter, we were calm. The last song for the gods, our family, brothers and sisters, it was perfect. Even if I didn’t know the song I was singing as well. The words were flying out of my mind again, only this time in a language I didn’t know I knew. I knew my purpose by coming here, I knew the answer of my question. This was the most outstanding moment of the ceremony. The pack was gathered now, we could speak, understand, and love each other without any doubt. The shaman was passing around a holy pipe with some special tobacco, and everybody inhaled the smoke with gratitude and respect. It was quiet and the ceremony had come to end.
When we walked out of the temazcal lodge we walked down to the nearby cenote one by one. You could see the crystal clear water in the light of the moon, and the jungle was wide awake. This night and experience had absolutely been one of my best. We went back to the fire and drank some more kombucha, sharing food and giving each other hugs. I don’t have words for this, all I can say is you need to experience and feel it for yourself. I want to say thank you for everything, I will keep this night with me forever.
Guest Author: Madelen Lindgren
Hi Madelen, this is a wonderfully detailed description of the ceremony and thanks so much for sharing your personal experiences. It sounds so beautiful. How did you find out how to do this or do you need to be personally invited? Thanks!